The World of Sloths: Mastering the Well Paced Life

He lived in the tropical forests and his slow rhythms of life allowed him to enjoy the dawns, the sunsets and the passing of the seasons. He always had his head hanging downwards and just for this reason his eyes reflected the stars in the warm summer nights, the rainbows after the storms in the depth of the spring skies. Because of this, he seemed strange to the other animals:
“He is too slow!”.
“He is too quiet!”.
“He lives with his head hanging down!”.
Stricken by these judgements, he withdrew himself to higher and higher branches to avoid the frenetic life of the of the forests’ floor.
One day in spring, the great shadows of the clouds spread over the forest where the animals moved, indifferent, without realising that the slowest and largest of them was that of the Condor, which wheeled in the sky, looking for prey. Only he, staring at the sky saw and understood the danger.

So, he cried out and cried out again and the animals fled in time. This time the Condor flew away without having killed. Now he had many friends and the animals understood that even he who sees the world upside down, can also be important.

Extract from the short story by Pino Ligabue, Italian children’s writer.

‘Sloth’ does not mean ‘lazy’: it just means ‘slow’. Sloths do not seem to fit the Darwinian theoretical criteria of selection i.e. ‘the survival of the fittest’ but they are very ‘fit’ in having adapted well to their tree conditions. They live in their own world, using their own perfectly paced and deliberate movements and are ‘slow and successful’. Sloths spend most of their time upside down. They sleep for 15 hours a day. Their movements may be extremely slow and deliberate but their lives are not uneventful. Perhaps they have something to teach people with ME and fibromyalgia? That to live in another time zone, slowly, deliberately and quietly is not necessarily to miss out, to lack value, not to be fit to contribute and serve, in the long run?

Master Pacing

Pacing is the basic skill to learn in ME/CFS and crucial to controlling the condition. The rule is always to do 70% of what you are able to do. Never drain the energies 100%. Leave some or you will relapse. In severe ME/CFS prepare to "pay back" with 2-3 days of rest after any unusual exertion. Never push your muscles, run or lift weights. One way of controlling the impatience one feels at "doing nothing" in order to recharge the battery is to think of your condition as "a wave", or a verb (not a noun) undulating and taking you with it. It is like river meandering along and you are slowly sailing down it. Sometimes it meanders back on itself, but it will eventually meet the sea. "Go with the flow" of the illness (relax into it like a matress) or it will defeat us.

Fail to master it and undo months or years or progress with one swim or one game of tennis. Pace you brain, too. It needs as much rest as your body. Other ideas in moderate to good ME/CFS are a) divide the day into four parts and rest for two or three of them of b) have two Sundays per week. Go to work early so that you can cut the stress at the end of the working day, return home early,have a sleep or just rest my mind listening to music.

Be strong like the sloth: do your own thing. Have your own style!