It’s been a while
Last week, I woke up with a bad sore throat. It came suddenly, overnight, even though I tried to remedy it in the middle of the night. I verified that pharyngitis is contagious and I either canceled or moved my appointments online. I also gave the people I had scheduled the day after a heads up.
You see, I haven’t been sick like this for almost two years. I remember so because I wrote about it here. As a result, I wish to get better asap, but somehow, I thought I could get better by doing just as much as always...
But, the to-do list!
I had little human contact that day and grocery shopped for food. I added to the pile of dishes in the sink and later on, made a further mess of the kitchen by boiling oatmeal over our gas stovetop. Twice.
Spending most of the day at home, I thought, Well, there’s laundry to do. I can unload the dishes and empty the sink. I can make congee. I can work on the copy on my website. The list goes on. At the end, I did none of that. I crashed on the couch until my husband came home and I told him I hardly did anything. “That’s good. You’re not supposed to. You should be resting.”
Learning from my husband
Then I remember the times when he has been sick and he indeed did very little. He worked minimally, ate, napped and watched episodes on the couch, day after day. He focused his energy on resting and recovering. In fact, when he’s stressed and he still needs to take out the garbage, he will do just that: take out the garbage and leave the recycling for next week. He attended to his priorities and waited on the less important tasks.
While I can imagine this turning into an argument for some couples, like, “If you’d only help out around the house more!” or, “How am I supposed to know what you need when you’re sick?” I saw it as an opportunity to learn from my husband about self-care.
Not my usual self
Because I haven’t been sick for a while, I’d forgotten how tiring it can be. I don’t have the same level of energy and my mind doesn’t work the same way. Just because I have the time does not mean I can. Just because I can does not mean I should.
My husband encouraged me to cancel my engagements the next day so I could fully rest. I still ended up going to my morning appointment and slipped into the office for some computer work. I did cancel the date to hang out with a nine year old, though by mid-afternoon, I thought about resuming the date because I felt like I could. I’m glad I didn’t. By the time I got home, I was exhausted again. I was on an unexpected call and did a load of laundry that could’ve waited.
Apparently, I haven’t learned my lesson. Head knowledge doesn’t always transfer into actions taken.
Still wanting more
Alas, the next day, I slept in but woke up to learning that one of my favorite local artists will be hosting a booth at the Oddmall in Monroe! We also bought tickets to see Westside Story midday. “Can we do both?” I said enthusiastically, only about 70% recovered. “They’re in opposite directions. It’ll be too much for you to do both,” answered my husband. As if I’d forgotten everything that has transpired the last two days.
So we had a sad, but amazing experience at the musical, got a dinner takeout and came home. I left the dishes and stove cleaning to him and was able to sustain energy until later that evening.
Asking for what I need and want
Aside from doing less and giving myself the permission to rest, I also learned the importance of being clear with my requests, especially when I have less emotional and physical bandwidth. “Hon, I’ll need the pot to make congee. Can you please do the dishes by tomorrow?” This is a more vulnerable and direct ask, compared to, “You’re going to do the dishes, right?” When he doesn’t know my needs, the why and the when, then he isn’t given the opportunity to meet them. He also doesn’t understand why I get upset every time I pass by the boatload in the sink. It’s not just about the dishes. It’s much more than that.
My simplified life
As you read this, you might be thinking, But Ada, you don’t have kids! When you have kids, you don’t get to rest! It’s true, we’re a household of two and our lives are simpler. What’s more, we hear stories from friends that when their kids are in school or daycare, they get sick half the year!
The thing is, while we don’t have little people demanding our attention, the tendency to push myself, to do just as much, to be short with my husband, and to assume that he can read my mind, are still there. At the end of the day, stress will suppress my immune system and an argument with my spouse is the last thing I need when I’m sick.
Flexing a new muscle
As I continue to flex the muscles of doing less and asking more vulnerably in my relationship, I wonder if you might be going through similar things. Just because you have time does not mean you can. Just because you can does not mean you should.
The counselors here at People Bloom would love to help you flex the muscles of self-care! We can also help you with your relationship, so you can learn to ask more vulnerably for what you want and need.
Don’t wait until you’re under the weather to get help.
Ada Pang is the proud owner of People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice. She helps unhappy couples find safety and connection in their relationship. She also helps cancer thrivers and their caregivers integrate cancer into their life stories. When she’s sick, she likes to eat congee, drink hot water with lemon, and watch comedy. She’s sad to have finished the remaining episodes of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on HBO.