Welcome to the third instalment of the Bug Series where I’m answering the age-old question: 'What do bugs and self-care have to do with each other?' I suspect it’s been burning in your soul for decades, and now, finally, there are answers. You’re welcome.
Today’s story is about your favourite pest and mine: the mosquito.
Before we had kids, Paul and I cycled in France for 5 weeks with my parents. Ooh la la, it was magnifique! We had many memorable experiences such as discovering that wine bottles fit in the water bottle holders on our bikes, that the French love cyclists and that even the tiniest French villages have poignant war memorials. Plus: fresh croissants every day!
Another memorable experience (but not because it was wonderful) was the night we stayed in an old French farmhouse. It was the opposite of wonderful, which fortunately made it hilarious in retrospect.
Here’s what happened. The summer we were there broke many records due to a heatwave. It was so hot that tar melted, bubbled and popped on the roads. Many days it was over 50 degrees Celsius (or 122 Fahrenheit for my American friends and those of you in the Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands, and Palau - who knew only 5 countries use Fahrenheit?).
On one such day, we pulled into the ancient farmhouse after a long day of riding and sweating. My parents took the bright airy room and Paul and I took the smaller room that curiously had carpet all over the walls and the tiniest window possible.
We went out for dinner and it was still so sweltering that Paul and my dad had to walk with their shirts unbuttoned to and from the restaurant. During dinner, I was so unbearably hot that I kept going up to the washroom to run cool water over my wrists.
We eventually made our way back and retired to our separate rooms. Out our tiny window, it looked like a storm was brewing and we anticipated that it would bring some much-needed relief so we called out the window to France to show us what she had. Which was apparently a mistake. France had much more than a lot.
Paul and I got ready for bed and then proceeded to lay there, wide awake and sweating. The storm hadn’t yet broken and it was even hotter in our room than it was outside, thanks to the very thick stone walls and the useless window.
Just before France unleashed her fury, we made another discovery. The carpet walls had actually hidden what seemed like hundreds of mosquitoes. They were apparently quite agitated due to the impending storm and we must have seemed like a wonderful place to quell their disquiet - by way of feasting.
The choice became: roast under the sheets or lay on top and get devoured. Roasting seemed like the best option, so we hid in puddles of our perspiration. The buzzing was ridiculous and didn’t promote a restful night, so we also tied bandanas over our ears, and took the pillows out of the pillowcases and wrapped them over our heads.
As you can imagine, we didn’t fall asleep. Instead, we started telling ridiculous jokes that got funnier the later it got. Have you ever heard of those jokes that go: What do you call a man with no arms and no legs who hangs on the wall? Art. (Groan.) What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a pool? Bob. I know, they’re terrible, but they just got better and better in our delirium. We laughed for hours, adding our tears to the sweat that drenched our bodies.
Here’s a lovely photo we snapped to capture the moment. (We look like that because it was pitch black and then we snapped the photo and got blinded by the flash.)
Finally, the storm broke. Lightning flashed incessantly, gale force winds battered the farmhouse and thunder added to the list of reasons we remained wide awake. One would have hoped the winds would have cooled the room, but they didn’t make it through the minuscule window. One would also have hoped that the mosquitoes would have chilled out, but sadly, no. They remained on high alert, obsessed with finding our ears under all the layers we tried to use to drown them out.
Eventually the hilarity subsided and the tears of laughter turned into tears of frustration. (On my side; Paul has always been good at staying calm and level-headed.)
Finally he said, “Let me just put my arms out so the mosquitoes bite me and you can get some sleep.” (I know, he’s the absolute best.) I felt both grateful and dismayed by his offer; could I really let him do that for me?
After some weak protestations on my part, I acquiesced and let him take care of me. The plan worked. He got bit and I got some sleep. So romantic.
The next day, when we set out on our bikes again, we got to see just how intense the storm really was. Trees had fallen all over the place (including across the roads which made the cycling interesting). Thankfully, it was quite a bit cooler and the rain continued throughout the day; a welcome break from the heat. It was probably soothing to all the itchy welts on Paul’s arms.
Here's a lovely collage of some other moments on the trip. On the left, you can see where our bikes got stored in the barn at the farmhouse.
The self-care lesson embedded in this story is about receiving. Often we ask for something and then when it shows up, we have trouble receiving it. At that point in my life, I don’t think I even had the language related to this concept, and it was a huge stretch to let Paul take care of me.
I was a strong, independent woman who could take care of myself, thank you very much. It was uncomfortable to let my beloved be valiant.
Our capacity to receive affects absolutely everything in our lives. Accepting help is a sign of strength, not one of weakness. It takes far more courage to admit that you can’t (and don’t) have to do it all yourself.
Over the next week, I invite you to receive help that’s coming your way, even if you could do it yourself. I also invite you to get uncomfortable and ask for help in areas where it would make a difference. True strength means connecting, being vulnerable and letting other people take care of you.
Thank you, French mosquitoes, for your powerful guidance. You introduced me to the idea of receiving love that was trying to pour into my life, unbeknownst to me. Who knew I could feel grateful to mosquitoes?
May you open up to receiving this week in whatever way it’s coming into your life.
With receptive love and vulnerable courage,
>Creator of Courageous Self-Care
>No longer ‘strong and independent’... and much happier
>Still passionate about croissants
PS- Our next free Body Awake Yoga class is coming up this Friday. If you’re not yet part of the community, you can register here.
PPS- The next live Sacred Success Sunday Review is this Sunday. If you’re struggling to keep your head above water and feel like you’re drowning in “To Do’s”, the Sunday Review is the best way I’ve found to free yourself from overwhelm and be more productive with less stress. Details are here if you’re interested in joining us.