Some days I want to be productive, and not doing so causes great stress and emotion. Other days I am happy being me. Biking, stretching, drinking a fabulous green smoothie, reading about health and doing nothing with my boyfriend and cats. Today is the second kind of day and it is fabulous. Although of course there is the voice in the back of my mind reminding me I am a failure and a lazy loser. She doesn’t like it when I stop moving. She wants constant action and energy. She is not okay with pausing to sip coffee and daydream, unless it these are scheduled moments squeezed between hours of extreme productivity. She hates it when I tell her that my truth, my authentic self, thrives on quiet and calm.
She’s being pretty quiet today though, and easy to ignore, and so I will continue to sip my coffee and do write here about my thoughts and feel at peace with my decision.
Yesterday I went to the Garfield Park Conservatory. The flowers, the plants, the smell of growth and dirt, the warmth and light of the greenhouses combined to bring me out of a foul depressed mood. I was unsettled, cantankerous, unable to concentrate. I was the opposite of peaceful. It is important for me to make time, especially when I am feeling so down, to go out and explore the world. Reconnect with nature even in the middle of a cold and ice-filled winter. Lose myself in beautiful things. More important, I argue, than productivity, than working and toiling and feeling exhausted.
So often I equate being tired and worn out with being good and purposeful. And there is something enriching about going all- in to a project, devoting all time and energy to a task and collapsing at the end of the day, tired but filled with the knowledge of a job well done (or at least done with maximal effort). As an endurance runner I have trained myself to revel in the feeling of having nothing left in the tank; if I feel chipper after a race or hard workout, I worry I have failed.
Life (or running, for that matter) doesn’t always have to be a grueling feat. Sometimes it can be slow. Sometimes walk breaks are in order. Sometimes you need a day off to rest your muscles and store energy so that when you return the hard effort doesn’t feel as overwhelming.
I forget to give myself permission to slow my life. But it is when things feel most frantic, most urgent, that a break can be most helpful.
Right now I am applying to grad school and, given that the last time I attempted I not only failed to be accepted but (in series of events that were unrelated but still correlated in time and in my memory) my life was thrown into chaos, I have a lot of fear associated with the process.
(A selection of the events surrounding my previous experience are: I ran out of money, was faced with the very real possibility of homelessness, lost a bunch of weight because I couldn’t afford food and was also running long distances to keep my anxiety and a close-to-tolerable level, and was compelled to move in with a friend in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin where my depression and anxiety deepened.)
And so, even though I know the task is not difficult, and even though I have only spent two or three hours a day (most days) preparing my material, and even though I am not shaking from exhaustion, a break feels nice. And, because I didn’t hold myself to a strict work timeline this morning, I had the energy and motivation to write this, allowing me to adhere to two do my 2016 goals: writing one personal essay a week and practicing universal self-acceptance.
I am proud of myself for honoring my body’s need to adopt a slower pace. I feel happier, lighter, more rested and (paradoxically) more accomplished.
Here’s to a year of pauses, of beautiful mornings off, of listening to my truth.