My body rocks. Over the years, I have asked a lot of it, from digesting the refined sugar poison darts of cake and ice cream to not getting my heart rate up high enough on a regular basis to lying in a hospital bed at an inverted angle for an entire month (but that’s a post for another day). And every time, it complies. It uncomplainingly executes all the unwieldy demands I make upon it, and stands handsomely at the ready for more. I’m forty, and I know I’m blessed–everything works, everything’s healthy, and I can do all the things I could at twenty.
Everything but take my body for granted. This week I worked long hours. It’s not unusual, for any of us. I slept too little, exercised too little, ate crappily, and hydrated like a desert iguana. I sat in the same chair for hours on end, and barely had time to pee in between conference calls. My body doesn’t deserve this. It’s been so kind and selfless to me; now I need to shape up and be more diligent about returning the favor.
Enter Gwyneth Paltrow (I know, but stay with me here). Recently tossed around in the press both for her self-defined intention to “consciously uncouple” from husband Chris Martin, and as a result of a comment now blowing through the web related to how working on a movie shoot is harder than working in an office, she’s one of the media topics du jour. Now, as a dear friend of mine says, park that for a moment.
Enter Mackenzie Dawson–clever and well-worded working mom who penned a fabulous open letter in response to Paltrow’s second comment, making a tongue- in-cheek agreement that yes, movie work is oh-so much the harder. But here’s the thing–as I read Mackenzie’s letter, it dawned on me that the Gwyneth perspective has some veritas. Her lifestyle should be considered hard. And the kind of work that Mackenzie outlines, that I and so many of you live every day? That should be off the table.
Does Gwyneth go through days not eating breakfast because she has zero minutes to do so, or attempt to get dressed, brush her teeth and commute to school and work all while on (the same) conference call? Probably not. Does she eat Cheetos in front of the computer at midnight because it’s there, she’s starving, and there’s a good hour or more of work in front of her before she calls it a day? I doubt it. And why not? Because why would you? Her tired is the kind of tired that should be considered tired. That kind of tired is different than exhausted. And exhausted ain’t good.
Exhaustion makes us run on adrenaline, which drips like a draught of toxin through our systems. It prevents us from refueling, resetting and allowing our ever-laboring bodies to rest before we ask them to perform the same feats of stamina the next day. It increases our stress, which increases our cortisol, which increases the strain on our bodies, which increases our exhaustion. It’s a diabolical merry-go-round that never seems to end.
“But,” you ask (as you should), “what am I gonna do? Opt to not keep my job, pay the bills and take care of my family? Brilliant, Dr. Watson.” Yes, yes, point taken. However, I say with a finger raised pontificatingly in the air, are we doing everything we can? With all we do, are we working hard enough to NOT do things?
Let’s exemplify this concept with the number fourteen. I belong to one of those chain massage and facial establishments that charges you monthly for one credit that equals a 60-minute rubdown (see The Convenient Benefit for more on that). I currently have fourteen credits built up. Fourteen. And I’ve been using them for both facials and massages. And I’ve been getting 90- minute massages when I do go, which sucks up a credit and a half. And I’ve gifted credits to both my exhausted SAHM friend and my exhausted SAHD husband. Can you really tell me I can’t find one hour a month to provide myself with a little TLC, at a place ridiculously close to my home and work, no less?
Here’s another one. I love yoga. There’s a great hot yoga place in the next town over, at which I am a member. I bought a set of twenty class credits exactly one year and two weeks ago. I called today to see how many of those classes I had remaining. Fourteen. In one year, I carved out time to give my body the gift of a physical activity that I personally enjoy, and that is as healing and revitalizing as yoga, exactly six times. Pathetic.
One more for ya. I’m granted fifteen vacation days per year by my company. It’s now the end of Q1, and guess how many I have left? Bingo.
My friends, even in the blurry haze of our frenetic lives, we’ve got to try and balance ourselves a little, for the sake of our bodies if nothing else. Work and play. Toil and rest. Yin and yang. My yin is in overdrive, and sometimes I don’t even know where in the hell my yang disappeared to! Not good. Our families don’t want this either, by the way. I am certain that my little guy would rather have an unmade bed and a mom with a smile on her face than the other way around. There are so many things that we really do have to do, but the challenge is to identify those little bits that are truly optional, and make a conscious decision to choose to help ourselves within those windows of opportunity.
I’ll start now. It’s 12:08 AM, and I’m in bed writing a blog post rather than watching my eyelids. Sweet dreams, all–and good night, Gwyneth Paltrow, wherever you are.