After returning from London, I got a sinus infection that left me with very low energy. I found myself only able to do essential tasks. I rested a lot, watched tv, and read novels. I didn’t even eat that much. I survived mostly on soup that I made in a huge batch and kept simmering on the stove. My husband and eldest daughter were still in London, and fortunately, my youngest daughter is old enough to fend for herself. As I emerge from the experience, I notice how relaxed I feel, and even though I am feeling better, I don’t want to change what I am doing.
As I allow myself the spaciousness of letting go, now I am well, feelings of guilt are creeping in. There are a million things I could be doing on both the personal and the professional front. The list springs to mind effortlessly, but in this moment, the world is not ending if I am not doing any of them. In fact, for many moments put together, the world has not ended with me not addressing my to dos.
For someone who is an experienced and skilled relaxer, my level of relaxation is probably light weight and amateurish. I get sick. I rest — big deal! Now I am better, I can get back to my old ways of filling my schedule to the brim, keeping busy, and always having an excuse as to why it needs to be that way. It is as if knowing that my internal feeling of peace, calm, and equanimity has nothing to do with my outside circumstances gives me carte blanche to put my foot to the floor and push myself to my limits.
It is true that my experience is a reflection of my thoughts and not what I do, but I have noticed that when my mind gets busy, I tend to get busy too. My behavior starts to speed up, and I can go into a spin and look like the Tasmanian Devil.
When I lose my bearings, it looks like being busy makes me feel more important and productive. I buy into the illusion that I am in control of my destiny. Also, I never have to experience boredom, and I feel the buzz of adrenaline in my system. Just like some people kick their sugar habit by doing a fast, having low energy for a couple of weeks has deprived me of my adrenaline rush. Now I have slowed down, and I am feeling peaceful, I don’t want to add the adrenaline back into my system.
It is not that my life is that busy right now, but that doesn’t matter. When I get strung out, it can feel like I have the pressure of saving the planet on my shoulders just trying to fit work, exercise, family, and eating into my schedule.
So, I am enjoying my clarity and relaxed thinking. I recognize that my importance is not measured by how much I do, and I can even see that how hard I work doesn’t necessarily mean better results. My best work whether it be with clients, writing, or speaking usually feels effortless. When I don’t feel like I am working hard, I know I am stepping out the way, and serving as a vehicle for wisdom to express through me.
I am, however, also grateful I am capable of working hard and having a strong focus. I don’t give up easily, and I am willing to persevere. Sometimes I even enjoy the brute force of it. Focused effort is one of the ways I settle my mind, but as Abraham Maslow said in The Psychology of Science, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Just because I can work hard, it doesn’t mean I need to apply it to everything. I can make a vacation hard work. I could probably even make getting a massage hard work, although I haven’t gone that far yet.
Working hard is not the only setting I have. I actually work best in cycles. I love to push myself, experience a challenge, and then completely relax. What shifted in my life is giving myself a month or two off to rest. I bought into the idea of striving for constant productivity rather than listening to my body and my mood. I didn’t think I could run a business that way. That may or may not be true, but that is how my natural design works. I work best with highs and lows. Rather than accepting that, I have been trying to fit my square peg of variable energy into the round hole of constant productivity.
Even though I am taking it easy now, I don’t want to be relaxing all the time. I love being on fire, inspired, creative, producing, serving, and living full-out, and I also need time to retreat, unwind, regroup, and pull the covers over my head for what might be considered an unreasonable amount of time. Unreasonable based on my judgment, but who am I to argue with the wisdom of my natural rhythm?
Can I accept the ebb and flow of my energy and surrender to the wisdom of my body’s feedback? Sometimes, and when I don’t, I get my ass kicked with a bug like I did when I got back from London. That was enough to snap me out of my Tasmanian Devil spin and bring me back down to earth. I look forward to reading more fiction and getting lots of rest as my mind and body continue to unwind. I will replenish myself and get ready for my next burst of creative output, and if I spin off into Tasmanian Devildom, I know the wisdom of my system will help me course correct. Everything is for me, even when I use my free will against myself.
I would love to read in the comments how you honor your own rhythm in life.