This morning I woke up able to breathe for the first time in over a week. While on vacation, I was lucky enough to get the summer cold/flu going around and it knocked me on my butt.
I say lucky because it gave me a chance to put my ego to rest so I could reconnect with my heart.
There’s nothing like a fever and fatigue to curb one’s enthusiasm. On the morning I woke up sick, I tried to pretend everything was normal. I made my bed, threw in a load of laundry, and went out to feed the birds and water the garden. By the time I was done, I felt like I’d unloaded a moving van filled with furniture all by myself, and I had to lay down before I passed out.
It didn’t take long for me to give in to being sick. I had no choice. I shut off my phone, sat down on the sofa, cozied up to a box of Kleenex, and stared out the window at the birds swooping this way and that across a cloudless sky.
By the second day, free from emails, text messages, household chores and work responsibilities, I felt the pull of my ego demanding that I get back to my life. I told myself I’d rested enough already and it was time to start doing something.
The poor ego gets so frightened when we slow down, rest, and do our best to turn off our lives. It senses its demise and uses any method it can to encourage us to push the “on” button again.
But the ego is not the best decision maker when it comes to living a quality life. The soul is. It’s the real you, the real me, and it stands ready to take over the moment we become present enough to notice it’s there.
And it’s always there.
As I allowed this wiser part of me to lead, I noticed several things. My mind became quiet and peaceful. I felt a delicious sense of freedom from having to do anything or be anyone. I was more present to my life and myself and, as a result, found joy in very simple experiences.
I finished the television series Genius about Pablo Picasso’s life and the muses who inspired him (loved it!). I finished reading Michael Pollan’s latest book, How to Change Your Mind, about the research being done using psychedelic drugs to treat depression, addiction and a fear of dying in patients with terminal illnesses (fascinating!). And I slept. A lot. My body needs more rest these days than I’d like to admit.
For so many of us, life is always turned on – hustle, bustle, noise, commitments, responsibilities, people, to-dos, etc. And too often the only thing that shuts it off is getting sick.
This is the second time in a few months that I’ve not been well (grief weakens the immune system) and I’d like to think I’ll remember what I’ve learned from this latest experience. Real life is what’s happening behind the scenes, beyond the ego and the busy mind. Turn your life off once in a while.
P.P.S. – You can learn more about my new book, Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife here.
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