Have you heard the myth that fat people are always lazy, and the corollary myth that thin people are all active? I use the word “myth” deliberately, because these beliefs tend to have so little connection with reality. Yet even knowing that, part of me still thinks those myths are true, which is why I think I often struggle so much with self-care.
In my younger, heavier years, it’s true I wasn’t as physically active,
but that doesn’t mean I was lazy. I focused heavily on academics and did a lot of other things to nurture myself emotionally and spiritually that didn’t involve much movement: writing, doing cross-stitch, playing card games, listening to music, talking to friends, and watching movies that made me laugh or think (or both).
I remember my mom commenting once that she couldn’t understand how I could sit and read for hours. She, after all, was always on the go, only reading a couple of leisure books during the year when she had school vacation. I don’t remember her being very still, and certainly it’s a trait on her side of the family to have difficulty relaxing, instead succumbing to the pressure to constantly be doing something. The fact that she was thin, and my dad, who had an easier time relaxing, was heavier, reinforced the myth about activity and weight.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that as I’ve gotten older, thinner, assumed greater responsibilities, and become more like my mom, I have a hard time sitting for very long. When I watch TV or movies, I’m often exercising or stretching. At home, I usually do things around the house that involve movement and standing. I can’t even remember the last time I sat down during the day to read a book for fun – I reserve that for night before bed, when it seems a little more “allowed”. This can also make it hard for me to prioritize long periods of writing, since it’s a sedentary activity, even though writing is essential for me.
What gets lost in this constant need to be moving is the relaxation and enjoyment of my younger years. Admittedly I can’t ignore all my responsibilities, but I’m going to try an experiment of setting aside time deliberately each day to do something quiet and less physical – write, meditate, pat cats, read for fun, watch the squirrels and birds out my window, sing along to my favorite music, etc. It's all about finding the right balance between activity and stillness.
And during those times when I'm still, if I hear that little voice in my head chastising me for being lazy and unproductive, I will simply reply that I am being productive, because I’m doing what I need to recharge and nourish myself. If I make the time to practice this type of self-care, odds are I’ll feel more relaxed, alert, focused and energized when I take up my responsibilities and other activities again. And that can only do me good in body and spirit.