What I’m more and more concerned with is the sheer number of my friends who have started showing signs that the physical restrictions have had an effect on their mental health. And to be perfectly honest, that includes me. It’s a gradual process in which we slowly slip into a more and more strained mental state where one little thing after the other ends up out of our grasp.
We all need to take good care of our own physical AND mental health, but also take care of those who surround us. And this is where the title of this short blog post comes into play: what would Love say?
We often think of love as something we receive from others or that we give to others, and that is most certainly part of the equation. But have you considered just how much you are giving to those you take care of? How much can you give without lacking support for yourself?
I think of love as something that is given without much thought, but I have found out the hard way that giving too much depletes my own store and makes me feel left out, washed out, and in need of attention. It feels natural to hope for that attention from the outside, but never forget that your first source of attention is you!
How can you be present for your friends if you don’t take care of your own needs, first of all? I think of this as a pond that holds my ability for love and care for my friends, but there is an indicator there telling me when I’m running low on care for myself. Call it an alarm that goes off when I’m in danger of running low. And then I find things that make me feel better myself: taking a bath for as long as I want, walking on the beach and watching the waves, calling a friend and have a chat without touching on the difficult subjects, a full day of gardening, reading something that makes me emotional,… there are lots of options, and most of them involve taking a step back from ‘the matters at hand’ and just letting my mind drift.
Love’s advice is simple: look out for your own wellbeing first, and then take the peace this brings you to your loved ones. Don’t run out of steam taking care of others. When you feel you are washed out, in need of a friend… take some time out and regenerate before doing anything else.
To be fair, I never understood the reason why I couldn’t just take my clothes off with him standing right next to me – we have all been in changing rooms or in shared showers – but I’m assuming that is part of the effort to keep the interaction as professional as possible and sending the right signals from the start.
So I did my thing, and ended up lying on the massage table with my head firmly embedded in the padded ring. My masseur was completely kitted out with facemask, face shield, and gloves when he came in. I was allowed to take off my mask for ease of breathing on the basis that he was the one breathing heavily from the exercise of kneading my muscles into submission.
And a good workout it was for him: I hadn’t received a massage in ages (nearly nine months) and my back was a bed of knots, really. I’m surprised it wasn’t worse than it turned out to be. On a purely physical level, this massage was already beyond my wildest expectations and I’ll be grateful for the treatment for a good while. It has also told me that I have to make sure to move more and keep my muscles engaged rather than staying seated all the time.
But the physical benefits were not why I write this blog post: in fact what had a far more important effect on my was the experience of touch that I had not had since mid-March. I have been isolating pretty much all the time and never really touched anyone. Even my rare outdoor get-togethers with friends were not physical beyond an elbow bump. I was aware that I was missing something and there was a longing for something, but it only dawned on me that it was actual touch that I was craving.
Well: that massage did the job. After the first couple of minutes I found myself thoroughly enjoying the ministrations and the sometimes gentle, sometimes more forceful movement of his hands across my back, my arms and legs, working my feet and hands, and ultimately the most divine head massage I have ever received. I had been seeing him for a good while and have received similar massages from him, but this one was exceptional because it filled such a need for human contact that I was ready to jump out of my skin from relief that this is still possible. To experience such connection was a true gift.
The lesson I learned that day was that I can consciously suppress the lack of physical touch, but the need for it is still there and when it is fulfilled… oh boy, it is pure joy! Don’t miss out on it.
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.