PPicturing yourself in the last three years is like looking at a childhood photo. I know it’s me, but the gulf between myself is wide. Personally, I was sad. My mother died alone in a London hospital in the summer of 2020, while the Prime Minister and her top officials attended Westminster. Grief changes a person irreparably; When someone you love dies, they take you with them. And then? A more broken and cautious self is born.
In the weeks and months after my mother’s death, this new version of me developed some strange new habits. I started waking up every night at 3am – the hour my mother died – and could only fall asleep listening to Martin Jarvis reading Dickens. I started making my own body cream from essential oils, raw cocoa butter, and 100% unrefined pure natural worry—the kind of knit-your-own-earrings-and-sell-on-Etsy behavior I’d been doing before. taunted I impulsively bought a year’s supply of antihistamines online (respectfully, my equally bereaved sister did exactly the same thing 400 miles away in London). And, most unusually, I started doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on the living room rug at Leith’s house, surrounded by (and often under) my six-year-old, my two-year-old, and myself. Eight-year rescue worker. While – and this is where it gets ultra-pandemic – monitoring my heart rate using a pulse oximeter. i know What larks.
Most days, I have time to do 20 minutes of squats, jumping jacks, lunges, “superman” lateral raises, you name it. My son, who is autistic, started jumping in time to the clock at the bottom of the TV screen. My daughter started requesting: “Mommy, do Joe Wicks” when asked if she likes to play.
The short, sharp squeals in my knees and the sharp pounding in my broken chest—topped off by obsessive heart rate monitoring with an oximeter—gave me a wicked kind of joy. As I counted the seconds on the clock, I felt strong, purposeful, and alive. Unless, of course, I didn’t.
First, my left wrist was thrown. I broke it years ago when I fell down a very small, gentle hill, when my son was a baby and I was exhausted from birth and breastfeeding. All those HIIT half-press-ups made it angry, and it started pounding in the evening. So I started wearing wristbands. Then my upper back, decimated by a couple of decades of typing, started to hurt. So, after the kids were in bed, I started going crazy on the wall with a tennis ball while watching The Great Pottery Throw Down and quietly crying about my mom. Finally, a painful lump appeared on my knee. A physiotherapist told me it was swollen tendons and slowly prescribed rest – which is impossible when you’re a mother of young children, especially those with additional needs. The fact is, I was tired. I was heartbroken. I was in agony. Rest wasn’t an option in any lasting sense – but maybe it wasn’t time to do HIIT.
This year I found another way and replaced HIIT with its YouTube opposite: Yoga With Adriene. Or as I like to call him, my therapist. Now, every day, no matter how tired, busy, happy or sad I am, I lay down on the living room rug (often still under the kids and dog) and do about 20 minutes of yoga with Adrian. I’m still tired, I’m still grieving, but I’ve never been in less physical pain. It has been nothing short of life changing. That’s a change that doesn’t work. They often lead to doers.
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