Have you ever been so tired, you find yourself wailing despairingly, “I just want to go to bed!” …when you’re already on your way there?
I do this to myself sometimes. The other day, as I was walking in the woods, I caught myself whining that I just wanted to walk in the woods. Even though I was there, it didn’t register because I was rushing through my already-too-short walk to start my work day.
Intellectually, we all know we can’t possibly do everything we want to do–there’s just not enough time–so we have to pick. We have to curate, or we end up slaves to the whirlwind of everyday life. The urgent shoves aside the important, duct tapes its mouth shut, and sits on it. That’s how people suddenly wake up to find that ten years have gone by and they haven’t done anything they really cared about.
I know this, but somehow I must not really believe it. Otherwise, why would I keep making the same mistake?
Every Monday when I make up my list of tasks for the week, I have every desire and expectation of finishing them all. Come Friday when I look back over the list, 75% of the tasks are usually still undone. And that doesn’t even count the multitude of off-list tasks that got blown off.
I know this, yet I keep making the mistake of waiting until my work is done to do things like rest, walk in the woods, or journal.
So, what did I do when I found myself walking in the woods and whining that I wanted to walk in the woods? I walked in the woods.
I woke up to the moment. Instead of rushing my walk to get back to work on schedule, I slowed down. I let myself walk farther and more slowly. I even spent some time sitting on a bench and thinking.
Most importantly, I looked at what was going wrong. Why was I feeling so deprived and desperate in the first place?
I could complain about being an introvert and needing a lot of solitude to recharge. I could complain about being a creative type and needing a lot of mind-wandering time to get inspiration. I could complain about being unusually sensitive and needing a lot of quiet time. I could even complain about my awesome boyfriend making me have too much fun all the time. All of that is true, but it would be silly to complain about it.
My life has been really full lately. I’ve learned to build a cigar box guitar and a leaded glass panel. I’m a regular at Tuesday Night Woodworking, where I generally crochet. (ha ha!) I dance and play and cook and drive race cars. Meanwhile, I’ve also been working on a Kindle formatting service and writing a lot of proposals for freelance work on elance.
Once I took the time to think about why I felt the way I did and what I wanted instead, it was obvious that my life is great. I just need to be a little more diligent in taking care of myself. I looked at what I wanted more of (uncheduled time, solitude, sitting around, playing guitar, walking in the woods, rest) and what I wanted less of (structure, driving, schedules, planned activities). Then I looked for opportunities to get more of what I want and less of what I don’t.
This seems ridiculously obvious in retrospect, but somehow I have to keep having this revelation over and over again. I used to think that meant I was a dumbass, but apparently, it’s just part of the human condition. Jenny Blake, a friend and hero of mine for how centered and awesome she is, recently wrote a blog post titled “What do do when you feel batshit crazy.” The first line: “Oh wait! I have absolutely no idea.”
Glad it’s not just me!
It’s the start of a new school year, which has always been more powerful to me than the new year that comes in January. Now is a great time to take a step back and give your life a checkup. What do you want more of? What do you want less of? What small shifts can help you get there?
It’s also good to take this on more of a micro level. Whenever you think of it throughout the day, ask yourself, “What do I need right now?”
Then, don’t do like I do, which goes something like this:
“What do I need right now?”
“I’d kill to lie down for 20 minutes. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Maybe I’ll empty the dishwasher instead… Oh well, back to work.”
Instead, actually listen to yourself and give yourself what you need if you can.
“What do I need right now?”
“I really need to get clarity on this jangly feeling in my stomach.”
“Ok, time for some journaling.” [sits down to journal]
Even if you can’t always get what you need immediately, just knowing what it is can help you get it later.
What about you? What do you need right now?