The Wisdom in Not Listening to Myself

I can really be a jerk sometimes — a lot of times — to myself. As a Type-A mom with Endometriosis who is newly homeschooling three close-in-age kids during a pandemic while simultaneously watching her beloved and newly established yoga career swirl down the toilet, I’ve hit some stumbling blocks. Some created by life, and others by myself. But today, today I did a good job.

Type-A to the bone, I push myself. I guilt myself. I demand more of myself than I ever would anyone else. My expectations of myself are notoriously unattainable and leave me with two choices: meet the goal by way of self-destructive levels of effort or fail and face the mental self-flagellation. Then you factor in mom guilt and, yikes!

It’s good times in this brain of mine.

Still, I’m far better off now than I was years ago. I know my triggers, my pitfalls, the things to watch out for and what to seek, the actions to take when I feel myself traveling down certain pathways and when to call upon quasi-omniscient intuition. I know myself.

A big issue though, is listening to my body. Considering I am a yoga teacher, it seems odd to have this problem. But you know how the saying goes, “Those who can’t, teach!” Having suffered from eating disorders — and once you have an eating disorder, you never don’t have one, you simply learn to harness it — my body and I aren’t always pleased with one another. I don’t always like paying attention to my body’s demands, and I certainly don’t do well adjusting my personal goals because of its limitations.

And because life has a sick sense of humor and a dark way of forcibly teaching us the lessons we don’t want to learn, I have Endometriosis. That means that I HAVE to listen to my body and that for the better part of each month, I am at its mercy. I also bloat numerous pounds due to no other reason but my Endometriosis. It’s lovely.

Now, if like most people, you don’t know a thing about Endometriosis — and if the thought, “That just means bad periods, right?” crossed your mind, you don’t know a thing about Endometriosis — you might not realize that there are a couple of widely experienced tough portions of the monthly cycle: ovulation and menstruation. Different people experience different things, and even one cycle to the next often varies widely for seemingly no reason at all, and this month for me ovulation was a bear.

I could tell it was going to be rough. I was hormonal leading up to ovulation, and that’s not good. That’s like being a famished, PMS’ing emotional eater in the grocery store snack aisle with an unlimited grocery budget on 2-for-1 Tuesday: perfect storm.

First, the inexplicable 4lbs of bloating. Then, lower abdominal twinges and low grade nausea. Next, migraine warning signs and the tightness in my back. Not good. Not good. Not good. Still, my Type-A self was commanding that I, “just push myself” and take the kids to the playground in the afternoon. My rational brain countered that real-deal ovulation pain was on its way and the combination of stress and standing were lighter fluid on the flames of ovulation woes. I knew the sheer act of walking would be painful in a matter of hours and pushing myself would only exacerbate this.

My Type-A self rallied, “But a GOOD mom would get the kids outside to the playground. They deserve it! You’ve kept them home from brick-and-mortar school, after all. And you know your littlest has been wanting to go to that far away playground for weeks. Who cares if it’s on the opposite side of town from where you need to be later this afternoon? Push yourself!” I wavered. My rational brain silently shook its head. Then my intuition chimed in: “Things are going to get much worse this afternoon. You need to stay home. You’ll be glad you did.”

My Type-A bulldozed with, “Ooo! You should try to arrange a playdate — your kids AND your friend deserve it — at the far away playground. Push yourself! A GOOD mom and GOOD friend would do it. Your friends probably think you don’t want to spend time with them. They must have hurt feelings. Don’t do that to them. Just push yourself!”

I mulled over the conflicting arguments as my pain worsened. And I decided to be wise.

I listened to my intuition but prepared myself for the wave of guilt. Then I saw my kids on the deck — two were painting and one was using Kinetic Sand — and they couldn’t have been happier. The ovulation pain soared and I had to lie down, and while I did, they rushed inside to play upstairs together. Dress-ups and music, giggles and make-believe… they were having a great time.

Eventually, the pain increased to the point that I had to take an epsom salt bath to reduce the nether region swelling. I looked at the clock and realized that, had I gone to the playground, I’d be in absolute misery now and, because I am the way I am, I’d be tasking myself with hiding every ounce of it.

As I waddled back downstairs following my bath, feeling as if my underwear was made of hot sandpaper and rocks had been implanted in my puffy abdomen, I heard that my children — whom I’d “selfishly” not taken to on a playdate — were still playing, joyfully reveling in their shared creativity. I realized the wisdom I’d shown in ignoring the inner Type-A self, in listening to my intuition and body. In NOT pushing myself.

I wasn’t a bad mom for not taking the kids to the playground. I wasn’t a bad friend for not scheduling a playdate while I was in pain. I wasn’t deserving of self-flagellation. In fact, I was wise.

I made the right choice.

No matter what my Type-A has to say.

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