Recuperating is not relaxing

Life has been a bit chaotic, so I apologize for the gap between posts.  I was going to just post a picture that I took of my foot on the scooter wearing awesome shiny leopard print shoes, but in that moment of “silly snapshot” I started beating myself up for wasting time.

Here are the shoes…yay shoes 🙂

Shiny leopard loafers & the footbar of my TravelScoot
Shiny leopard loafers & the footbar of my TravelScoot

That probably sounds ridiculous, but my train of thought was that I spend a lot of my time doing what people would consider “leisure” activities when I’m trying to recover from this overly busy life I lead (overly busy for my body at least).  What I wasn’t thinking about is that those “leisure” activities are a way to try to pass time in a way that makes recuperating more tolerable.  It’s time that I can’t work…either my pain level is too high or my medication is making me loopy (mostly the former as my current med regime isn’t working for the physical activity level I want to maintain).  If I can’t work, then I’m left with things usually labeled as leisure activities.  Watching TV, listening to an audio book, poking around my blog feed or social media, or (if I’m lucky) reading a physical fiction book.  Especially when my pain is high, sleep isn’t an option and a person has to figure out how to pass the time in ways that don’t exacerbate stress levels (stress = more pain).

Recovering is not relaxing.  Recuperating is not relaxing.

Most people need relaxation, time that is theirs for the sole purpose of being pleasurable.

Joyful.

Happy.

Removing distress via de-stressing.

I realized that I needed to stop beating myself up for the time I take to survive life with chronic pain.  I also realized that I also need to take time to be silly, to do something because I want to instead of have to, to take a few spoons and do something that makes me feel like a whole and complete person.

As a doctoral student who wants to keep working in higher education (a tenure track job as my first choice), there’s a huge pressure to be constantly busy, to feel guilt when I do anything that isn’t related to my career.  Chronic pain is forcing me to challenge what it means to be a successful academic.  I would have to say that this challenge goes beyond academe…what does it mean to be successful?  What does that look like, what does it act like, what does it feel like?

I’ve learned that, for me, success isn’t about forcing my body to go-go-go when my body is screaming please stop!  It’s not about trying to trick myself into believing that watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. while trying not to cry from excruciating pain is rejuvenating.  It’s not about pushing myself to comprehend Foucault’s notion of biopower when I have to crawl from the bathroom to bed because my legs are almost useless.

It’s about living a life worth living.

More specifically, for me, it’s about finding a way to be a passionate scholar that still has the spark to pass along that passion, whether through my teaching or my research.  If I keep trying to mash together recuperating and relaxing in a misguided attempt at multitasking (much like my attempts to text and push my manual wheelchair…I only have two hands), I can’t be that.  It takes me longer to accomplish something and that’s ok.  If I keep fighting my body, I won’t succeed.  If I manage to complete my degree, I will likely resent the hard work and years spent working on getting my PhD.  I will end up as a bitter “post-ac” trying to figure out how to get a disability-compatible job while being overeducated.  That’s not what I want…I have too much passion for my research and I know it will make a difference in people’s lives.

I just need to remind myself that I can’t make a difference if I don’t take care of my body/mind.  It might be a crappy jalopy of a body with parts missing and broken and patched together with titanium, but I don’t get to bring my body to a used body lot for a trade-in.

Recuperating is not relaxing.

Recuperating and relaxing cannot be combined for multitasking.

Relaxing is necessary for mental health.

Mental health is important for physical health.

Physical health requires recuperating.

 

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4 thoughts on “Recuperating is not relaxing”

  1. I hear you. This is all very new to me and I am just getting my head around pacing and learning that rest and recouperation is so important. This for me is reading well loved fiction books or listening to audiobooks or watching crap TV.

    But as you said. I am allowed to spend spoons on doing things I want to do, not work or the other things I have to do in order to manage this illness.

  2. “I just need to remind myself that I can’t make a difference if I don’t take care of my body/mind”–Thank you for the timely reminder to me as well! As someone whose “crappy jalopy” is more my brain than my body (at this point in time), I read your last 5 statements with ‘mental health’ and ‘physical health’ swapped; the message remains true both ways.

    So much of what happens in academia (most especially for doctoral students and newly minted faculty) relies on a denial and suppression of bodies, and the needs of bodies. While you’re right that this goes far beyond academe, it is a place where the denial and contradictions run especially deep: bodies are talked/theorized about incessantly yet somehow rarely acknowledged. I don’t know who (or how) you are aiming to make a difference for, exactly–and I don’t mean to reprioritize theory as the be-all-end-all!–but I do think Foucault’s concepts are ripe for complicating by someone with your embodied expertise.

    best, alice

  3. This. Yes this.

    It’s taken me a long time to internalize the fact that if I pace myself, if I listen to my body rather than try to push through, I will be much more productive overall. That I have a right to lead as normal of a life as possible, that work-life balance applies even to people who sometimes can’t get much work done.

    Also, more broadly: hi! I just discovered your blog, and it’s great. Best of luck with this semester!

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