Battling The Waves
It happened again this week…
I found myself waking up every morning feeling already tired, overwhelmed before my feet even hit the floor. I spent the days running from task to task with busy-ness humming in my veins.
The voice in my head never stopped chattering: you still have to do this and this; don’t forget about that over there; make sure to check on this; where is that other thing? And get a move on!
Nothing was wrong, exactly, but everything felt like too much. I felt worn-out and overcommitted, possibly because I was both of those things, and I didn’t want to deal with any of it.
I would be looking at my to-do list and thinking that I was not motivated for anything on there, something has to change. (What has to change is not the fact that I am overdramatic when in this state of mind. I kinda think that never changes.) But I know my level of engagement depends on my motivation, to follow the Yellow Brick Road I have laid out in front of me. Though I don’t want to encourage myself to be pushing through my to do list, if I feel I’m a little burned out.
I didn’t always know that. I used to think “self-care” sounded too much like “selfish care,” so I would try to buckle down and power through. Now I know better. Taking care of myself—and making my life work for me, not against me—is part of my job, and Life training.
Here’s what I ask myself when nothing seems to be working:
If something feels off, I ask myself: what’s missing here? Or what would I love to feel/see/hear more of in my life? If you are willing to try this, I invite you to try to get as specific as possible.
Is it solitude, or quiet, or a chance to collect your thoughts, or mindful?
Is it breathing room? Is it clarity? Is it relaxation?
Is it the feeling of being seen or heard? Is it the feeling of being appreciated?
Is it creativity? Is it gratitude?
Is it time with friends, or time alone with a partner?
Is it a sense of adventure?
What’s getting in the way?
Now that you know what’s missing—why is it missing? What’s keeping that thing out of your life? Again, be as specific as possible.
Is it a circumstance? Is it your schedule, or a lack of funds, or is it that you somehow sabotage yourself because change seem scary to you? Usually I find these are the most common pittfalls. I know I have battled the waves of the last one of these pitfalls more than once in my life. And it seems to sneak up on me, when I least expect it.
Another perspective could be that it is an attitude? Do you believe you’re too busy to make changes? Or that no one else can handle your tasks? Have you let yourself believe that what you do is the same as who you are? Or do you believe that you have to be worthy for opportunities to find you? This is one of my founding bricks in my belief system. And OMG, it gets the best of me often. (Though lately I have won a few battles against this old habit of belief.)
Or is it a misplaced priority? Have you given something more importance in your life than it deserves? And is it now in fact time that you question why all of these things deserve your attention. I usually find that at least one of my priorities are misplaced or no longer in need of my attention, simply because time has passed and made it redundant.
Very often, I find the thing that’s getting in the way is ME. Or more specifically, the story I’m telling myself. I may not be able to schedule a spa weekend right now (or… ever), but I get to choose whether that means “I just have to keep doing what I’m doing,” or “I need to find another way to meet my need for solitude and quiet.”
What am I going to do about it?
I know what I need, and I know what’s getting in the way. So what am I going to do about it?
The way I see it, there are three options. I can get rid of the thing that’s in the way; I can change how I plan to get my need met; or I can ask for help. (Note to self: I might want to ask for help anyway.)
If you need space for creativity, but I don’t have long stretches of time to create: what could I remove from my day to make a block of time? Could I do creative work early in the morning, or over lunch? Or could I carve out time to create just once a week?
If you (like me) need a little adventure once in at while, but what’s getting in the way is that your job involves showing up every morning at 8 a.m.: can you change what counts as adventure? It doesn’t have to be a trip around the world. Maybe it’s trying a meal from a faraway place, maybe it’s taking a weekend hike and enjoy a bonfire with friends.
I know I need solitude once in a while, but what’s getting in the way is the fact that I am responsible for a kid: who can I ask for help, whether that’s help watch my kid, or help to brainstorm other solutions?
What’s the next step to getting what I need?
Because there’s nothing wrong with making changes. If something feels not-quite-right, what’s missing? What’s getting in the way? And what am I going to do about it?
Well, usually I find perspective by finding a good space by a big window with lots of natural light. Next up I find a pen and some paper. And then I start brainstorming and prioritizing the steps I am able to make from this day. One step at the time.
It might take a while, but at least I know where I’m going (and never the less WHY I’m going there), once I step into the water to get my feet wet.