I cut my finger the other day. We were completely out of band-aids, but it stopped bleeding quickly so I wasn’t too worried about it.
Yet because of where the cut was, I kept scraping and bumping it – even drying my hands after washing them was a problem.
Fast-forward a few days and I realized the cut still wasn’t healed. For how minor it was, it really should have been mostly gone already, but there it was, still hurting and occasionally opening back up.
I was prolonging the healing process by refusing to stop at the store to get more band-aids. I told myself I didn’t need them, that the cut would heal just fine on its own.
And yes, eventually the cut did heal on its own, but it took probably two or even three times as long by leaving it exposed to more damage.
How often do we do that to ourselves? We experience some kind of wound (physical or emotional) or illness, but we refuse to give ourselves what we need to heal.
By refusing to protect the area that was damaged, it takes longer to get better.
It’s relatively easy to see how important that protection is if you think in terms of a broken bone or severe flu – of course you need to stay off the break or stay on the couch. It gets a bit trickier when dealing with something like depression or chronic illness or pretty much anything that doesn’t have a clear “do this and get better” method of treatment.
We don’t want to change our lives. We don’t want to alter the way we go through our day in order to facilitate healing.
Maybe we think we’re being stronger that way, or more productive. We believe we’re saving time or money or energy by doing the bare minimum. We’re refusing to give in.
We expect to be able to operate as normal, despite the fact that we’re injured or simply running on empty.
But the reality is that in order to heal, we need to protect the place of hurt. We have to stop doing the things that cause more damage, even if those things would be completely innocuous under normal, healthy circumstances. Once we’re injured or depleted, it’s no longer business-as-usual. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
But how do you go about shifting that pattern?
This refusal to give ourselves enough downtime to get better is deeply ingrained in our culture, to the point that “working through the pain” is a veritable badge of honor. It’s hard to catch it as it’s happening, but that’s exactly what we need to learn to do.
Believe me, I love the idea that I could follow steps X, Y and Z and turn into the kind of person who is always kind to myself and gives myself as much time as necessary to heal in just the ways I need. Oh, and never feel an ounce of guilt about it, either.
But the thing that my most recent Dark Night has taught me is that there is no 3-step process or 6-week program or fill-in-the-blank workbook for the really deep stuff that needs healing. It requires the thing that’s hardest to do – learning to notice what’s mostly unconscious.
The most obvious clue that I’m refusing myself time to heal is when I get frustrated at my lack of productivity and start telling myself I should be feeling better already. (Your clues may be different, of course, but I bet frustration is one of them.)
Regardless of what I’m recovering from, it points to an unwillingness to accept where I am right now. A lot like my unwillingness to buy band-aids and protect my cut finger.
But what’s beneath the refusal to accept where I am right now? Why do so many of us have trouble with this?
That’s what I’ll be covering in my next post.
In the meantime…
Here are some questions to help you dig in and explore healing and productivity.
What are some of the ways you heal and replenish? In what ways do you resist healing?
What helps you to be productive? What does productivity look like for you?
What are some of the things that contribute to being less productive than you’d like? (Illness? Depression? Family obligations? Lack of clarity? Utterly wonky hormones?)
Where do your expectations of how productive you should be come from? (Who has set the bar for what qualifies as “productive enough” for you?)
How do you feel and respond when you have a non-productive day, week or month?
How do you feel and respond when you are efficient and productive?
There are no wrong answers. At all. This is all about becoming aware of what’s true for you right now. I know that lack of productivity can be a source of pain and deep frustration. Keep breathing as you think about these questions, and as much as possible, meet yourself with kindness. (Remember – you are not broken.)