Looking intently in the mirror at the unrecognizable features of my sickly face after only three days of a nasty flu plus 1 week of taking care of a sick toddler, remind me of how little my real SELF has to do with the pretty face I carefully reconstruct every morning. Neither does it equate to my mental states: the worries, anxieties, or goals and dreams for that matter.
Where is the real bottom line? What’s left when you strip away all of those non-essential layers?
It all started with a two-week intense work trip to Angola; an all-nighter flight back frantically writing reports; the arrival and the long-awaited embrace with my reunited family, followed by the panic of discovering my 2-year-old burning up with fever in the middle of the night. Then the blur of doctors, hospitals, blood tests, cold baths, antibiotics and antivirals for the lack of a definitive diagnosis, and the unbeatable never-ending fever; the futile fight against it every couple of hours with cold-water compresses and double-doses of fever reducing meds. By that time, everything else seemed so unimportant, secondary to her getting better; the reality started loosing its contours. The existence of the outside world with its emails, social media, phone calls, obligations slowly faded away. Something deeper surfaced, something primal and powerful.
Amidst this struggle, it occurred to me that the real battle was in deciding between allowing the panic and stress to take and surrendering to the unconditional care, compassion, and pure love. The bottom line was in realizing that worry and control were completely irrelevant. It was about trust: trust that this tiny little body would do its job; trust in the miraculous fight for survival, in the power of life over disease.
Fast-forward seven days: the fever suddenly abated. She was finally saved! Now it was time to just let her rest and nourish her way back to full recovery. First day in over a week, she was up and running, when all of a sudden, my body felt overpowered by something heavy. I couldn’t even lift my head from the pillow, when the daunting realization that I caught the same bug dawned on me. Then the phone call to ask my husband to rush home and the immediate surrender to the bed, to the aching body, to the powerful fight my body had initiated. Everything else started drifting away: fading thoughts, the worry of missing more days of work, the frustration. The body gave in to the battle for self-preservation, to the fight against the virus, the glorious war: the only real war we should ever wage.
In a world of rushing through just about everything, including sick days (maybe because we have so few of them), allowing yourself and loved ones to be sick may seem like a luxury, an unwarranted risk. But denying this basic need for full rest and letting the body to do its thing (meaning rest, get plenty of fluid, go through all the necessary mechanisms, such as fever, congestion, pain) may be the biggest disfavor one can do to his or her well-being. Masking the pain, fever, and other reactions the body goes through in defense of our systems, killing symptoms as soon as they appear is the opposite of healing. Asides from being the most effective way to heal from most diseases, the process of being sick is a powerful experience. Allowing pain and being one with your body when it’s under attack might seem frightening and even masochistic, but not only is it effective but profoundly empowering, eye-opening, and liberating.
Surrendering to your body and following its lead, having complete trust in its innate ability to defend itself against illness, is one of the most powerful and beautiful experiences you’ll ever have. The process of healing gradually and fully gives access to the REAL self, to the feeling of owe of your own microcosm, the realization of its fragility and strength, and the owe in the miraculous design that propels you to well-being.
Release: This article is not intended as a diagnosis or prescription for treatment of any disease. You should get medical assistance or consult with your personal physician may you have any medical conditions.