Listening to your body is not as easy as it sounds. I myself like to thrive on going a 100 mph at all times and then my car ends up crashing and burning up a whole neighborhood. When my body started telling me to get a hint about a year ago, I did not listen right away. I was working 8-hour work days at my day job as an administrative assistant at a mortgage bank and then teaching private voice in the evenings. Giving me a grand total of an empowering yet challenging 12-13-hour work day. I should have known I could not have kept this up for very long. Working 8:30-5:30 then getting home by 5:45 PM only to have students walk through my door starting at 6 PM and going until 9 PM. Then showering and only washing the important parts and shoveling food down my gullet. My quality of life was slowly fading away from me. I was missing everything. Time with my husband, time with my kids. Laundry was piling up and frozen dinners were a regular thing. I was making others thrive and blossom, but I was killing myself in the process. I was a zombie during my work day, and I was glazed over at night teaching.
My body was trying to communicate to me I was going overboard but I am one stubborn mess and kept pushing even harder. I knew I would hit a breaking point and it came sooner than I had imagined. I had built up my business and had almost too many students to be able to facilitate in my schedule. The income was great, and the joy of teaching was even greater. I was seeing so much progress in each of my students. They were performing on a regular basis. They were auditioning and nailing vocal parts and roles. I was seeing so much transformation and growth in each of them. I felt like a mom watching my kids succeed at their passion and craft. Like a mom with too many kids. One of them is going to accidently choke on a Lego.
I remember being so drained and exhausted by 9 PM that by the time I ate and handled everything else I needed to do it was 11 PM and I was dead. My body ached and my back pain was growing worse by the day. Night after night the same hectic 100 mph insanity. My husband saw how much it was destroying me. Slowly I had to cut down my student load and switch to moving them from weeknights to weekends. I was burning the candle not only at both ends but straight through the middle. After restructuring my teaching schedule to weekends I was still doing too much. Most people work one job, not two. I was falling apart and growing to hate it. I was having a terrible time sleeping because teaching took so much out of me that my brain was still going a mile a minute when my head hit the pillow. I could not shut myself off to even consider rebooting. It was an endless nightmare of pushing and forcing my body to comply with my schedule. I was a slave to my own self.
Then I broke. I did what any sane person would do and set boundaries for myself. I had to decide. What was more important? Trying to maintain a second job even though my students meant the world to me or slowly down, so I didn’t kill myself. I wasn’t even diagnosed at the time yet when I cut my students down to one single student. I felt so guilty. I was letting everyone down and I didn’t even have a tangible reason for letting so many of them go except for “I’m sick again”. I was constantly getting sick. My body was screaming at me to stop and I finally had no choice but to listen.
I still miss teaching as much as I did. It brought me happiness and let me challenge others to be the best version of themselves as a performer. But I could not be a super hero any longer. I had to put my body first. I slowly started adapting to normal home life after work. I envied people that got home from work and just relaxed in front of their TV with their family, ate dinner sitting down at their table and not hunched over the counter like a war survivor eating for the first time in months. I don’t feel guilty anymore. I know this was a choice I had to make to better my QUALITY of life. We can be heroes and push ourselves and go the extra mile. But there will always come a point where we must make choices. Choices to better the path we are on. Choices to restructure how we operate. We set limits. We create boundaries. A list of No’s.
No I won’t carpool to a dinner party because then I can’t control what time I get to leave.
No I can’t work 12- 13 hour days
No I can’t eat fast food because I don’t have enough time to make dinner
No I can’t let my kid play outside in the cold without a jacket until 8 PM because then he/she will get sick and then my body will viciously attack itself.
No you can’t share my drink. Germs don’t belong on my glass.
No I can’t stay awake until midnight because I will be junk the next day
No I can’t go in the hot tub because my body gets super mad when it’s over heated
No I can’t babysit your 3 cats, turtle pond and hamster because I have animals and kids of my own
No I can’t participate in the fun run at school because running ain’t so easy now a days
It’s ok to have a solid No’s list. Even if the nos are not the most appealing choice to even ourselves. They are there to “check ourselves” in a way. Holding myself accountable is one of the most important things I do daily now. I can cheat and have a piece of pizza and it won’t go against me negatively too much but if I really wanted to handle a whole pizza the gluten would have me feeling like the stay puffed marshmallow man. Would I love to be a hero? Totally. But with my luck my own x-ray vision would blow up in my face forever blinding me. When it’s going against your quality of life and your body’s needs say no.
xo A Hot MS