The Importance of Honoring Your Needs

Wobbly, Wobbly

'There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies' -Friedrich Nietzsche

The past 1.5 weeks have been among my most challenging so far during the last 3.5 months of Remote Year (RY).  There have been other challenging moments due to things that happened at home, but this is the first time I've had a difficult experience related directly to the RY adventure I'm undertaking.  Ok, so my Instagram has been feeding off glorious and enviable photos of the turquoise blue waters and sun kissed skin of island life.  I must be exaggerating, right?

Ko Samui

Ko Samui

I am beyond grateful for the opportunities of this past week, the last 3.5 months, everything on the horizon and for the people I've met along the way.  This post isn't to complain- it's about how the universe and your body start to send you subtle messages when you aren't honoring your needs.   

Here's a quick recap. I stupidly decide to go on a hike wearing flip-flops.  It's the first time I've worn flip-flops in over a year and the hike turns into an unexpected 13-miles through a sometimes steep forest trail!  Halfway into the hike, I pick a mango from a wild mango tree.  Red ants rush down from the mango branches and one particularly pesky ant parks himself under my watch, nibbling away on my skin while I simultaneously step on a piece of glass (left foot) wearing said flip-flops. I shoo the ants away, capture a really unripe mango and walk away with just a small amount of blood on my foot. But, I walk strangely on the back 6.5 miles, guarding my glass injury.  A few days later, the top of my foot is quite sore and swollen- I think a combination of hiking that distance in flip flops and walking funny on the way down caused some soft tissue injury and ligament/tendon inflammation (the cut on the bottom healed just fine), but rather than listening to my body and resting my foot like a good nurse practitioner and health coach, I run on it.  Hard.  The next morning I can barely walk, but I continue to hobble along, icing it only sporadically.  

I lose my favorite sunglasses.  

I travel to Ko Samui, Thailand to start a series of island adventures with a group of friends.  I hobble out into the water for a swim since it is seemingly the only exercise I can do with a sore foot.  I immediately slice the bottom of my right big toe on a piece of coral while swimming, which I don't realize until I'm out of the water and see a pool of blood on the ground beneath me.  I go to my hotel, clean it and bandage it, this time playing the part of a good nurse practitioner.  That heals well and the pain resolves within a few days.  

I lose my flips flops out of my backpack while motorbiking.

The left foot pain persists and walking on the sand sure doesn't help.  I go to a clinic where the doctor confirms it's soft tissue injury and that it might take over a month to heal.  The more I stay off it the better.  Ugh, I don't know how to sit still.  

Before slicing my foot on the coral

Before slicing my foot on the coral

I lose my sleeping mask gifted to me by a long-time friend before my trip.

I try to slow down in Ko Tao and Ko Phangan, except for that time I pull an all-nighter for the Full Moon Party because I'll only go to one of the famed Thai Full Moon parties once in my life, right?  All the while I'm surrounded by people non-stop.  Sharing beds, meals and motorbikes.  Constant distractions from my work.  People popping up whenever I think I'm finding a moment of solitude.  I can't even go on a run.  That. Damn. Foot.

Sunrise at the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Sunrise at the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Friday night I wake up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Ouch!  Damn you, right foot!  Wait, what?  I thought you had healed?  Walks to bathroom.  Turns on light. Notes that although there is no longer a cut on the right toe, the size of the toe has quickly ballooned, it's hot to the touch, red and THROBBING.  My nurse practitioner brain detects an infection, but I have an early ferry to the next island and nothing is open yet so this will have to wait until later in the day.  What I think will be a 4-hour ferry ride from Ko Phangan to Railay Beach in Krabi turns into nearly an 8-hour journey.  Meanwhile, my balloon of a toe continues to inflate and the throbbing continues.  By the time I exit the boat at Railay Beach East, I can barely walk.  Both feet HURT. We hadn't booked a hotel yet, so we begin our stroll to find something.  Well, my friends stroll, I hobble.  I spot a clinic, drop my bags and enter.  The nurses take one look at my toe, the guy next to me looks at me in shock and they call for a doctor.  They direct me to a procedure room, clean my toe, set up a sterile field and inject a vial of lidocaine into my big toe.  The doctor slices open the bottom of my toe and digging ensues for a few minutes before she detects the infectious suspect.  Apparently my toe wanted some coral as a souvenir and had retained it under the skin.  She bandages me, gives me a 7-day course of antibiotics, charges me $181 USD and sends me on my way.  

I lose my ATM card.  

Two nights in Railay Beach, Krabi, one of the most stunning spots I have ever vacationed, but I can't go in the sand, I can't swim, I can't rock climb (Krabi is known for rock climbing) or go cave exploring and it's hot AF.  I still haven't managed to find any alone time and I'm on the verge of an emotional eruption.  

Ok body, mind, universe...I'm finally listening!  No more islands, I am cutting this trip short, taking a ferry to Phuket and spending the last two days resting in a hotel room for uno before my flight back to Bangkok Wednesday night.  I will elevate my feet, catch up on sleep and work and bask in the glory of silence.  ALONE.  I need to slow down and I need to be alone.  

I arrive safely in Phuket, but not before the wind and sea take my new, cute beach hat captive.  Maybe now is a good time to mention I NEVER lose my shit (emotional or physical)!

The lost hat

The lost hat

Generally I'm a practical, rationale person with good insight and control over my emotions. It wasn't always that way.  At a young age my emotions and my perfectionism nearly killed me while I had my back turned and so I spent much of my young adult years learning how to accept, process and understand my emotions in a way that allowed me to control them without becoming a full on robot.  One of the most important lessons I learned is that you have to provide yourself with the right conditions to process emotions healthfully and those conditions are different for everyone.  I'm an introvert and sometimes a bit of a loner, which means for me, alone time is an absolute necessity.  Being constantly surrounded by people drains me, no matter how much I love those people.  Solitude recharges and re-energizes me.  Whether I spend the night reading, Netflixing, knitting, journaling, keyboarding (just kidding that never happened nearly as much as I told myself it would when I bought that keyboard), or choose to go for a long-ass run or solo adventure- sometimes I just need people to leave me the hell alone.  

Remote Year has been an interesting social experiment.  I joined for the community, but at times it feels like I'm living on a college campus all over again.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy this community, but sometimes it's really hard to find solitude.  When I go off on my own in the city that's our home base for the month, I inevitably run into someone.  I've even been bumping into people unexpectedly on side trips.  For the most part, a guaranteed solo bedroom in our monthly accommodations has been my saving grace, but all these group side trips have my inner loner screaming for attention.

So now as I sit here alone (finally!) in my Phuket hotel room, I have time to reflect on what the universe and my body are trying to tell me.  I truly believe in a universal/mind/body connection. When you aren't honoring your needs, things will fall apart, and you generally notice it in your body first (whether it manifests in the form of aches and pains or serious illness), although that's often the last place we look. Sure some injuries and illnesses happen at random, but when there are a series of unfortunate events or injuries, it's usually because we aren't tuning in to the bigger picture. So I'm adjusting my dial, refocusing, honoring my needs, listening to my body and hoping to get back on my feet and find myself (and my belongings!) once more. 

It doesn't matter where you are, what you are doing, or who you are with: honor your needs long before you fall down!  Thank you to my dear friend, Kathrin Peters, for always looking out for me and sending me this article.