Another big gap between blogs. Where have I been, pray tell? It was interesting to read my last two posts before we left town for the Folk Alliance conference in Memphis. I was definitely over working, had taken on too much and couldn't figure out how to spend any time in the garden - which usually means I am not taking care of myself either. As grows the garden, so goes my life. The whole point of this blog has been to notice that and make an effort towards more nurturing and less self destructing; I got a big technicolor dose of that dynamic in the last couple of weeks.
I left for Memphis completely exhausted and wishing I could just call the whole thing off. (Incidentally, I left for The Grammys in the same shape a month earlier.) I was in dire need of sleep, solitude, simplicity of activity and diet and old fashioned rest and relaxation. I pushed through the conference, operating on overdrive for four days surrounded by thousands of fellow folkies and feeling worse and worse as the days went on. I honestly felt like I had been hit by a truck most of the time - aching, tired, coughing and laryngitis. Alas, by the final morning (after appearing on two panels and ten showcases in four days) two weary wanderers started loading the truck to make it to Litttle Rock in time for Chris to catch a flight to Arizona for a gig with Jerry Jeff Walker. We had a plan and although I was aching and freezing and unbelievably tired, I was going to rise to it.
First we had to deal with a big old flat tire before we could even leave the parking garage. We kept the pedal to the medal and got Chris to the airport on time and I took over driving. In the pouring rain I stopped to get the tire fixed at a Walmart in Arkansas and shivering yet determined I carried on. I had books on CD to keep me company and road warrior that I am I was sure I could make it home by 1 AM, a reasonable time frame for a working musician.
By Greenville, Texas I had a raging fever and finally surrendered. A night in a hotel with Theraflu and a hot bath did wonders. What I noticed was how damn hard it was for me to pull over and stop. I don't know what or whose voice it is that tells me I'm a wimp for not forging on, but she's there. My better angels (via my brother and supportive husband and friends) convinced me that stopping was the wise thing to do.
The last five hours to Austin the next day took some real effort, but I made it and went immediately to the doctor, grocery store and drugstore and finally unloaded a truck full of instruments, suitcases, coolers, conference crap and snacks. All I could think about was the couch and I was practically salivating I wanted it so bad. But first I had to drive over my laptop with the truck - just to put a little icing on this cake of a week.
I wanted to scream and cry but by then I was too happy just to be home. Meanwhile Chris had received news that his mom needed some extra help in South Dakota, so he went there straight from Arizona and I spent the week nursing bronchitis and getting the rest and solitude I had needed for so long. Five days of sleeping, eating only soup and salad, resting, relaxing (with coughing and general miserable-ness thrown in) was exactly what my body had been wanting for so many weeks.
This is my pattern. I push to the point of exhaustion and insomnia which leads to illness so that I can finally crash and burn. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. This experiment with the garden is to help me recognize the connections and habits that are so deeply entrenched. Since I got my strength back in the last couple of days I made it outside again and noticed that huge weeds are appearing all over the place. I'm talking 2 1/2 feet tall, bristly, ugly things that tower over my carefully chosen plants and flowers. Once I get out there in the garden it's not that hard to dig those weeds up by the roots and banish them. I used to wack them down with the edger but they would reappear bigger than ever.
When I ignore my own needs and don't tend to them, they too are easily overrun by the big uglies - illness, frustration, depression, hopelessness. Living on caffeine and melatonin (or worse - Ambien) is the "edger technique" of self care; it doesn't really get to the root of the problem and the symptoms only get worse.
The solutions are pretty simple and shouldn't be that challenging to create - time for a bath, a walk instead of a meeting, maybe a massage now and then, sitting down while I eat instead of hunkered over the desk, tea with a friend now and then, serving on three fewer committees. It's not rocket science but sometimes it feels that foreign to me.
The other important thing to remember here is to be forgiving and receptive like my garden. It always seems thankful for the attention I give it. Any little tending and it seems to reach up with gratitude and smile towards the sun. I never hear the plant fairies whispering "you've been bad; what took you so long; we are not going to let these plants respond to your loving attention now as punishment for ignoring them for so long". They just soak it up and continue to thrive.
My husband Chris and I went on an afternoon movie date today, to give ourselves some much needed time together and cinematic inspiration. I didn't do any weeding in the garden, but I yanked some big ones out of my heart with just those few hours in a dark theater. When I came out I smiled towards the sun with gratitude.