I was instructed by my sponsor to “take exquisite care” of myself because I was feeling rather crappy. I was whining, moaning and pretty much minimizing the incredibly frightening claws of depression that were pulling and tugging at my consciousness. If she could see the scratch marks, she didn’t let on.
“Yoga, eat well, pray, gratitude, nap…” were some of her instructions. Napping was not a problem. I’ve always been a napper. I can nap at the drop of a hat – as long as I can get horizontal. I have never been able to sleep upright, in a car or airplane. Nope. I need a flat surface, of any kind. Give me a bed, a floor, a desk, a long countertop and I’m good to go.
So, I checked the NAP box and looked at the rest of the list. YOGA – maybe. I could commit to stretching in bed while slowly waking up from a nap. That will have to do for now; check. EAT WELL – hmmm. I wondered if mint chocolate chip ice cream counted as eating well. I DID eat it after I ate cottage cheese and almonds. So I ate well – check. PRAY. Okay, I can do that. I pray every morning, at the beginning and end of each meeting and sometimes sporadically throughout the day when things aren’t going according to my plan.
But lately, as I dance with the devil of darkness and try to outsmart my depression, I have found it very difficult to pray for anything. So I came up with my own version of the serenity prayer. It goes like this:
Sometimes I’ll even throw in an Amen for good measure. I say it robotically, with complete and utter lack of emotion or feeling of any kind. Why spice it up when I don’t have to? If God can’t figure out that I’m in a pretty crappy place by the words alone, then I’m screwed. So I throw the words together in a mish mash of eye rolling and guttural gagging, not really sure if I want to have any of those prayers come true.
I know I don’t really, truly want to accept my limitations. Who would? Would anyone want to be told that they cannot multi-task? That they can’t successfully complete all the projects in front of them? I don’t really want to tell my clients that I’m having a bad head day and can’t focus on anything more than repeats of Law & Order and counting the spots on my dog. But accept my limitations I must. If I don’t, I will sink like the Titanic – literally – with people screaming, splashing and all. I can hear that when I start to go under. I can actually hear the voices screaming and flailing. It is quite disturbing.
I used to be able to ignore those pathetic people as they jumped ship and splashed into the icy cold water. I was focused on the lights flickering in the upright part of the ship. I did not have the peripheral wherewithal to see the portion of the ship under the sea, to notice the gaping rip in the deck or the broken china on the floor. Damn those annoying quitters. I will push through – without a life vest – while listening to the quartet play me out – until I absolutely cannot think another sane thought.
Then, and only then, will I look walk casually to the top of the ship and look over the edge. I will consider the jump, consider the possibility of sliding slowly down the deck or taking the leap into the frozen arctic below. And I will hold on to the railing as the winds rip around me. And because I hate making decisions – I have never been very good at them – I will stall.
Instead, I will look down at my white feet and marvel at the purple pedicure I just got. Sponsor’s orders were to take exquisite care of myself. So, after I awoke from my nap and before I went to my recovery meeting, I decided to indulge in a little spiritual reading and a pedicure. I arrived with plenty of time to spare. But because I hadn’t made an appointment, I had to wait for the nice Korean people to finish with several other sets of fingers and toes before they took on the challenge of mine.
I finally sat in the massage chair with 30 minutes to spare. Plenty of time, I thought as I cracked open my book of spiritual nuggets. I read casually as I soaked my feet in the hot bubbly smooth water. After five minutes, I began looking around at the other guests, wondering when I would be taken care of. I tried my best to look focused on my reading while making sure the employees knew darned well that I was getting impatient. After all, I had arrived with plenty of time and now – holy crap! I only had 20 minutes until I had to leave.
Finally, after another five minutes of me visually chastising the workers, a nice middle aged Korean man came over and began tickling my feet with a pumice stone. I told him, between laughs, to please just get to the polish as I had to be out in 15 minutes. He obliged. He slipped my shoes on, threw the yellow spongy toe separators on and slathered my nails in the sparkly purple polish I had selected. I was out 5 minutes and $28 dollars later and was careful not to smudge my nails. But I was grateful. I checked another box.
When I got to Celebrate Recovery, I slipped the shoes off and let my nails finish drying while the band rehearsed. It wasn’t until we were wrapping up that my friend pointed out I had trashed the polish on both big toes. Great, I thought. So much for exquisite care. The darned pedicure had cost more than I wanted to spend, made me walk uncomfortably for an hour and now looked worse than before. The result was more stress than I had to begin with.
So now I stand at the railing, feeling the cold sea air whip around me as I look down at my purple polish. The two big toes stand out, marred, fumbled and imperfect. They are surrounded by eight perfectly polished pals. That’s just how it is. Sometimes I will be the big toe. Sometimes I will be the perfectly polished pal. And, I think as I let go of the railing and slide down the slippery deck – that will have to be okay.
Love myself unconditionally? I don’t know that I ever could. I think about how my daughter looks at me, with love only a child can have for her blotchy, jagged mother. I see the love in her eyes and hear her words when she says, “You’ll never know how much I love you.” They stab at my heart like little arrows from cupid. And I realize, she is probably right. So unconditional love for myself? That will take time – maybe an eternity.
And wisdom to know facts from feelings. Well, I actually already do. It’s having the discernment to recognize when I’m choosing to accept feelings as facts – that’s where I need the wisdom.
So exquisite care is what I’m focusing on today. That might be all I am able to do. That and swat away the negative gremlins that grow with every ounce of attention I give them. Okay, maybe not even that. But I will stop feeding them so much. And if I can get through today without picking up a drink or drug, and without putting down those I love and myself – that will be a very, very good – dare I say – exquisite day.