On taking things slowly

IMG_2990(Lulu the Dalmatian is an expert at taking things slowly).

 

These days it takes me ages to come to after I’ve been asleep. I often lie there for a good half an hour, awake but unable to move or open my eyes. This used to frustrate me to no end, but I’ve come to view it as the first instalment of the resting that gets me through the day. Whether in the morning or after my 3-hour afternoon naps, that time of forced inactivity has come to be quite dear to me. Just lying there, listening to the world, slowly swimming towards consciousness.

I’ve become a big fan of taking things slowly. I used to be active all the time – always on my feet, always thinking, always doing stuff. I wouldn’t really stop much at work, and I loved the energy I got from being switched on all the time. I used to get a million and one ideas, and I was always imagineering exciting projects. My enthusiasm and energy were always at 110%. I found it impossible to slow down.

All that changed when I became unwell with Myalgic Encephalomyelities (ME, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). For me, having ME feels like being constantly hung over and spaced out, with no energy to think let alone move. I’ve learnt to take things slowly. These days a good day involves getting out to the garden for a few minutes, or petting the cats in the kitchen, or doing a bit of sewing. Resting after any kind of activity has become so ingrained that I sometimes surprise myself by doing two things in a row – say, going to the garden and petting the cats. Rest for me involves silence, closed curtains, and lying down or sitting in a comfy chair resting my head; as I write this sitting up in bed my heart rate is fluctuating between 90 and 120, just because I’m sitting up, typing and thinking. Thinking takes a surprising amount of energy, particularly when you can’t remember things well, and thus inevitably think the same thing twice (or eleventy-billion times).

So I take things slowly. I take pleasure in small things – watching my cats yawn, hugging my dogs, having a chicken on my lap. Listening to the birds singing at 4am. Hearing the rain pound onto our skylights. The way your body warms and relaxes in the bath. The heaviness of a blanket on top of a duvet. The smell of roses after the rain. The first ripe strawberry of the season. I notice things that I didn’t used to pay attention to, and I’m happier for it. Content. Relaxed.

Instagram has been an excellent companion for this. I struggle with reading more than a paragraph at a time, and even twitter is becoming tricky these days, but instagram, with its cheerful pictures and short captions, suits me well. I love scrolling through my feed and seeing what people’s post – it’s become such an important part of my day, and I’ve made a number of lovely friends there. What I used to think of as wasting time – scrolling through social media and getting lost in that world – now strikes me as another way of taking things slowly. Looking at pictures, reading captions, and liking or commenting on posts is such a cheerful thing to do – it doesn’t take much energy (even for me!), but is such a comfort. It’s about noticing the small things again – that picture in a background of an interior shot. The way that cat’s stripes are almost but not quite symmetrical. The beautiful flowers that someone has arranged. There is so much beauty in small things, and I for one am glad to take things slowly.

 

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