For as long as I can remember, I’ve always thought I should be doing a little bit more than I currently am. As a child, I was very watchful and aware. Sometimes this was good, and sometimes it made me a little too vigilant, and feel responsible for things that really weren’t my job to be responsible for. But honestly, that’s just how I am. When I see things, I want to smooth them out, soothe them, and help people feel OK.
This sensitivity has served me well as I’ve grown up and decided to be in fields that offer people help with understanding themselves.
In the last few weeks, I’ve had a new experience. I got sick, (Not Covid) and part of it was a lot of sinus congestion. I couldn’t really think. I was really tired. So I had to do less. I physically couldn’t do all the things I usually do. I simplified everything and saved my energy for the times of the week that really needed it.
Now, I’m starting to feel better. I still don’t have my entire brain available yet, and the almost always present inspiration for writing and creating isn’t really online.
And, because I got in the habit of it for the couple weeks I felt bad, I have not been making myself do more than I am able to do. This, my friends, is revolutionary.
I have projects that I really believe in and love that I have put on the back burner in order to keep recovering. I do want to get back to them, eventually.
But honestly, not doing more than I am capable of doing feels really really good. I know that might seem obvious, but truly I was always just pushing myself a little bit and using up more of my energy than was actually healthy. This made me susceptible to getting colds and flus, and just a little uptight. There’s this tension, this internal pressure, that I kept going on in myself pretty much all the time. It's not here right now.
And guess what, I don’t miss it. In fact, I am kind of reveling in feeling rested. And it’s more than that. I feel like I am not pressuring myself to do more than I actually want to do. When I look back at it, as you can do after you have a realization, I see that I was doing things either that I didn’t want to do at all, or doing things when I really didn’t have the energy or desire to do them, even if I found the task valuable.
For me, this is the latest layer of letting go of perfectionism and self-generated internal pressure. I feel kind of untethered and like my edges are softer, almost less focused. But it doesn’t feel bad. It feels soft and nourishing.
It is so complex to notice all of the unspoken agreements we have with ourselves. All of the benchmarks we hold ourselves to without even really realizing it. Why did I think I had to be just a little stressed out and a little uptight in order to deserve the life that I have?
And then the big question. How do I keep this softer focus and do the things that I care about? Will I just need to do them more gradually? Have deadlines moved further out, and continue to sleep more? I have been napping up a storm these last couple of weeks. And guess what? I feel better.
There’s a place inside that somehow my tension and perfectionism was holding apart from the rest of me, almost like a hollow place. It’s difficult to describe exactly but somehow I wasn’t fully present because I was thinking of the things I needed to do. Instead of thinking about what my body needs now, what do I truly need right now?
Not what do I need to do next. And I was already pretty practiced at not going too far in the future and not shoulding on myself too much. In this new experience, I feel very much in my body. As I said earlier, it feels like a softening of some sort of internal surrender to allowing myself to have needs and that be OK.
I feel my shoulders letting go of the tension that I have habitually held there. It’s almost like my whole life, or at least as long as I can remember, I’ve been bracing myself against something- not exactly an impact but a bracing to move forward into life. A keep going at all costs.
And somehow getting sick and being at whatever stage in development I’m at, helped me let go of that. I just surrendered it. I couldn’t brace anymore. I couldn’t keep going in that same way. I’m a little concerned that it will sneak back up on me and I’ll have to realize this all over again. That probably will happen. But at least now that I’ve tasted it I have somewhere to go back to.
In the past few days, as I’ve been feeling better and better, I’ve had this funny feeling inside that I couldn’t quite identify it was a little bit like guilt or shame but not really- kind of like something was missing. I even found myself being drawn to emotionally eat to try to avoid looking at it. That was a key tip for me that I needed to look at it. I realized that it was the missing of that old pressure, the not pushing myself to do more than I actually could, felt strange and unknown. Now that I see that, I'm leaning in.
I’m going to look at my life, again. And I’m going to see at what pace I need to do things or not do things so that I can stay feeling nourished and make progress on what I like to do. I’m not going to be staying up late making myself do more work after I made dinner and cleaned up the kitchen, or putting aside all of the creative projects that nourish me for months and months. I don’t know what it will look like yet. But I know I want to find out.
And now I'm going to take a nap.