I’m sitting on our couch underneath a very cosy blanket, with my swollen foot elevated on the coffee table, a big bump on my forehead and a uterus that wants to kill me from the inside out (better than outside in I suppose). This happened a couple of weeks ago and I’ve finally got around to sharing it with you.
Here goes …
Our first TaoBao order had arrived.
Basically, TaoBao is an online shop where you can buy ANYTHING you can think of. Literally anything. My friend once bought a gigantic turkey from it … and the oven to cook it in.
But because we weren’t in when the delivery guy came by, he dropped it off at some obscure little corner shop we’d never heard of. After asking my landlord where our beloved treasure was stowed, she offered to just take me and show me.
Two minutes after she messaged to suggest that she show me, she messaged to say she was already downstairs, waiting for me.
My Chinese friends do that a lot. They just turn up really quickly and then you feel bad because you’re still in pyjamas and haven’t even brushed your teeth yet — you thought you were just discussing the idea, not that it was already in motion…
Anyway, I went into stress-panic mode. And in my hurry to meet her and let her know I was on my way, (I hate keeping people waiting), I frantically texted her while going down the stairs.
One minute I’m rushing down the stairs, trying to type, “on my way!”, the next I’m screaming blue murder, terrified I’ve broken my foot, and panting like I was on the edge of passing out and/or having a panic attack.
I was in the most pain I had ever been in. Ever.
In my frantic rush I’d managed to miss two rather steep concrete steps and landed with my right ankle twisting in a direction it’s really not meant to go in.
A grossly loud cracking sound came from my bones and echoed in the hallway, accompanying the sound of my wails. An unbelievable searing pain rapidly spread from my ankle, all the way up my leg.
I full on collapsed. Luckily Jeff managed to catch me. I was panicking because I couldn’t feel my foot or my lower leg. I couldn’t breathe. I began to hyperventilate. I was in unbearable agony. I didn’t know what to do. I just lost it.
In between my short breaths I kept muttering, “no, no, no, it can’t be broken”. Even though I was hysterically freaking out that I might’ve broken my foot, ALL I could think about was the fact I was keeping my landlord waiting.
I had to meet her. I couldn’t keep her standing around. I hadn’t even managed to send that message. She had no idea what was going on! What if she thought I was being rude?!
So I kept insisting Jeff needed to go and meet her instead. We couldn’t keep her waiting around! (Meanwhile, tears are crashing down my face, I’m still hyperventilating, and I can’t contain my howls).
It took a LOT of convincing. A lot. He made me promise I would stay exactly where I was until he could carry me back up the stairs before he went. (It wasn’t like I could actually move anywhere anyway, lol).
As I sat on the cold concrete waiting, I cried a whole lot more; the excruciating, shooting pain was back.
I was embarrassed, flustered and panicked. People were passing me by on the stairs giving me even more second glances than usual.
Most of all though, I was angry. I was so angry at myself because it was just bloody typical of me: rushing through life.
I’m always in a hurry to get somewhere. Whether it’s catching a bus, meeting someone, or wanting something to change. I’m always looking for the next thing.
And I’m always in such a rush to get there or do this thing too. Even if I’m not actually against the clock! This time though, it was really detrimental to my well-being.
I was SO unbelievably (and unnecessarily) worried about my landlord waiting downstairs I seriously hurt myself.
I allowed my fear of inconveniencing others to take precedent over general common sense and taking care of myself.
You might think that sounds grandiose and a bit of a stretch. I just wasn’t paying attention and I fell —accidents happen.
Normally I would agree. But the fact that even though I was in an IN-SANE amount of pain, all I could think about STILL, was where I needed to be.
In between gasps for breath, yelps of pain, and floods of tears I begged Jeff to HURRY! She was still waiting! I couldn’t stand the thought I was “putting someone out”.
It’s kind of ironic (don’t you think?) I was so busy rushing to try to not inconvenience my landlord I actually did inconvenience her even more! *Facepalm*
After Jeff carried me back up the stairs to our apartment I just lay on the floor, still in my big thermal winter coat and hat. My leg was propped up on the chair and I cried for probably a good two hours straight.
Jeff tried to console me, he was pretty sure it wasn’t broken for which I was very glad. But it still hurt like hell. I kept repeating, “God, I’m so stupid” and winced every time the wave of pain started to get worse.
After a while I stopped shaking and the pain was more of a dull ache. I tried to find something positive in being bed-ridden (or couch-ridden rather).
Jeff suggested maybe I could use this time to slow down, and actually do some self-care. Self-care? Heck yes! I thought that sounded like a great idea.
Sooooo what was the first thing I decided to do?
Well, it was to think and plan about all the things I wanted to get done when I was up and about again. I made a list of all the things I thought I needed to do to be that “perfect” self.
Because that’s what self-care is, right?
When you think like, “Okay, when I’m [blank] I’m going to: finally set up that bullet journal; create a morning routine; do yoga daily; message all those people I’ve been meaning to; be a better daughter and make every single meal … in advance and unbelievably healthy”.
And you make one of those impossible-to-implement-all-at-the-same-time kinds of lists.
Then one day during my recovery, in my effort to hobble to our Chinese squat-loo, I full-on smacked my head off of a metal pipe and got myself a huge bump.
Everything hurt, my ankle and now my head. Plus my uterus was also saying it’s monthly hello.
I was really down. I was frustrated I couldn’t do anything. And I was still in a ton of pain whenever I moved even the tiniest bit.
I had thought creating this list would make me feel productive. Excited even. But it didn’t. It only made me feel like a failure for not having already done everything.
Because obviously writing a ton of things down you think you’re rubbish at and want to fix, isn’t really “self-care”.
That’s when I realized I’d managed to warp my husband’s advice about taking some time to chill and care for myself, and instead made it into taking some time to try to “perfect” myself.
Soooo … I deleted the list.
It was weird. I felt like I should have been doing something.
It felt wrong to just be actually resting. I felt guilty when the most I had done each day was either watch a film, sleep or read.
And for the first couple of days I ate probably more chocolate than I should have, but hey, period, so it doesn’t count.
It took me a little while, but I actually figured out how to rest.
I gave up the fight of trying to will myself to be mobile. I gave up writing lists of things I needed to do to get my shit together and be “perfect”. And I gave up being angry at myself for falling.
Badly spraining my ankle (not broken, yay!!!) made me realize I need to stop more. I need to take moments where I just sit with myself, be present and be real with where I’m at.
But I think the most important thing I have taken away from all this drama was to try to be more present in daily life, instead of creating this need to rush around and leave a dust cloud behind me.
(Alsoooooo I’ve stopped texting while walking now … Apparently I’m just too clumsy and China is too crazy for me to be able to do both and not you know, get run over or fall down stairs!)
To be more present I’ve had to become more mindful of what I say to myself and out loud. I now watch out for things like: “I can’t wait for [blank]” or “when/if [blank] happens then I’ll be so happy”.
Wishing and thinking so much about the future, while not inherently bad, are the triggers which make me become a frantic rushing mess.
If I allow myself to go down that rabbit hole it leads me to a place where I end up comparing my current situation to this imagined version in the future.
Then I get bogged down in comparing the two, feeling bummed I’m not already there yet and so I rush through what’s actually happening right.in.front.of.me.
I miss out on the present. So I have to keep reminding myself I don’t have to be in such a rush for absolutely everything.
It really doesn’t matter if I just miss a bus and have to wait for another one, especially if I don’t even need to get somewhere by a specific time! Just like it doesn’t matter if we forget to meal prep and have to grab lunch out.
When I’m rushing it feels like I have to do or achieve this “thing”, whatever it may be, otherwise I’ve messed up that day, which could’ve been perfect if everything had only gone smoothly and right first time.
I know, it’s really silly to put so much pressure on such minute things. I’m not really sure why I do it, (well, perfectionism probably) but it’s something I’ve started to recognize.
I’m trying to remind myself I don’t need to make those small things bigger. I don’t need to make them important. There are wayyyyyyyy more important things that need that brain space.
Living like that only makes things more stressful. Because life isn’t smooth. It’s really, really, messy. Things go wrong all the time. People forget to tell you things. Arrangements change. And there’s zero possible ways to foresee these events.
Thinking: “If I can just do this thing”, or “if I can just get this much money in my account”, then everything will be fine and perfect isn’t helpful.
Because there’s never going to be that period of time where you’re in cruise mode, and everything’s wonderful.
Rushing to try and get to this smooth sailing time in your life or to try and get ahead of obstacles, and keep things “perfect” is futile.
It only makes you less able to deal with the messy situations that are inevitably going to come up. (As much as we don’t want them to).
So when I find myself getting annoyed over these little things, which usually I have no control over, I’m trying to remember this quote from one of my absolute fave books:
Because taking a minute to look at the whole picture and realize this tiny thing hasn’t actually screwed everything up, (plus I still have a CRAP TON of things to be grateful for) makes me a lot less stressed and a lot nicer to be around.