Along my autoimmune healing journey I have created a lot of safety rules to protect my body. These rules keep me strong so I can crush all of life’s demands. In truth though, sometimes the rules need to be broken. Sometimes it is more important to show up for people.
Usually on Sunday afternoons and evenings Jonathan and I say no to plans. We save this time for rest, preparation for the week ahead, and for reconnecting with each other. Recently we broke this rule. A group we regularly volunteer with had it’s annual cookout. The team has grown in size and across multiple locations so moments like this really matter. It keeps us connected to the old friends and gives us a chance to welcome in the new. Of course, rule broken, we wouldn’t miss it.
Behind the scenes of this special party was our host who always gives us her best, even when her own life is in the midst of grieving. As the party was winding down, I could have made a quick and painless exit knowing I had an early meeting the next day, and a list of chores that were laughing at me. Instead, I broke the rules even further. This was not a moment for self preservation. This was a moment to show up for others, to carry their burdens with them. My hair could be in a bun the next day. My own dishes could wait.
Looking across a room full of people, I saw food piled high and dirty dishes looming. So I began to work, and soon, I was wrapped up in one of those moments where I’m cleaning with the people around me but it begins to transcend mere work. Connections are made that somehow only happen in the gritty moments of life. I got to experience the beautiful soul of a new friend as she scrubbed a bowl and I dried. Wish soapy hands and glistening eyes we smiled, thankful for each other and the bond that comes when you show up for others.
What if I would have gone home? I would have done my own dishes by myself while watching yet another episode of Friends. Sure my house would have been clean, and I would have gone to bed on time. How incredibly sad though. I would have missed three major moments that make a full life. Instead I experienced connection with a new friend. I cared for a grieving friend who is use to caring for everyone else. I fell in love with my husband all over again as he carried furniture from room to room, then searched for a broom to sweep the floors. This is the best of life my friends, letting go of perfection and wading through the dirty moments together.
In truth, my autoimmune self knows I’m limited. These choices can’t happen all the time. The Sunday afternoon rule was put in place for a reason. If I choose this over and over again my body will break down and life will unravel. So how do I know when to self preserve and when to show up?
The key is to look ahead and know what’s coming. Consider every calendar moment and decide if it’s a deplete or a reserve moment. Every action you choose is a deposit or withdraw. Think of the whole month, and make a budget. What bills will be due? Do you have enough money to pay for them? If the account – your body – is depleted, it is time for some self preservation. My friends I urge you, if you have built up your reserves, if you have the capacity, show up for others. You just might have one of those magical soap sud and broom moments filled with connection.