|Pic: Shrine to Brigid, Goddess of Healing at the White Spring, Glastonbury|
Good health is something I normally take for granted. A Naturopath told me some years ago I have a very strong constitution, and that seems to be the case. I have no allergies or food sensitivities to worry about. I can always sleep, and rarely lose my appetite. Like anyone, I get the odd cough or cold, but usually bounce back after a few days and that's that.
The Cold that IB and I caught in Madrid turned out to be a real stinker, and even now I still have an irritating cough that just won't seem to shift. Then at the beginning of December I succumbed to the Norovirus tummy bug and even after the stomach pains and vomiting had subsided, I found it hard to get my appetite back. Feeling totally washed out, I struggled to meet my work commitments during the week. And then the icing on the cake: last Friday I went down with tonsillitis.
I had tonsillitis several times as a child, but don't remember it being much different then to an ordinary head cold. I had it again as an adult in 2001, though, and couldn't believe how ill I felt that time! My head was pounding, my throat was incredibly painful and swollen, I couldn't eat, and I felt so light-headed and weak. I remember thinking, 'I don't think you can die from tonsillitis, but I feel so lousy at the moment that if I do I really don't care!'. That time T took me to the Dr who prescribed antibiotics and it cleared up in no time.
This time my experience was definitely a re-run of the 2001 episode, but more antibiotics - and nearly a week off work - have done the trick again. Even so, I am aware of underlying weariness and the sense of needing a good long rest.
In my previous, pre-divorce situation, life was much easier. I had work and commitments here at Halfway Up A Hill, but I could be flexible about what I did and when, and as T was the breadwinner, me taking it easy for a few days when I needed to didn't have that much of an impact. Now things are different: I need to work outside the home to support myself and it is often a struggle to do that and juggle caring for the animals, the house, the garden - and myself. Also, if I don't work, I don't get paid, so time off for leisure, appointments (e.g.dentist) or illness has to be carefully considered and judiciously weighed out.
Because I generally have such good health, I take it for granted. I have a tendency to push myself to keep going where someone more sensitive to their body's limits would ease off. And I find it hard both to say 'no' when asked to do things and also to ask for help myself when I need it. Not really a good combination!
It is clear that I need to work on self-care. This run of illness has made me aware of many things. That I am not indestructible. That I have allowed myself to get run-down. That ignoring it and trying to keep going only makes me vulnerable to further illness. It is a hard lesson. I can be stubborn, and this kind of life experience makes me want to dig my heels in and ignore it because, dammit, I won't be beaten! But at heart I know that learning from experience - even bitter experience - is not being beaten, it is the gaining of wisdom.
Nevertheless I know myself well enough to know that it will be all too easy to fall back into old patterns of behaviour. After all, as humans, that's what we do, right?
Recently I have realised that 'being under a spell' in fairy stories could be seen as a metaphor for this falling back into old patterns. For example, a princess is held captive by a wicked magician/troll/dragon. Many suitors come to her aid and try to free her but they fail due to the enchantments/spell laid by the villain. They don't take the good (if weird) advice they were given for the journey (Don't look the giant in the eye! Don't eat the fairy food! Be polite to the old hag!), or they do exactly what all the other failed attempts did and rush straight at the bad guy/dragon, waving a sword - and are promptly turned to stone, or fall into an enchanted sleep, or are just plain killed. In other words, by falling back into old, tried-and-failed patterns yet still somehow expecting them to work, their attempts are defeated. But the resolution of the problem, the denouement of the story comes when the hero either has the good sense to follow the advice - however odd it seemed - or to try something different (Talk to the dragon! Outsmart the troll! Ask the golden bird in the cage what to do!), thereby breaking the spell - the old pattern - and achieving his goal and the freedom of the princess.
This is what I need to do - break the spell by taking the good advice I am given by friends and family (Eat well! Go to bed early! Learn to say no sometimes! Ask for help!), even if it seems easier to ignore it. And I will try doing some things differently in order to get a different result (Stop bottling up stress - instead thump a pillow, or do regular meditation, or restructure my working week...). I will take echinacea and multivitamins to build myself up. I will get the Dr to give me a health check. I will take responsibility for my well-being. I will learn to self-care.
I will break the spell. I will be well. By my will, with harm to none and for the good of all, so mote it be. Blessed be.