The season sets the standard

I am terrible at being a sick person.

It’s not that I’m an awful patient, with a little bell at my bedside to communicate my constant requests for hot lemon drinks and more tissues (honestly, I prefer to be left alone). It’s more that I have a hard time of letting myself be sick.

Instead, I tend to try my best to just keep going at the normal pace and get the things done. Although inevitably I don’t get the things done very well, I’m grouchy, and occasionally the weariness means I do some very silly things – for example, this week I accidentally stuck my fingers in the ceiling fan while leaning out from the stairs to gesture at my mother. Yes, it hurt; no, I did not chop my fingers off (the kids were surprised).

Why not just snuggle up in bed and let the world pass me by until I’m better? Well, four kids… enough said. But that’s just a cover, really the issue is that I struggle to switch to the mode of sick person.

I’ve never been great at changing plans, and at some times it’s handy to be able to call on a fierce stubbornness that will keep you going despite opposition. But sometimes that stubbornness ends up with your fingers in the fan. Sometimes you need to take a fresh look at what you’ve got to work with, and adjust your expectations of yourself.

I forget where I heard it first, but I love the idea:

Let the season set the standard.

I love the seasons in nature. The sight of the constant cycle of productivity, die back, hibernation, and rebirth has been a powerful revelation to me of the acceptability of such cycles in my own life.

It’s quite unreasonable to look at a rose bush in winter and complain that the lush green growth of spring and the blooms of summer are absent.

roses in winter
In winter the border looks kind of dead. The rose pruned hard, the catmint trimmed back
roses in spring
In spring, it’s come to life! Lush growth everywhere, though the blooms are still a way off.

I don’t go to the plum tree in spring, heartened by the green leaves, and get annoyed that the fruit is small, hard, and green. It just isn’t the right time. You take into account the season before considering what is a reasonable expectation.

And so with us. If you’re unwell, you need to drop your standards, put off some planned activity. If you’re dealing with a tiny newborn, you drop your standards – they may never recover to where they were, and that is OK. If you’ve been through some trauma or loss, if you’re close to burning out, if you’re under immense pressure at work, take that into account and adjust your expectations.

Take notice of the season you’re in, and let that set the standard.

Standard

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