I found ma’at between my couch cushions.

My ma’at feather necklace had been missing for a few weeks. I couldn’t quite recall where I had taken it off; normally I would have laid it on the nightstand with my wedding ring, after taking off my jewelry for the day. At some point I had deviated from the norm, and it was missing. I muddled through in spite of its disappearance.

I didn’t have much time to think about it. I worked 10 days without a break, sometimes 18 hours a day. I pushed myself into socializing, into taking on responsibilities, into sneaking into my work email to check on things even when I was supposed to be relaxing. I pushed and pushed myself. I spent my one day off doing chores and cleaning, and I hurt my back cleaning the cat litter. I kept working. I kept pushing.

I had fallen into a pattern of neglecting my own needs. It went beyond trampling my own boundaries at work — I wasn’t eating well, I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t giving myself the space to breathe in my daily life.

Finally, on a Sunday, I caught a cold. Just a cold, complete with runny nose, scratchy throat, and fatigue. I worked Monday, and pushed through feeling run-down and crummy. That night I fought with myself. Would I push through and go to work, or would I pull back, rest, and allow myself to do better the rest of the week? Finally, I put my own foot down. I would rest.

On my sick day, I was fluffing the couch cushions to prepare for some extra-strength Doing Absolutely Nothing when something caught my eye between the cushions — a silver chain. I picked it up and there it was — my ma’at feather.

All at once the symbolism of the moment struck me. This was my life. My priorities were all mixed up. I was working too hard and ignoring my needs. My self-care was in the toilet, and ma’at was shoved in between the couch cushions. Pulling my life back into ma’at by taking care of myself allowed me to pull my pendant back out from hiding.

This is my new commitment: to focus back in on what is important and necessary to live according to ma’at. To balance my work–which very much feeds my heart and soul, but is also emotionally draining–with my religious practice and social needs, but also with basic self-care: making time to eat right, sleep well, and care for my physical and mental health.

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