You may be as tired as I am of New Year’s resolutions. As a younger woman I actually believed in them. I thought I could will myself to shed the extra pounds, improve my physical health, and fill in my calendar with well-intentioned activities and goals.

This year, however, I am resolved to throw out the agenda and stop trying to improve myself. This year is about silence, reflection, understanding and slowing down. No more lists. No more unwanted social calls. No more early bird specials at the sales. No more spending two extra hours at work.

Last year I became ill for trying to do it all and deal with it all. I experienced physical pain I had never had before and for the first time in my life, I lost my appetite for both food and life.  At one point, my family doctor asked me, when are you going to stop? Then she put me on sick leave by imposición médica (in English this would mean the doctor is forcing you to take time off work). My job was not the problem. I really love teaching and being with teenagers. The problem was that no matter how strong we want to be, we can’t do it all. You can’t be a full-time caretaker, a full-time teacher and a full-time wife/mother/friend. There are 24 hours in a day. Do the math.

Medical staff often tell me that you can’t take care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself. This is a hard balancing act. I felt like I was walking the tightrope as I woke up at the crack of dawn, checked work messages over morning coffee, rushed into work to have the classroom ready before the kids arrived, taught 5 or 6 hours of class, met with parents and students, went to work meetings, ate sandwiches on buses on the way to the hospital, tried to remain cheerful during the hospital visits, texted friends and family about the latest news, scheduled visits to the physical therapist, fed the dog, cleaned up, sent funny emojis to text groups, talked to my husband at night for a few minutes if we weren’t too exhausted and often spent the last half hour of the night wrapped up in a blanket with the TV on.

Then my body fell apart. A herniated disk, sciatic pain, lost cartilage in my right knee. I loaded myself with anti-inflammatories for over a month so that I could crawl out of bed in the morning. After an hour, the pill would kick in and I could fake it through work. A life-long walker and hiker and I couldn’t walk to work. I became more than acquainted with the city and regional bus system. I couldn’t drive to the hospital because of the pain. I lost my appetite. I developed a new level of pain in my body that I couldn’t bear. I felt like I was 85. I thought I was pre-menopausal because I got my period three times in 30 days, bloating and anxiety included. That’s when my doctor wrote the prescription: STOP.

My Anti-New Year’s resolution is to listen to my body, my needs and the needs of others. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But you can’t let it kill you. I know the strength and life lessons will become clearer later on.

My best wishes to you all this year. May you find peace and strength. And may you and your family be safe.

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