In pacing myself, medics have explained the three types of energy; physical, mental and emotional.
By far the toughest of the three types of energy to stop yourself from using is emotional energy, so here are some handy tips on how to manage, or dampen, your emotions:
- Go to church. Avoiding church might make you feel sad, or hopeless. But while not standing and lifting up your hands, and not thinking about the sermon, you must not emotionally engage with the worship. Compassion for those on the prayer list, or joy at the wonder of grace, are not allowed.
- Watch television. Avoiding it would allow your mind to wander – you may start to ruminate. But while not watching anything too interesting, requiring thought, be sure not to empathise with any characters, and select dramas where their emotional range is limited. Doctors, or another daytime soap, is preferable to weepy chick flicks, or a high octane drama.
- See your friends. Avoiding them would make you feel isolated. But be sure to disengage if the conversation goes anywhere deep, and to talk about yourself in as detached a way as possible. They may wish to feel sad or angry on your behalf, but don’t feel those things yourself. Avoid weddings, new babies, or anything too celebratory.
- Keep up with disability news. Avoiding it would risk being ill-informed about the things that affect you. But while reading about people tipped from wheelchairs by gangs, starving in waits for assessments, or dying of the illness you have, don’t fear. You haven’t the energy for worry, even if it is legitimate.
- Meet attractive people. Avoiding them would risk the self-pitying imaginings of a life without romance. But don’t sense the attraction, excitement or anticipation, these are too extravagant. Flirt without hopefulness, dance without joy.
Do not feel. Do not feel anything. A beige, bland numbness is ideal – floating through life with the detachment of an automaton. Any deviation from this will bring overwhelming pain, but you may not cry. Drugs are there to assist your apathy, but not cure you. Expect to be disbelieved when explaining these limits because you don’t look “very upset”. Upset is a luxury for those with enough energy to waste on feelings.
Self-control, patience and perseverance are virtues we undervalue. You will have these in abundance. People will still undervalue them.
We were at the pub after church, and getting ready to leave.
“Where’s my hat?” I said, as I picked up my coat and bag. “Did I have a hat? Is it in church?” I wondered, as I considered how tricky it’d be to ask someone to open up the building to fetch it.
“You definitely had it when we came in, I remember you wearing it.” said Rich. “Now, where were you before?” Someone else chipped in, “Nobody would have taken it, so it must be here somewhere”
I checked in unlikely places – on the table, down my coat sleeves, in my small handbag for a big hat. I looked on the floor. No hat. “It is, it’s definitely here” said Rich, as we kept looking.
I looked on the floor again. There was my hat! It had rolled across the floor and under a bar stool.
“Would you mind, my hat is under your chair” I said, as I crawled under the table to fetch my hat.
I’m experiencing loss at the moment, and not the millinery sort. I’ve gained some, too, but mostly it’s been loss, of ability, identity, interaction, and a whole range of things I never noticed when I never knew I’d one day miss them. But then I lost my hat, and gained some thoughts:
- When something goes, it’s a surprise. The things that go together, “hat, coat and bag” or “dress, make up and high heels”, feel incomplete without one. The others are diminished for the absence.
- You question if it existed in the first place. “Did I have a hat?” can be “…..” and you need friends who notice you, who’ll reassure you that the thing that is lost was definitely once in your possession.
- The worst case scenario, in this case interrupting an exhausted curate’s well-deserved glass of wine, springs to mind. You feel guilty for how your loss affects others, even before you acknowledge the effect of loss on yourself. I apologised for wrong notes in my piano playing to others ages ago, but can’t bring myself to accept how much I miss playing fluently.
- And you come up with bizarre ways of trying to compensate – looking frantically in unlikely places in disbelief – could I be pain-free if I eat this or that? Or stretch just so? – until you’re called back to face reality. You knew that was never going to work.
- And then hope. “It’s definitely here” and that assurance from others that they’re with you, searching until you regain what was lost. Not telling you that actually you have your hat when it’s lost, or that you never owned one, didn’t need it today, or that most people managed without one, so where was the problem. Friends who acknowledge your loss, and search because even when you forget, they remember that it was once important to you and honour your previous wishes.
- Lost things are eventually found again. But even when you see where they are, reaching them may require persistence. You may need to ask people to remove the barriers they’re putting in the way, be that a bar stool or a poorly timed meeting request. You will have to try yourself as well – as much as friends back you, they’ll never have the fear or a cold head spurring them on, if they’re already certain where their own hat is. Those who’ve lost hats before and suffered the consequences, or who are still looking for their hat, those people are the best at cheering you on. Then crawling on hands and knees, you will recover what was lost.
And life will continue as if it was never lost.