I like to be busy, work hard, to achieve. My body tries to give me signs that I am pushing too hard, but because of my ability to ignore pain, my body is forced to go to great lengths to get my mind’s attention.

Two weeks ago I saw some spots on my torso. I told myself it was just eczema. They spread. Then I convinced myself it was hives. They grew. I wondered about shingles, but told myself that I haven’t been stressed out. I’ve been healthy. I’m young. It can’t be. A week later, I was in enough pain to go to the doctor.

At first glance she said, “Oh that’s shingles.”

I could almost hear my body chuckle at me. ”Stop. Slow down. Take a look around. This is not sustainable.”

“Yeah, okay I got it. Geez.”

Now that I am healthy again after a bought of shingles, I can admit that it was harder, more painful and ran a slower course that I thought it would when I was first diagnosed. When I first go sick, I fought it. I tried to use willpower to get myself off the couch. I spent a lot of time wishing I was not sick. I wasted a lot of energy wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else, feeling something else. 

I was sick for long enough, though, that eventually I gave in. I let myself be sick. I laid there, doing nothing, until I got better. And it was fine. The world did not stop spinning. 

Having shingles brought some ugly patterns to the surface for me. Lately, even pre-shingles, I have spent a lot of time feeling hostile to the present moment. The hostility is toxic. This hostility came from feeling like I needed to be somewhere else, doing something else, feeling something else. I need to be at work instead of sitting in traffic. I need to be active instead of being sick. I need coffee. I need to catch up on my email. That need is fundamentally a lie. I don’t need to be anywhere I am not, and indeed it is impossible for me to be anywhere else. 

Flikr:  IchZeit
Flikr: IchZeit

So lately, I have been trying to be more mindful and identify when I am feeling hostile to the present moment. I try to identify where I feel I need to be instead of where I am. I deconstruct that need and change the language around it to a preference. I would prefer to be at work instead of sitting in traffic. I would prefer to feel well instead of feeling sick. But here I am. And in that slight mind shift- from need to preference- the power of the hostility dissipates. I am where I am. I am feeling what I am feeling. It may be uncomfortable, but it will pass. 

Allowing myself to be where I actually am has helped me enjoy my day more. The shoulds and coulds have let up a bit. Self-judgement is letting go of its hold a bit. Right now, this mindfulness is hard work. It’s almost constant work. It seems like such a simple concept- to be at peace with where I actually am- but it has been a huge shift for me. Turning toward the discomfort in the moment has helped me not let it have control over me and to not let a slight discomfort turn into something as acidic as hostility. Instead of wasting energy wishing I was somewhere else, the mindfulness of being in the present moment has helped me look for surprises right here and now that I could have been missing before.

 PS – Looking for Mindfulness yourself? Check out “Christian Meditation for Rookies.”

Published by Ellie Roscher

Ellie Roscher is the author of How Coffee Saved My Life, and Other Stories of Stumbling to Grace. She holds a master’s degree in Theology/Urban Ministry from Luther Seminary and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

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