For most of us, when to sleep and get up, when to eat, when to rest, and the choice to be active are not things we get a lot of say in. Work and school dictates hours for most of us. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve been able to sleep as much as I’ve wanted to, eat a diet of my choosing, and have control over levels of physical activity. I’m not fully self determining, but the difference to health and weight wrought by what changes I could make, have been huge.
The whole spectrum of MBS practices and related religions, Druidry included, encourage us to be aware of our bodies and to treat them with respect. There’s not much gain to be had from attentiveness if you don’t feel able to act upon what you learn, though. I became very good at ignoring bodily pain, illness and exhaustion because for a long time I felt I had no choices. I’m prepared to bet I’m not the only person who has, at some point, felt this way. Not enough hours in the day to sleep properly. Not enough time to make proper meals. Too tired mentally to exercise properly. And all the rest.
I’ve got better at slowing down and listening to my mind and body. There’s a temptation to work flat out when I can, and to limp when I can’t keep running, but this brings very unproductive bouts of depression and cycles of burnout. I’m not sure I can explain how, or why, but I got into a mindset of feeling un-entitled to rest, or time off, or anything nice even. I had to work, and work more, and harder, and if I wasn’t wearing fingers and soul down until they bled, I just wasn’t doing enough. That’s not a good thing to live with, I might add. I think it stems from feeling inadequate and like I needed to compensate for something, but I’ve never got to a point that felt like ‘enough’ by that measure, and the goalposts kept on moving further away. There came a point when my body started saying ‘no more’ in such loud and serious ways that I had to change my thinking.
It’s not enough to be self aware. That awareness has to be acted on. I am conscious of the total luxury of being in a situation where I can afford to eat the things that agree with me (my preferences are helpfully cheap, but that won’t be true for everyone), where I have support to take breaks, time to take exercise and can sleep as much as I need to. I’m very aware that not everyone has this. The job, and the demands of others deprive many people of needful things, but surviving and making ends meet is essential and I know a lot of people would not, and could not handle the trade-offs I’ve accepted to make this lifestyle work. There’s no one right answer for everyone out there, and we have to make our compromises and consider our priorities.
However, the modern, hectic lifestyle that we’re all supposed to adhere to is not an unassailable fact. It is not as inevitable and all powerful as we might be encouraged to believe. It is possible to make changes, and sometimes even quite small changes can make a huge difference. A bit more water and a bit less caffeine. Ten minutes of winding down time before heading off to bed. The occasional lie in. Often, doing things the slower, cheaper way gives the body a much needed physical release. Why pay for a gym when you can do some of your transport on foot and save money?
I wouldn’t wish on anyone the kind of radical life upheavals that have got me to where I am. I’m pretty confident that it’s possible to make a lot of changes without having to have an epic crisis, personal disaster or nervous breakdown first. In fact, if you can go the easy route, consider it. There’s a lot to be said for not pushing yourself to breaking point.
I know a lot of readers of this blog are on top of life and time management and are getting good levels of quality and free range humanity in your lives. I also know from the comments people leave that far too many of you are still stuck in a battery-farmed lifestyle banging against the edges of the too small cage and struggling to see how on earth life without said cage would ever be possible. I’ve heard it said that if you get a battery hen to take home (it can be done) then many are agoraphobic and it takes them a while to learn how to cope with new freedoms. We’re a lot like chickens, except that we are often so much more complicit in building our own cages and keeping them firm, and that was the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn so far. I agreed to the bars. I accepted them and behaved in ways that kept them in place. Most of us do, one way or another. The cage is safe, it may keep us in, but it keeps other things out and requires us to think a lot less.
December 19th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
Brilliant – free range humans! I’m in this position now and the irony is that the more I accomplish, the more is expected of me. How my personal well-being and health are getting along isn’t part of the equation. Only when you force the issue and refuse to handle what is thrown at you do you get some respite, but often with very negative blowback. It’s one of the things that drew me to Druidry.
I am very close to leaving this insane way of living behind and joining the slow life movement. First by paying down my debt and reducing my consumption (of everything). As the Danes say, “Less stuff, more life.” We don’t really need as much as we think we do and that over-consumption leads to overextension and so on. Our own cages, to use your term…
December 19th, 2012 at 6:01 pm
Nobody will be handing out medals to those that destroy their body. The onus is upon the individual to treat their body well. Being self-employed I cannot afford to be sick, so I have to look after my health.
December 19th, 2012 at 6:48 pm
You’re so right about battery hens. I had six of these ladies and it took weeks for them to come out of the hen house. They were so frightened of freedom and the great outdoors.