Slowing Down

Living busy isn’t giving you your worth. Slowing down is fighting back. The time you take is given back. Shifting gears is saving gas. Hiding in the quiet is a well of wisdom.

Rest – Half Alive

With our technological advancements, we’ve been able to accomplish great things as a species. Electricity particularly ensures that we can continue working as long as we like. We are no longer restricted by the loss of sunlight. However, while we all enjoy this extra time, it has at some point switched from wanting more time to work on things, to feeling as though we always have to be working on something. Without a forced period of rest, we run ourselves ragged and never deem ourselves worthy of any respite from constant productivity and progress.

It took me a long time to even realize that I was struggling with this need to always be accomplishing something. Sadly, I didn’t consider myself one of those “busy” people because I never perceived myself as someone who was doing all that much, even when I was. Even now I constantly have to remind myself that it’s okay to just be. That is enough. There is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about for spending time without a goal or direction.

For the last few days, I have been feeling particularly tired and unmotivated. Instead of allowing this to be a cue to give myself a break, usually I fight against it, making myself feel even worse. Whenever I’m tired, I’m also spending what little energy I do have beating myself up for it. “I don’t have time to feel this way,” I think to myself. “I’m already so behind on all that I want to get done.” Then as if by divine intervention, I heard exactly what I needed to hear last night on a podcast: Achieving your goals will not make you happy. Working on them will.

These words really put into perspective just how silly it is for me to rush myself to finish all of these things I want to work on. There is a part of my brain always telling me that is where happiness lies. Happiness is something to be handed at the finish line, after you’ve completed all of your goals. Even though we all know from experience that this isn’t the case, we need reminded of it often. The joy is in the process not the end result. So don’t feel overwhelmed for having a lot on your plate, feel grateful. That plate of yours is full of opportunities to find joy.

Another aspect of our reluctance to slow down is this strange idea that if we allow ourselves to rest, if we get off our own backs, that we’ll never do anything again. I feel this deep within my bones. I’m constantly vigilant of my momentum. I fear slowing down for even a single day will derail me entirely and make it impossible to ever pick my responsibilities back up. Even though logically, I know this isn’t the case, I can’t help but hold onto this irrational belief.

One of the things that helped me yesterday was shifting my perspective a bit concerning what my goals even are. I decided that my goal was actually to slow down and rest, to be kind to myself. That’s it. Viewing it this way, helped me see “doing nothing” as something productive. Although it sounds easy, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. It is actually one of the more difficult goals I’ve given myself.

So if you’re someone who is feeling exhausted, overworked, and rundown, this is your permission to rest. It’s not a waste of time. It’s not selfish. You deserve it. You need it. It’s worthwhile. Just as our technology needs to be unplugged and plugged back in sometimes so that it continues to work, we also need to let ourselves be unplugged for awhile. Today’s the day. Don’t put it off any longer. Rest.

Introduction to the REST API - RESTful Web Services

Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed? | Condé Nast Traveller India

This week has been a busy, hectic, nightmare for me. Thankfully, I’ll have a few moments to collect myself this afternoon since our evening appointment at work canceled. At a certain point, it feels like my brain just completely checks out. There is no helping myself when I get to this point. Despite everything in your body telling you to keep going, that there is so much to do, the best thing to do is actually take a moment to rest.

It’s difficult to negotiate with a tired brain. It reminds me of a toddler throwing a tantrum, impossible to reason with. The overwhelming sense of urgency and dread that consumed me in these moments is nearly impossible to ignore. All of my bodily systems are screaming out for my attention. Telling me that the world is falling apart around me and that I need to fix it somehow. Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of experience with these types of brain states.

Given that our minds are the window through which we see and interpret the world around us, it’s not an easy task to override the messages our brains send us, even when logically we know they are false or exaggerated. I’ve only recently started to learn how to overcome my evening anxiety, for example.

For some reason, every evening, I have a huge spike in my anxiety levels. I start to ruminate and worry about what happened that day or what may happen the next. Problems that seemed minor in the morning, take on an eerie urgency in the evening hours. Even though this pattern has been apparent for a while now, it doesn’t make it any easier to dismiss. For some reason, when we find ourselves in these anxious states of overwhelm, it feels like life has always felt this way and it will always feel this way. Yet at the same time, there is a sense of unrest, like in some way we are supposed to address and “fix” whatever is causing this unpleasant state.

At times like these, the only thing I’ve found helpful is just reminding myself that even though I am feeling rushed and ruffled, the things I’m experiencing inside of my head are not an accurate representation of reality. We forget that our mental states aren’t solely effected by the world around us. Our moods and ability to cope with stressors are also effected by what we’ve eaten, how we slept, the time of day, hormone fluctuations, etc. Just because a situation seems overwhelming today, doesn’t mean that the same scenario won’t strike you in a completely different way tomorrow. I’m not telling you to completely disregard your feelings, but sometimes it’s enough to just notice and acknowledge them, without reacting. Perhaps try saying to yourself, “I am feeling overwhelmed right now, and that’s okay. This feeling will pass. I’m doing my best.”

Sometimes I also find it helps to make a list. There are days when it feels like I have so much to do and more tasks just keep accumulating. The fear that I may forget something important really adds to the stress. There is an immediate sense of relief once I’ve written down everything that is on my mind. Often it even seems silly how short the list looks compared to how long I imagined it would be. Getting this to-do list onto paper and out of your crowded mind makes a huge difference. It allows me to find some much needed space inside my own head.

It seems counterintuitive, but taking a moment to set aside the thoughts that are overwhelming us, is actually the kindest thing we can do for ourselves in these situations. Part of the reason the stressors seem so urgent is the false sense that things will only continue to get worse if we don’t address the issue immediately. Most of the time, this is simply an illusion. While slowing down seems like the worst possible option when you feel rushed and overwhelmed, it’s actually the most beneficial option. Taking a moment to just be, to just breathe, will allow you to step back and gain some perspective.

Dealing with chronic anxiety, I always notice myself searching for a “cause.” “I’m feeling anxious. There must be something wrong.” This is what I’m unconsciously telling myself. And in a normally functioning brain, that makes perfect sense. Our fight or flight response is there to keep us safe. Ideally it is only activated when we are in immediate danger that we need to either overcome or get away from as fast as possible. When this natural defense system is distorted however, it becomes a never-ending feedback loop. I feel anxious. I find a “cause” or something to blame my anxiety on. My anxiety is justified, reinforcing my brain’s idea that it was correct to feel anxious.

One of my favorite mantras recently is: It’s okay to feel anxious. Instinctually we try to escape from anxious states, but when you have an anxiety disorder, trying to escape only increases your anxiety. You become anxious about being anxious. The next time you notice yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious, try simply allowing yourself to experience these feelings rather than running from them. Say to yourself: I am feeling anxious/overwhelmed right now. *deep breath* It is okay to feel anxious/overwhelmed sometimes. *deep breath* I am okay. *deep breath* I am safe. *deep breath*

Everything is going to be okay. I promise. You’re doing the best you can, even if that might look different from the way “doing your best” has looked in the past, or how you expect it to look. The state you’re in right now is temporary. It will pass all on it’s own. Just breathe.

Rest

Introduction to REST APIs — RESTful Web Services - DZone Integration

When was the last time you really allowed yourself to do nothing? Not planning for the day ahead, not going for a walk, not even doing yoga and meditating. Really and truly nothing. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a day where every second wasn’t accounted for with some form of activity. I used to think that as long as I wasn’t at work, I was resting. Now I realize life isn’t that simple. Even on my days off, I have a rigorous schedule to follow by the minute. I am constantly checking the clock, checking my to-do list. Sometimes my relentless repetition from day to day has the effect of turning even fun, lighthearted activities into chores. Chores I nevertheless continue to perform, forgetting that my original intention was to enjoy myself.

I heard this phenomenon referred to the other day as “internalized capitalism” and I hated it. Is this really why I feel the need to always be productive? I may not be someone who obsesses over their actual job, but I tend to turn my own personal pursuits into a job. I am my own task master. But behind my own neuroticism, is capitalism really running the show? After all, why do I feel the need to be productive all the time? I’ve always thought working only as much as I absolutely have to and saving the rest of the time for myself was a rebellion against capitalist ideals. Now I’m beginning to wonder if that very system managed to seep into my mind somehow anyway. Why am I so afraid to rest? Why does “wasting time” feel so taboo?

Part of the conversation on “internalized capitalism” was really interesting to me. The hosts of the podcast mentioned that perhaps we tie our self worth to our productivity and usefulness to others because at the end of the day, none of us really know why we’re here. I thought that was a fascinating idea. Without inherent direction or purpose, we subconsciously decide that our purpose is production and selfless service. On paper it doesn’t sound like a bad purpose. It’s quite noble to dedicate your life to serving others. The problem only appears when we decide this is the only thing that matters.

The search for meaning is a perplexing one. Why do we humans long for a reason? Do other animals question their purpose? Do plants wonder why they exist? It seems self evident that we would want to find meaning in the chaos that is existence, but what makes us so sure there is a meaning in the first place? Furthermore, why is the idea that our purpose is to simply exist so unsatisfying? What is it inside of us that makes us desire a reason for being alive? Isn’t just being alive enough? Can’t we just be grateful and enjoy it? Then again, perhaps our innate need to understand this mystery implies that there is an explanation out there somewhere. Whether or not we’re meant to find it in this life is another story.

I’ve always liked the idea that we get to choose our own purpose. The meaning of life is for us each to interpret for ourselves. However, why is it so hard to fully commit to our own interpretation? For instance, I would say the purpose I’ve assigned to my life is to love and be loved, to learn, to experience, and to enjoy. When I break down my day to day existence though, does it really reflect that purpose? Not really, but how can that be? I get to choose the purpose, and I get to choose how I live, don’t I? Our actions are so often counterintuitive to our own wishes.

Given that none of us really know why we’re here, why is it so difficult for many of us to simply rest? I think part of me is afraid that if I allow myself to rest, I’ll never find the motivation to get back up again. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest right? Humans aren’t objects though. I shouldn’t fear slowing down every now and then. Objects are moved by external forces, momentum keeps them going, and once they stop, they never know when or if they’ll be propelled into motion again. Living beings are different. My energy, my movement comes from within. It’s important to rest so that I can refill my energy stores. There is an elegant dance at play, an eternal struggle to find balance between these two states.

I want to learn to trust my body, to listen more closely when it whispers what it needs, to stop denying it’s pleas for rest. I’ve been pushing myself for so long now, it seems like my body only ever asks for rest. I’ve tricked myself into believing this is all it has or will ever ask for. That it’s my job to overcome this desire for inertia each and every day. I’ve lost faith in my own resilient spirit. I’ve forgotten that it’s a joy to move, to create, to explore. Allowing myself moments of stillness won’t leave me trapped there. I’m sure that if I were to only give myself time to rest, once I was replenished, I’d be eager to get back to “work.” Maybe intervals of rest would keep me from feeling like my life is work at all.

I may be pleasantly surprised like I was after my stint of working from home. I had thought working from home would be ideal for me. I had always wished for that or even not having to work at all. Yet, after a few months I was actually dying to go back to the office. All that time alone had the opposite effect. I wasn’t happier. I was being consumed by my own self-destructive behaviors. I had worried that it’d be a huge burden to go back eventually, but I was surprised to find myself overjoyed when my time at home finally ended.

Try to give yourself at least a few minutes of true rest today. Sit in the grass and stare at the clouds. Listen to your favorite album start to finish. Have a long bubbly bath. Take a nap without guilt. It’s been so long since I’ve incorporated rest into my life, that I’m honestly struggling to come up with examples. What do you like to do to rest? I would love to hear your ideas. Maybe you’re an introvert and rest looks like spending time alone. Or maybe you’re an extrovert and to replenish yourself you like to spend quality time with loved ones. Whatever it is, you deserve it. Give yourself the gift of rest. Use it as an experiment if you like. How might rest give you the energy you need to more fully enjoy the busy moments?

Invest in rest (and live better. Seriously.)

The Importance of Boredom

As a child, I remember being bored A LOT. I would follow my mom around whining, “I’m booorredd” as I’m sure many of us did. Aside from TV, which was mostly full of adult shows or reruns of cartoons I had already seen so many times I could recite the dialogue along with the characters, there wasn’t really much you could do to mindlessly pass the time. I can’t imagine what it’s like for children growing up now. There must never be even a moments rest from constant stimulation, thousands of different types of content and entertainment all desperately trying to win your attention. They probably struggle to focus on important things, let along worry about being bored.

Running around like always the other day, I paused for a moment and wondered, “when was the last time I was truly bored?” I honestly can’t remember. Since I was a teenager, it seemed like I always had something to occupy my time. I suppose at a certain point, the little boredom that could survive the rapid advancements of technology was drown in drugs and alcohol. Now as an adult, I simply don’t feel like I have time to be bored. It feels like there is always something that needs to be done. There is never a lack of tedious chores to be tended to.

In the past, boredom was something that was unavoidable. We had to find creative ways to entertain ourselves when these moments arose. It was also valuable time for our minds to rest and wander. In modern times, we don’t leave any time for “doing nothing.” Yet we know the mind is always doing something, so this time was actually worthwhile. Instead of exerting mountains of effort, focusing on completing tasks or solving problems, boredom is a chance for the mind to play. Letting the mind roam can lead to some incredible ideas! It is also a great chance for us to do some much needed self-reflection.

I used to think my memory was poor from all the marijuana I smoked as a teen/young adult. Now I wonder if it might also have something to do with how rarely I allow myself time to contemplate my day. It seems like a lot of this idle time I had as a child was spent thinking about things that had just happened, what I liked, what I didn’t like, what I hoped for, what I could do better, what I learned, what surprised me, confused me, etc. While this may have seemed like daydreaming at the time, looking back, I think it was more than that. Besides, I think wild daydreams have their own value.

Not only could the daydreams we have cultivate positive energy and emotions, they are also a wonderful way to practice our creativity. The art of imagination is being lost, I fear. It’s hard to allow ourselves to lean on our own mental creations when there are sooo many ideas already swirling around at our fingertips for us to reference. It’s much more work to take the time to come up with our own ideas. The temptation to find “inspiration” online before a creative endeavor is nearly irresistible.

There are so many books about visualization and how we can use it to benefit our lives. It seems to me like we were all practicing visualization when we would allow our minds to wander out of boredom. These moments of relaxed unguided thought were excellent ways to invite spontaneous inspiration and new ideas. It was a time for us to recenter and consider who we are, where we’re going, what we’re doing, and what our goals/dreams might be. Without these quiet moments with ourselves, many of us just continue barreling through life with not much of an intention or direction. Boredom was a chance to reevaluate and course correct.

At one time our challenge was trying to avoid boredom, it seems now it’s become the problem of how to allow ourselves to be bored. Definitely not as easy as it sounds. Although boredom is beneficial, it can also often be quite uncomfortable. Not only that, with so many different types of stimulation surrounding us at every moment, it can take a herculean effort to resist them all. More and more people seems to be setting aside time for themselves to meditate, but maybe it’s time we also try to set aside some moments in our day to be bored.

Twitter Shows Epidemic of School Boredom | The New Republic

Mental Energy & Exhaustion

Even though I sleep A LOT, I am always extremely tired. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t feel rested. It’s a strange feeling to live with. It’s not that I feel physically tired. I mean, it takes a lot of energy to do the insane workouts that I do every day. Now that I think about it, my body very rarely feels fatigued. The tiredness I’m experiencing is mental, not physical. It feels almost as though my body has two completely separate storehouses of energy, and my mental storehouse has been empty for a long time now.

From the moment I wake up in the morning, a battle begins inside of my head. I start listing off all of the different things I’ve got to do before I leave for work, throughout the day, etc. I am critiquing and criticizing myself almost immediately after opening my eyes. I’m experiencing a mental beatdown every minute of the day. It’s no wonder that meditating and doing yoga is such a peaceful time for me. My practice is the one time a day when my mind actually gets to rest and just be.

I am always telling myself that I need to make time to rest. I never seem to be able to keep myself from cramming in tons of tasks every day though. Working full-time, teaching yoga, and taking care of a house all by myself doesn’t leave me much wiggle room for relaxation. But today I realized that at the very least I can try to afford myself some mental rest. There is absolutely no need for me to constantly be consumed by racing thoughts and self assessments. I don’t know how much control over it I really have, given that it is part of my anxiety disorder. However, I’ve also never taken the initiative to try before.

Today my intention is to rest, to surrender to the moment, to just soak in my surroundings, to just be. I’m always too afraid to even try to let go of my constant planning and self-talk. I’m afraid of losing track of all the things I have to do. I’m afraid of forgetting something important. I know that even purposefully putting everything on hold for one day won’t be the end of the world though. Today the only thing that matters is being kind to myself. Today is my day for rest, recovery, and self-love. What could be more important than that?

7 ways to practice self-care during the COVID-19 outbreak | Cincinnati &  Hamilton County Public Library

Practicing Loving Kindness

Most of the time I feel like my own worst enemy. I’m my own task master. It sometimes feels like I am just bullying myself around day in, day out. Only very rarely do I take a moment to pause and actually check in with myself, ask myself how I am doing, how I’m feeling, what I might enjoy doing. Instead my brain is reading off a laundry list of things I have to do and what I need to do next whether I want to or not. I’m constantly planning and preparing for a future that never comes.

For years I’ve told myself that I will be happy once I am different, better, skinnier, more productive, more organized. But not only does being harsh with myself make my goals even more difficult to realize, it also ensures that even once I achieve them, happiness will be as far away as it has always been. The craziest part is that this happiness I’m seeking isn’t some external destination I have to reach. It is already something I harbor inside of myself. I don’t need to change anything about my outer world to experience it. All I’ve got to do is give myself permission to just be, to give my loved ones, and everything around me permission to be exactly as it is.

A lot of the time I feel like the world would run much more smoothly if I were in charge. It’s easy to think I know best. Yet at the same time I see myself making the wrong choices in my own life. Would I really want the responsibility of managing others or this world? It feels much better to have humility, to accept that I don’t always know what’s best for others, the world, or even myself. And that’s okay. I don’t always have to make the right decisions or know all the answers. It’s more than enough to just be here, to witness, to be a part of this wonderous, messy, confusing thing called life.

For once I’d like to focus on simply being kind to myself. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. When I’m already feeling happy and calm, it’s much easier to be soft and loving with myself. However, when I need that loving kindness most, I feel a strong resistance to it. Subconsciously I think I feel like I don’t deserve it in those difficult moments. I get angry and frustrated with myself for how I feel, for not being able to feel differently. In the past I’ve even punished myself instead of trying to make myself feel better. It reminds me of a child throwing a tantrum. Even once the moment has passed and there are opportunities in front of the child that they would normally be happy and excited about, often they’ll stubbornly try to hold on to their bad attitude. It’s fascinating to witness this phenomenon in others as well as in ourselves. It may change as we grow older, but this unwillingness to let go of negative feelings seems to be quite common.

Although I know I definitely need self-love the most when I’m struggling, it may be too great of a challenge to begin my efforts there. Sometimes it’s better to start practicing these types of things when you don’t necessarily need them. This way you can become more comfortable with them. You can form new healthy habits. Then these skills will seem more accessible to you even in your more difficult moments. That’s why I’d like to start by making a list of five ways I can show myself loving kindness:

  1. Say something kind to myself each morning when I wake up & each night before I go to sleep.
  2. Give myself a massage when bored or waiting for something, in traffic, etc.
  3. Make a list of things I like about myself/positive affirmations
  4. Set aside moments throughout the day to pause and take five deep breaths. (before meals, after going to the bathroom, when I get in/out of my car, in the shower)
  5. Smile and/or laugh, even if it’s forced at first.

These are just a few easy things that I can do for myself everyday that I think will make a huge difference. I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself for quite a while now. I’m hoping that writing down some specific ways of doing that will help me form regular self-loving habits. I am so excited to embark on this journey to show myself loving kindness. I’m ready to finally have a healthy relationship with myself so that I am able to allow myself to rest in the inherent joy of my true nature.

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You Deserve to Rest

I have been feeling exceptionally tired and unmotivated these past few days. I am starting to think all the business I’ve been experiencing has finally burned me out. Thankfully I have a nice long holiday weekend coming up. I am even planning on taking a few extra days off to make it super juicy and relaxing. The only issue is that even though I am desperately needing it, I have a really hard time actually allowing myself to take breaks. It makes me so anxious and even makes me feel guilty at times.

I was watching an anime series last night and one of the characters was insisting that the others value the time they have for resting and to make sure they allow themselves to recover when they get the chance. I’ve been hearing similar sentiments a lot lately, especially online. In a society so focused on being as productive as possible in every moment, it can make resting seem like a waste of valuable time. Or even something you have to earn. But it isn’t a waste to rest. And you don’t need to do anything special to deserve it. We need to allow ourselves those slow, silent, calm moments. Resting is productive. It is essential care that we must give our bodies and minds. If you are on a long journey and break your leg, it is much more productive to rest and let it heal than try to continue and prevent your leg from ever getting better.

Even though logically I acknowledge all of these arguments, it is still hard for me to make time for resting. For example, I haven’t allowed myself to take a nap for years. Even though I have just gotten a new game for my Nintendo Switch that I paid a lot of money for, I can’t seem to allow myself any significant amount of time to sit down and actually play it. Even when I finish my to-do lists ahead of schedule, I end up tacking on more things instead of enjoying my free time.

This weekend I am going to try to actually schedule time for taking it easy. Apart from teaching yoga on Saturday morning, I am going to have five days off. I’m hoping that by planning a break for myself it will be easier for me to honor that time to myself. I want it to be something I can look forward to as I make my way through another hectic week. I’ll even plan some nice self care activities to treat myself with. One of which is going to be doing some LSD with my best friend and my sister. It has been far too long since I’ve tripped. A nice brain-reset is long overdue.

It seems like I am much better at giving advice than applying it to my own life. But I hope that even though I struggle to allow myself the rest I need, I hope that for those of you reading this that you will make time for it. You really do deserve to rest, to relax, to unwind. It isn’t a waste of time. It is an important act of self love that will benefit your physical and mental health tremendously. You are worth so much more than your productivity. You deserve to rest.

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Remember Why You Started

As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about exactly how I ended up so enmeshed in the repetitive behaviors I now perform daily. I thought back to the first time I remember giving myself a similar list of tasks. In the beginning, I remember it being so exciting. I had big plans about bettering myself and working towards becoming the person I wanted to be. I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve made a lot of progress towards those goals. However, sadly I seem to have lost the passion that drove me to start this journey in the first place.

It feels like in the last few years, I’ve started to stagnate. These efforts at self-improvement were supposed to be fun. I want to get back to that passion that I once had. I was energized by these activities rather than exasperated by them. I believed in myself, in my potential. I was excited at the idea of reaching my goals. Somewhere along the line I seem to have lost all that faith in myself. I lost sight of the self love that once spurred me onward.

Thankfully, spring always reawakens something inside of me. I feel filled with a new energy as the air begins to heat back up and the sun reemerges. And with the coming spring, I’ve also had an important realization. I’ve been scrambling around inside my head trying to figure out a way to make time to meet a new vegan friend I met online. I’ve been ridiculously stressed out by the effort of trying to cram yet another activity into my already busy schedule. Only after a few days of this psychotic planning did it suddenly dawn on me, it doesn’t even matter if I miss doing all of my usual things for ONE day. How obvious.

The whole point of the things I make myself do everyday is self-improvement. Doing them every day was just a way to get into the habit. It was just supposed to give me direction and a way to feel productive on days when I had nothing else to do. I don’t know at what point it started to dominate my life instead. It seems like for years now, I have been prioritizing these “hobbies” over everything else in my life. I don’t make plans with friends and family because I tell myself I don’t have time for it. I neglect other, more important things, in favor of completing my these rituals. Only very recently have I realized how absurd that is.

These activities were supposed to help me become a better person, not prevent me from living a normal life. The ultimate goal isn’t 365 consecutive days of checking off these arbitrary boxes, the goal was to use my time wisely and learn new things. It completely defeats the purpose if in the end these habits inhibit my life rather than compliment it.

This is why it is so important to have clear intentions for yourself. My intention somehow got lost along the way. Luckily I’m finding my way back to it. Maybe a few years ago, what I needed was to have a more structured routine, but needs change. It’s time I allow myself to change with them. These habits were meant to serve me, but instead they’ve consumed me. Now what I need is learn how to give myself a break. I need to remind myself that it’s okay to rest. I don’t want to look back on my life one day just to see hundreds of checked off to-do lists. I want to give myself the freedom to have spontaneous adventures and make meaningful memories as well.

Tomorrow I want to give myself a long over due gift. I want to have a day off, a day free from my own demands. I want to meet someone new, get to know them. I want to explore and be curious and flexible. I want to not worry about whether or not I’ll have time to read later or write in my gratitude journal. How silly that the act of writing down a list of things I’m grateful for everyday became more important than allowing myself the time to enjoy what I’m grateful for. It’s no wonder I’ve lost all of my drive and passion. I’ve burnt myself out a long time ago. I’ve been running on fumes. It’s time to stop and recharge. It’s time to take a day just to breathe, to reflect, to enjoy the progress I’ve made, and to share my new and improved self with new people and with the ones I love, the ones that have stuck with me through all of these years of being distant and uninvolved. It’s time for me to thank them for that. It’s time for my to thank myself and enjoy how far I’ve come, how strong I’ve been. Time to refocus on my intention and reignite that excitement, that passion for my life.

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What Sustains Us

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This week has felt like an eternity. It’s hard to believe it’s finally over. After working from home most days for months, having a full week at the office with a packed schedule was insanely exhausting. And it looks like I won’t have any less work to do next week either. I consider myself someone who is very easily overwhelmed. So it’s a miracle I’ve been able to keep it together so well this week. It’s been a struggle though.

I’ve been trying really hard to keep the promise to myself I made last week, to use whatever comes my way. Growth is always uncomfortable. And I’m trying to look at this week and the next as chances for growth. Even though it’s been stressful, I must admit there is something satisfying about making it though tough times. It seems like we are always somehow more capable than we think.

As I reflect back on the past few days I feel only gratitude. One of the things I’ve noticed is that when we find ourselves struggling just to keep our head above water, it gets easier to find gratitude for the smallest things. Things I’ve taken for granted for the last few months were the very things that meant everything to me this week. When you are home every day it can be easy to forget just how wonderful it is to be there. To light a candle, to burrow into soft, warm blankets while sharing the body heat of loved ones, to rest your head on a plump pillow at night once the time to rest has finally come, to lovingly prepare a hot meal, to enjoy a cup of tea. All of these things often blur into the background of life. But when it comes down to it, these are the moments that really matter. These are the experiences that sustain us, that make it all worth it.

If given the choice I imagine we’d all prefer for things to always be easy, but it’s actually the difficult times that provide the context that allows us to truly enjoy those easy moments. It always feels extra amazing to rest after you’ve been working hard, to shower after working up a sweat, to eat when you are really hungry, to drink ice cold water after a long run on a summer day. This week has reminded me of that. So as this week finally comes to a close, I am grateful. Not only for the chance to rest and recharge, but for the struggle that will make this time spent resting feel truly divine and well deserved.

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Withholding Happiness

How we talk to ourselves is so important. Even though it can feel silly, talking yourself up can make a huge difference. Even though I have been trying to be more aware of my self-talk and frame things more positively in my own head, it is still very difficult. It’s hard to tell if it’s even getting any easier. The main thing I struggle with is feeling like I’m just lying to myself.

For most of my life I was a pessimist, but thought of myself as a “realist.” I wasn’t being negative, I thought. These are just the cold hard facts of reality. Only in the last few years have I truly embraced the idea that there is no hard cut reality. Two people can experience the same thing and describe their experiences completely differently. Neither one of these people are delusional. Both have just viewed the situation from a different perspective. Both interpretations are equally valid. I was just choosing to focus on the negative side of most things, rather than the positive.

It is really hard to escape that pattern of thinking. Some part of me still feels foolish for trying to focus on the good in every situation. When I try to repeat self affirming mantras such as I am worthy, I deserve to be happy, I deserve love, I am enough, some inner part of me quivers with revulsion. It is quite sad to realize that it’s because I truly don’t believe those things. It has always been easier for me to say everyone deserves to be happy, than I deserve to be happy. When I imagine anyone else not believing they deserve happiness, it breaks my heart. Yet somehow when I am the one that feels that way, it seems logical and true.

I know that a lot of people have a hard time speaking kindly to themselves at first. We are so used to being our own harshest critic. I’ve heard that it takes time and persistence. I hope that’s true. I just worry about that small voice in my head that counters every attempt at trying to speak lovingly to myself with a whispered “liar!” I hope someday that voice in my head will disappear or at least not bother me as much.

I realized as I was meditating the other day, that this self-rejection is part of the reason it is so hard for me to be present and enjoy the moment. I truly feel that I don’t deserve to enjoy the moment. If I had to put it into words, my brain is telling me: “You are not good enough to relax. If you don’t keep hassling yourself constantly, you are going to keep being awful, or even become worse. You can rest when you are a better person.” No wonder I am anxious and distressed so often. My soul is restless because I am constantly resisting who I am. I am always rejecting myself.

It is truly bizarre to look at the double standard I have set for myself versus others. Sometimes it helps a little to try to imagine a friend or even a stranger telling me they feel and think these things. That makes it easier to comfort myself, because no one should have to feel they are unworthy of love and happiness. And that includes me! Are you listening, brain? We deserve love and happiness too, god damn it! Everyone does. Even though they aren’t perfect, even though they have major flaws, even though they have done terrible things. And I say “even though” instead of “even if” because we are all human and we are all imperfect. We have all done things we are ashamed of. None of that disqualifies us from a life filled with happiness and love.

So even though it makes me squirm inside, I am going to keep speaking lovingly to myself. I am hopeful that it will get easier and that one day I really will believe the kind words I’m offering.

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