If you would have asked me a year or even six months ago what I thought I needed in order to be happier and healthier, I would have wishfully said, “A year off work, just to focus on me”. In the perfect, but unrealistic world in which I had allowed my mind to escape, that meant having the ability to develop a healthy sleep pattern, exercise routine, eating plan, and regular therapy schedule. Ultimately, what I desperately needed was the opportunity to hit the “reset” button.
The past several years have been an unhealthy mixture of highs and lows, with the constant being my failure to properly care for myself. I was doing everything I could to survive an extremely toxic work environment while simultaneously overfilling my literal and figurative plates to soothe the insatiable ache of feeling “stuck”. Add to that my lack of a healthy outlet and there you have a recipe (no pun intended) for disaster.
I suppose my eating habits have always been intertwined with my emotions. The difference is, when I was younger, stress would cause me to starve myself. As I have gotten older, it is the opposite. Sad? Eat. Depressed? Eat. Anxious? Eat. I had become accustomed to drowning my sorrows in junk food to feel better…in the moment. But after the momentary endorphins wore off, I would be reminded that the junk food is the reason I’m fat, which would then make me sad, depressed, and anxious—triggering the cycle all over again.
There were many days while trying to survive the hell that I called work, when I was sure that I would have a breakdown…or a stroke. I began taking blood pressure medication about two years ago, after ignoring my rising levels for the entire year prior—thinking that if I ignored it, it would go away. I mean, who wants to be on blood pressure medicine before they even turn 40?
Beyond these fifty extra pounds and hypertension, I was really beginning to teeter on the edge of sanity because in addition to the toxic work environment, I was also dealing with out of control uterine fibroids that were wreaking havoc on my body and quality of life, and anxiety-induced acid reflux from the stress of it all. Oh, and I can’t leave out the severe random bouts of vertigo that caused me to projectile vomit and feel woozy for about two months following each attack.
So, yes, all I wanted at the top of this year was a few months or a year completely off work to focus on ME. At the time, that seemed like THE most unrealistic contemplation ever, so I sucked it up, as most Black women do, and forged ahead, ignoring my rapidly increasing stress and anxiety levels.
Because my far-fetched dream of being off work for a year seemed an impossibility and I was so desperate for a reprieve, I considered “taking a leap of faith” and walking off the job—more times than I can count. I was sure I could survive, with a little tightening of my budget, and that what was on the other side—peace of mind, better health, and happiness—was well worth the risk and/or sacrifice, depending on how you look at it.
And then March of 2020 rolled around and a global pandemic that no one could have predicted, forced us all home. When I left work on March 13th, I wholeheartedly believed I would be back in the office no later than the first week of April. This was just a temporary measure to get the virus under control, right?
Fast forward to today, over four months later, and I am still working from home, and will be for at least the rest of the year. As I contemplate that reality, along with feeling immensely grateful, thankful, and blessed, it dawned on me that in the midst of unfortunate and uncertain events, I got what I asked for—at least I kind of did.
While so many people are using this time to thrive, some of us are merely surviving. I had gotten so caught up in the whirlwind of working, worrying about myself and my loved ones catching COVID, that I didn’t realize it until recently.
I prayed for a thing and God answered that prayer. Am I saying that God caused a global pandemic that has resulted in the loss of life and livelihoods so that I could have a much-needed break? No. I am saying that sometimes gifts come in ugly packages.
One of the things I frequently remind myself is, “You can’t pray your way out of a situation and then be afraid to walk through the door when God opens it.”
God has opened the door to the much-needed reset for which I asked. Instead of spending the next four months eating too many carbs, getting too little exercise, lying awake at night worrying about COVID-19, I am going to take this time to center myself, disconnect from the overabundance of news I have been consuming, and embrace the reset I have been granted.
The worst thing that could happen to me, provided I survive this pandemic, is to walk back into the world the same way that I walked out of it. I think we all know there will be no “return to normal”, as what we knew as the norm is over. However, I am confident that we will go back into the world. How we do that is up to us. I plan to go back happier and healthier than before.
How will YOU go back into the world?