I attach my worth to my productivity. This can be helpful, because it spurs you on toward your goals. However, what happens if something makes you unable to work? Are people with disabilities worth any less because there are limits on how productive they can be? Of course not.
I have no trouble reaching that conclusion when it comes to other people’s worth. However, for myself, the rules are very different. Based on the rules I have for myself, I should be not a person but rather a well oiled machine, churning out reports by the dozen and conducting rapid-fire sessions from morning to early evening. My social life would be compartmentalized into neat little hours. And I would be content.
Recently, though, I was not able to do a single report or session. I felt like a fire-breathing dragon had taken up residence in my throat. This dragon was going to be running the show for the next 5 to 7 business days. I coughed. I had a fever. But that wasn’t what made me feel awful. What made me feel awful was that for four days straight, all I did was eat, sleep, and watch Dance Moms.
The truth is that I don’t feel valuable merely existing. I feel, as I joked with one of my friends, like a drain on society. It’s hard to knock me off my feet, and this time, COVID succeeded.
Yesterday, I desperately wanted to go back to practicum. It was day 6. “Your antigen test came back positive super quickly,” the nurse said, keeping a healthy distance. “That means you are shedding viral particles and are still quite contagious.”
Hear that? I’m shedding something besides hair, I thought to myself.
Even though one part of me wants to reject the “you are only worthy if you are productive” philosophy, another part of me wants to cling to it. I greatly value my ambition. It is hard to stop being so extreme. But between “lazy” and “hard working”, there’s a middle ground. We will call the middle “rests when necessary”. Although I rest, never once have I gotten good at accepting this rest. Instead, I saw rest as something transitory, an annoying pause between work and more work.
My closest friend told me that I need to stop thinking I’m a bad person every time I take a break. She said that if I need to rest, that’s fine. My comeback was slow. On Wednesday, I ran with the dog, did a workout that should’ve been shamefully easy (but I struggled), and then made myself walk the dog again in the evening.
I worked on my dissertation. I did, like, two reports. I had a continuity care session. By 10, I wanted to collapse onto the bed. I could hardly move. I had never felt that level of tiredness after a day of relatively simple tasks. “You’re still not back to normal?” I wanted to shout.
Today was Thursday. I went to the gym in a mask. I went to the library in a mask. I worked on my dissertation. I did another continuity care session. I did zero reports. I wrote out a guided imagery script for one of my clients that I would be seeing on zoom tomorrow. Half way through the day, I got that bone tiredness again. Flopping onto my bed, I told myself, “Your job right now is your health. Everything else matters less.” Those words helped a little. I didn’t nap but I laid there for 10 minutes with my eyes closed. The world paused. After 10 minutes, I realized that sleep was not going to happen at this moment, so I righted myself and continued with the day. But you know what?
I am learning. I am telling myself that resting is just as valuable as working. And someday, I am going to believe that.