Sometimes I feel like I’m racing through life, making lists that there is never time to complete. When I was growing up, my family would spend a week at beach. We did nothing except read, sun bathe, lick ice cream cones, watch movies, and walk along the seashore. Nowadays I struggle to imagine enjoying a vacation with so much downtime. I find relaxing difficult. But there is something wrong with that.

I find myself and see so many people I know hustling—for work, for family and the kids, to fit in things they enjoy. It is hard to feel present in an endless race against time. Breaks seem few and far between. Got a terrible head cold? Pop a pill and head into work because life must go on. This is not a judgement. I’m not better. But I want to be. I want to kick my feet up and chillax without worry about what I should be doing. We view injury, fatigue, and illness as a weakness. Surely, all of those things inhibit us for a time, but since we no longer live in the wild, I’m not sure they make us weak any longer. How we handle them might determine where our real strength lies.

My Great Grandma

My grandma (L), my great Grandma Sparano (R)

My great grandma died when I was a toddler, but I remember her. She only ate two fig newtons at a time, which baffled me even at two and continues to wow me. Two cookies seem like barely a taste. She was an Italian immigrant who arrived in the U.S when she was 15. Her name was Santa Sparano and she raised six children.

My Great Grandma Sparano had a migraines. She required a dark room and extra time to sleep in when a migraine hit. Her husband would feed the kids and get them off to school on those days. Once when she was rundown, the doctor prescribed two weeks at the beach. Can you imagine that as a modern day prescription and following the doctor’s orders? She went, missed her children and had them come visit for a couple of days. She is not here to ask if she felt guilty leaving her kids for her own health. I’ll never know if that decision made her feel weak. But what I do know is that she made those choices, and no one in my family has ever described her as weak.

Strong Sparano Woman

In fact, the messaging that has been passed down to me is that I am a STRONG SPARANO WOMAN like my great grandma. This was a term I heard often growing up: “You can do that, Maggie. You are a strong Sparano woman!” She was seen as strong. I imagine part of that is because she took rest when she needed. There are times in life we can’t get the rest we need. When my grandma contracted polio or when my great uncle has scarlet fever and their house was quarantined, I don’t think my great-grandma got much rest.

Still, strength requires rest and finding time R and R. During my brief time on safari, I saw lions walking, eating a less than lucky zebra, failing to mate with a lioness, and lounging around regaining and rebuilding strength. No human or animal in the vicinity of the relaxing lion doubted for a moment their capabilities.

We need to allow ourselves rest and recovery without guilt—a lesson I’m still learning. To be strong, it is imperative that we stop pushing ourselves endlessly. We must take a break. What is your favorite way to unwind?

Keep Reading

Want more strong Sparano women?  Read about my 89-year old grandma crawling in an igloo!

Read about a mishap with some natural deodorant.

Want to know more about that time I walked on fire?  Click here.

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