So many times I’ve forgotten that my body is alive. And so many times – in a culture in which we’re so quick to reduce ourselves to units of production (always more to do, always some target to hit, always the possibility of pushing harder) or consumption (so I can get more, more, and more) – I’ve seen taking proper, exquisite care of myself as a luxury, or as a distraction, or as an interruption to the ever pressing demands I’m apparently meant to be satisfying.
If I stop to go to bed – I won’t get enough done.
If I stop to eat properly – I won’t get enough done.
If I stop to rest, or to meditate, or to exercise, or to pause, or to look deeply into the eyes of a loved one, or to sit quietly among tall trees, or to walk in the fields, or to have a massage, or to read poetry, or to play with my children, or to listen to beautiful music, or to paint, or to just talk with someone, or to write – all of which support my aliveness – I won’t get enough done.
This understanding of myself – that I’m more like a machine or an object than a living breathing being – is seductive, and powerful, and pervasive. We’re taught it in our schools. It’s embodied in many of the practices of our workplaces and the narrative of our politics. And when I’m not paying active attention to it, when I’m rushing around in busyness or greediness or hollowness, I can quite easily forget myself and what it takes to flourish and support others in their flourishing.
I know I’m not the only one who is affected in this way. Even the idea that flourishing is a serious subject for our attention is difficult for many of us.
And after some days recently of feeling too tired, achy, and restless, of pushing too hard and denying it, I have stumbled back upon two simple, revelatory miracles that I have known time and again but then forgotten.
Miracle 1 – Sleep
There is, simply, no substitute for enough sleep.
Good sleep is foundational for a life in which I get to create and contribute.
Good sleep is foundational for life itself.
Good sleep is neither a luxury nor optional but a basic, non-negotiable necessity.
Miracle 2 – Water
Getting dehydrated happens easily and it matters. When I don’t pay attention to this I spend my days tired, distracted, confused, and my mental and emotional acuity is blunted.
I’ve started carrying a bottle of water everywhere with me over the last month, drinking regularly, and the way I feel, as well as my sense of presence and sharpness, has been transformed for the better by it.
I like to think I know about all of this already, but these two simple acts of self-care continue to be a revelation. And they teach me so much about how easy self-forgetting is, and how necessary it is to have ways of remembering what it is that I really am.