I’m right smack dab in the middle of a recession. My own personal recession. Meaning I’m in a place where I’m not doing much to accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself. The future I see in my mind‘s eye, the one where I’m skinny and energetic and well-known in my field and organized and consistent, is simply not in creation phase at the moment.
There are a number of things I could be doing, but instead I’m sitting on my couch after having put my three babies to bed. Everything is quiet. The cat is playing with my toes, the dogs are licking something I can’t see, but I can hear them licking that’s for sure. I have just turned off the TV. It wasn’t playing anything, and I wasn’t watching, but the muted movie preview pictures flipping by in my periphery were even too much for my senses. So I made the TV turn black.
I‘m tired, but it’s early. Just past 8pm. I could drink a glass of wine. I could open a book. Have a piece of chocolate. I could perform a gentle session of stretches or do some jumping jacks. I could create a lead magnet or a free PDF about how to do something healthy. I could write a blog post. I could revamp the family budget or fold some laundry. I could even turn the TV back on and get lost in a movie.
But not a thing stirs me to action. My brain has officially checked out. Not in a dangerous way or anything, just in the way that you know nothing else can fit. I need the opposite of productive. The opposite of fight or flight. The opposite of what everyone would say I should do, which is to force myself to do something, anything, in order to get back on the horse as soon as possible.
And in the fog of acknowledging my desire to be still on the one hand, and acknowledging my frustration with feeling glued to the couch on the other, I allow my indecision to drop me into fruitless thought loops that decidedly do not provide me with either one.
**I try to compare myself to other people who I don’t know, but am somehow sure exist, who probably do less than me given my same circumstances, so that I can feel better about stalling out. Surely I'm doing better than them, I console myself. But that’s silly; I’m not competing against anyone, so why should it matter how far along I am versus all the others? It doesn’t. Yet still I catch myself comparing.
**I try reminding myself that time is short, as if getting hit with the realization this time would finally motivate me to get it all done before my time runs out. But time is wielded into an evil thief when used to guilt one into action, and I’d rather not live a life racing against one that I myself created. I want to regard a time that is on my side, of this perspective I would benefit greatly. Yet I still allow myself to feel burdened by the weight of an unknown future, with an unknown time limit.
**I try imagining what other people would think of me just lying here on the couch when I could be getting the things done that would make my life better. My writing coach, my mom, the thought-leaders who I want to call colleagues one day, my Facebook friends who I haven’t seen in years. How would I explain myself to them? How would they see me? Am I lazy? Am I avoiding some uncomfortable thing that I‘d rather not confront? Am I not enough? Am I failing? Why do I have to justify myself to anybody anyways? I don’t, of course. This is my story, not theirs. I lose authenticity if I force activity in the name of anyone else but me. Yet I continue trying to motivate myself with the expectations of others that might not even know my name.
The green illumination on the Comcast box changes over one number to the next. And I realize I’ve been lost in monkey-brain thought. Not the kind of intentional thought that would challenge my brain to focus, to grow, or to brave new ground. I’ve let my mind wander down the familiar labyrinth of justification, judgement, and doubt. It's a well worn maze to be sure, still the easiest to wander through on autopilot when things aren’t unfolding as I’d like them to.
So here I’ve caught myself getting way too overly cozy with the patterns that keep me stuck in procrastination mode. Or paralysis mode. The thought loops that create this undercurrent narrative do nothing to get me out of this self-defeating head space. What can I do to circumvent the cycle and begin the climb out of this recession?
Well, for starters, I need to accept that this is the space I am in. I’m sure as heck aware of it, which is great progress, and progress I should be proud of, but to accept it is another animal all together. To experience all of these thoughts and feelings of utter inertia without resentment or frustration or loathing. To instead see myself from the outside looking in, simply observing, curious, questioning.
Because when doubt, anger, and anxiety are permitted to take center stage, creativity diminishes, grace loses its beautiful face, and resilience recedes into the forgotten places. If I want a new perspective, I realize, I need to start by accepting myself as I am, without disqualifying or minimizing my experience, without forcefully denying or shutting out those pesky naysayers.
I want to get curious instead of judgmental. What is my truth, I ask myself. The truth is, my truth, anyways, is that I don’t need to justify my slow and steady to anyone. It doesn’t need a reason, or a rhyme. It just is. My definition of success, for now, is becoming an expert of my own mind. Of understanding my own inner workings enough so as to begin predicting my patterns, and then knowing how to roll with them proactively, rather than getting caught off-guard by the gremlins. To get as quiet as I can get, as patient as I can get, to find my answers in the spaces of not doing.
I don’t want to go through this life playing mind games with myself, trying to convince myself of this feeling or that one, talking myself in and out of what I should or shouldn’t be doing. Always a manipulation of some sort. There was once a time where I would really get down on myself for missing the mark, for falling short of my expectations, for not feeling like I should feel or thinking how I should think.
But no more. Intense patience, peace, and self-compassion will give me my new set of wings. Focusing on clarity, on faith, on worth, will kick start a momentum so fierce that I’ll never be stopped for a season of doubt, or fear, or overwhelm. Not to say these things won’t come, because sure as the day is long they will, always lurking in the shadows, those sneaky little rascals.
But that’s all they are, really. Those negative thoughts and feelings that I’ve mistakenly defined as ugly and scary and depressing. They are really just sneaky little rascals that I've taken to treating way too seriously. Enough already. I’ll play their game right back. I won’t give them power over me by fighting them, forcing them, hating them. I'll choose to dis-empower them with love and kindness and surrender.
But how will that work, you ask? It seems backwards, doesn't it? We are so primed in this culture of ours to react to negative stimuli immediately, with a definitive swing that leaves a mark, or maybe more. We load ourselves up on chaos, or food, or alcohol, or technology, or sleep, so that we don't have to face the demons. So how will inviting them in, sitting with them here on the couch, actually help to dispel them in the midst of their foreboding nature?
I like to think of it this way.... have you ever seen a child (or a grown adult for that matter) throw a temper tantrum? Arms flying, spitting in rage, crying so forcibly that you think there must be some intense physical pain they are trying to expel? Most of us can say yes, yes we have. So what response calms them down faster than anything? To have you screaming and yelling right back? Throwing punches at them just as fast as they dole them out? Maybe ignoring the outburst all together would be a better tactic. Leave them to their own devices, turn your back as if you don't care, and wait for them to come around on their own. But really, if you're in the midst of great emotional pain, would you feel better if your partner or best friend or mother just turned around and left you there, sobbing your brains out? I think no, not so much.
Then what is the best way to comfort a hurting soul? With love, patience, kindness, compassion, and surrender, of course. Stay. Be the calm presence in the storm whirling around you. Be there without judgment or defensiveness or exasperation. Just sit and wait with open arms, for the moment they are ready to give up the fight, for the moment they are ready for a big warm hug and a wiping of their tears away.
And as it is with your own thought monsters. Treat yourself as you would your closest friend or your own little child. You wouldn't beat them up (physically or emotionally). So please don't take to this route regarding your own high's and low's. Just be with yourself, quietly learning how to empathize. It is in the empathy of the thing that we begin to expose the reasons, the causes, of the symptoms. And when we can slow down enough to discover the root origin of our mind's puppeteer, we begin to liberate ourselves from the strings that pin us up for the taking.
So as I sit here on the couch, allowing all of this thought to process through my brain and my heart and my being, I realize that I can use love to love myself. And when I close my eyes, breathe deeply and intentionally, that love begins spreading from my heart to my abdomen to my head, down my arms and legs and into my fingers and toes. No TV show, no glass of wine, no special dessert, could bring me this intense a feeling of joy. I find myself smiling. I'm so grateful for the intentional quiet and resulting peace it brings. The smooth curves of these feelings are slowly overtaking those disagreeably jaded little rascals of just minutes ago, like a white puffy cloud that finds itself rolling into the outstretched pieces of the sky. Lackadaisical and effervescent, sighing deeply as it slowly moves along.
I let go of the stress, the anxiety, the obsession, over my inertia. I realize that there is no need for such delays. Rather than subjecting myself to all of the self-doubt, the comparisons, the expectations, I can go straight into subjecting myself to the love, the faith, and the evolution of my body, mind, and soul.
Granted, I may still end up in a recession every once in a while. I may still find myself on the brink of throwing an adult-sized temper tantrum in the midst of an all-too-chaotic day. But rather than muddling around in the depths of despair or the high-wire tension or some other knee-jerk fight-or-flight reaction, wishing for the day when I'll (maybe) feel like getting organized or getting healthy or getting productive, I think I'll just stay sitting right here where I am. I'll close my eyes and play the game of surrender, of love, and of listening.
Whatever life throws at me will be, whatever resulting thoughts and feelings present themselves will come. But it is my choice how I move through them. And the most effective and sustainable path, (notice I didn't say quickest, although with practice I'm sure I'll get more agile and flexible with my emotional muscles), to the other side is the one that leads into the eye of the hurricane. That is where resilience is born. And resilience is where I find the determination, the conviction, and the confidence to persist.
So now what, I ask myself as I open my eyes and look at the glowing blue numbers on the cable box. Rest-assured, I feel like an entirely new person sitting here on the couch, yet only 10 minutes has gone by. I feel energized. I suddenly have an idea to document everything that has just transpired. I want to do it right now. I feel invigorated and motivated and ready to jump out of the gate. I need to write all of this down.
And so I did.
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Here's to putting our healthiest selves first more and more often, as we connect more deeply and honestly with our inner power and passion!