Sit Down Daffodils
This is one person's story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.
by Liz Rognes, a former Emily Program client in recovery. She is a teacher, writer, and musician who lives in Spokane, WA.
Recently, I took my nearly two-year-old son for a walk in the neighborhood. It's part of our routine to be outside together after I get home from work. But he has now entered the stage where he refuses to sit in his stroller; he wants to be on his feet, choosing his own pace, walking just like Mama. So, on this particular walk, I held his hand, and, slowly, slowly, we made our way down the sidewalk, his little paces keeping up with mine.
Then, he stopped to look at an unassuming rock. He stopped to investigate a fallen stick. He stopped to study a patch of weeds. I impatiently pulled him along, pausing with him when he noticed another ordinary thing, but then I gently tugged on his hand, demanding that he keep up with me.
As we slowly walked, my head spun in a thousand directions. I was thinking about all of the things I have to do. I was thinking about how far behind I am at work, all the emails I needed to read, all the meetings I said I would attend, all the things I had promised other people I would complete. I was thinking about the path, length, and time I had allotted for this walk together. We were lagging; we weren't going to make it home in time for me to check off the next thing I had planned to check off from my list.
The truth is, I felt annoyed with my son's slow pace. I was trying to give him little pauses to look at the things he wanted to inspect, but I was anxious and irritable and my mind was on everything except for the minutiae of the natural world. He was taking half an hour to walk one block! He was scrutinizing every stick he came cross! He was counting the ants! I was edgy and impatient. In my anxiety and state of constant motion, I didn't have time for this. I kept pulling, sighing, rolling my eyes, thinking about all the things on my to-do list.
And then, suddenly, my son stopped. Without warning, he plopped himself down in a neighbor's garden patch along the sidewalk.
He looked directly at me. "Mama, taking a break," he said. "Sit down daffodils." He planted himself among a little row of bright yellow, newly blooming daffodils, and he wasn't going to get up. He told me to sit down in the daffodils with him.
This was cute, but my head was still miles away. "Come on, honey, let's keep walking," I said.
He resisted. He remained seated firmly and happily in the flowers, his little feet wagging from side to side in front of him. He smiled and sat still. He looked up at the trees. He looked at the birds. He dug his hands into the mulch surrounding the flowers. He looked at me. Again, he said, "Taking a break, Mama. Sit down daffodils."
And, suddenly, something shifted for me. My heart—that pumping, rhythmic metronome that I rarely thank for continuing to supply me with life—warmed and softened. There I was, in the beautiful spring sunshine, among daffodils and robins and flowering cherry trees, with the most precious person on the planet, and my mind was on the minutiae of a boring list of things to do. I took a deep breath of spring air, and I felt tears begin to gather in my eyes.
"Okay, honey," I set. "Let's take a break. Let's sit down in the daffodils together."
I sat down next to him, in the damp mulch and the warm sun. He smiled at me and continued wagging his little feet happily. We sat together, in the daffodils, and we didn't say anything. We listened to the birds and watched the cars passing by. We sat there for a full ten minutes, just enjoying being still together on this beautiful day.
It's so easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things I have to maintain. It's so easy to feel wrapped up with external stresses. It's so easy to be distracted. But if I can slow down and take a breath, if I can take a minute to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me, I can ease that stress and focus on the things that really matter.
This is a skill that I need in my recovery; when I'm too busy to slow down, I prioritize everything else over my own health and happiness. And sometimes my recovery, like my son, reminds me that I need to slow down and just take a minute to sit still, to notice what's going on around me. Slowing down reminds me that the people and things I love are right here. Slowing down reminds me to listen to my body. Sometimes recovery tugs on my hand, asks me to sit down and to notice what's important. All of those things on my to-do list, all of those things I feel insecure about, all of those external stresses—they're not as important as stopping to listen carefully to what's happening right now: my heart, my body, my son, the millions of things to marvel at on our little patch of earth.
On our walk together, my son reminded me that all that other stuff is nowhere near as big as I think it is. He reminded me to take a break and to consider what's right in front of me, right beneath me, all around me, right now.