Wednesday, 14 December 2016

3 blogging ladies who've helped me on my travels through slowtown

  1. Beth Berry on not bouncing back. 

I don't have too much in common with Beth, as she lives in America, has an incredibly busy, chaotic life with 4 daughters and works as a life coach. 

However I discovered her blog through this article that was shared many times on my facebook feed: 

"Dear mothers, we were never meant to bounce back after babies...", 

"Not physically, not emotionally, and definitely not spiritually. We’re meant to step forward into more awakened, more attuned, and more powerful versions of ourselves. Motherhood is a sacred, beautiful, honorable evolution, not the shameful shift into a lesser-than state of being that our society makes it seem........"

She explains how 'bouncing back' is seen as desirable in today's society. So is being strong and being able to take on as much as possible without breaking. Nobody wants to be vulnerable, needy or create waves. States of dependency and uncertainty are to be avoided and feared. But Beth says that what the world truly needs, is the opposite of this. 

"The softening, the tenderness, the vulnerability, the shift in prioritization, the depth of love — these are some of the qualities our hurting world needs most. "

I decided to apply the idea of not bouncing back to chronic fatigue. 'Bouncing back', implies a repulsion, a kicking away of the current experience, and a glorification of the past. It is less allowing of happiness, contentment and expansion in the here and now. Rather than seeing myself as fighting this experience, I see myself as traveling through. Although cfs is ridiculously difficult at times, 'traveling through' validates the experience, and places true value on the lessons I am learning. I do hope to one day reach a place with the kind of health I previously enjoyed, but when I get there I also hope to be carrying close to my heart the lessons of slowness, centredness and kindness from cfs, and I would like to view this is a forwards, not a backwards progression. 

2. Toni Bernhardt on 'Don't Know Mind, and Self Compassion. 

I don't have too much in common with Toni as she is a grandmother twice my age, lives in America, and had a career as a successful law professor. However she has been sick with symptoms that sounds very similar to mine, for 15 years. Toni's writes about her illness in her blog and books through a Buddhist lens.

One of the insights that Toni has helped me with is keeping a "Don't know mind". When I have an energy crash or a symptom flare up, it is easy to get quite miserable and stressed about it. My mind spins all sorts of worries and fears. What if I get worse? What if I'm sick for 15 years like Toni? In 15 years my mum might be too old to look after me and my friends will have all got bored of me long ago! 

However, the truth is, that I don't know. I might bedbound for a few weeks, I might fall deeper down the hole, or I might wake up feeling well the next day. Toni writes about dropping the stories and coming back to what is true the present moment. "Woman, lying on bed. Woman, lying on bed in the sunshine."

Toni is also a big advocate of self compassion. How many of us engage in some pretty vile self talk, saying things to ourselves we would never say to others? "Why were you such an idiot and did too much gardening yesterday, idiot, idiot, idiot, don't you ever learn?" And how many of us feel terribly bad and guilty about speaking up about our own needs? "I can't do any shopping or cleaning, and I'm always being a party pooper and asking my housemates to turn the music down and stop whistling, I'll just put up with it this time, It must be so shit to live with me". 

Toni says we need to notice this and instead, take on the radical attitude of actually treating ourselves like someone we love and care for. Imagine if your good friend had a chronic illness. How would you treat them? Would you call them an idiot? Would you hate them for having altered needs and sometimes making mistakes? How would you like to be treated by your own good friends? Probably a lot better than you treat yourselves. Chronic fatigue is hard. We are allowed to feel miserable sometimes. We are allowed to not do the dishes when we feel rotten. We are allowed to make mistakes and not know what to do. We are allowed to ask for help. We are allowed to communicate our changing needs. 

3. Amanda palmer on the art of asking.

I don't have too much in common with Amanda palmer as she is a wild, outrageous, crowd surfing and crowd funding rockstar. 

Amanda began her career as a a white-face painted, wedding-gown wearing street statue, who gave people flowers, and a few moments of deep and meaningful eye contact, in exchange for for donations. It made her more money than working in an ice cream shop, and yet she was often challenged about not having a 'real' job. Later on as a musician, when the demands of her record label no longer gelled with her need for connection with her fans, she went out on her own and crowd funded her next album. She repaid her fans with house concerts, heartfelt blog posts, the opportunity to paint her naked body, couch surfing at their houses whilst on tour, listening, care, friendship and the creation of community. And she wrote a book about the exquisite difficulties and immense rewards of asking for help and support.  

Asking is hard and brave. Like crowd surfing, or street performing, asking is taking a risk and it makes us vulnerable. Asking, however, can also be a gift, as it shows people we trust them. It allows people to be generous to us, and for us to all become closer to each other from giving, receiving, and bravely believing in each other. 

I hesitated before asking friends to come over for a working bee at my house this last weekend. I've been asking for so much this year already and we already had a permablitz here a few years ago. Surely everyone had their own big list of undone garden and weekend jobs they needed to do. But then I remembered that when I was healthy, hanging out with friends and accomplishing meaningful physical work together was exactly the type of thing I enjoyed doing, especially if there was a good lunch afterwards. 

The biggest gift of this year has been the help from friends and strangers whom I have asked for help.  My friend Millie, who would have written something similar to Amanda's book if she hadn't been beaten to it by a famous rockstar, assures me it really is a gift to ask. I hope that is true. 

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