Events conspired this past Spring that pushed me to the point that I thought I might be “going crazy” (though I am told that if you think that thought, you are not actually going crazy). My stress levels had reached an all-time high.
Like a Wild Thing, I gnashed and clenched my teeth, barely able to handle The Daily. (Not just the news, but All The Things!)
“If I am going to have a nervous breakdown, it's going to be now,” I found myself muttering when I was home alone, along with the curse words and repetitive exclamations of too-muchness.
And then it came to me. The whispered words of my Higher Self: “It’s okay to fall apart.”
But I am not in the habit of listening to that Self, so I “kept on keeping on,” as my mother always says, trying to hold it together. It was the “holding” that nearly broke me. My own resistance to letting go - I thought if I held on long enough, things would change externally and I would be able to relax again, to unclench my jaw and fists.
But it didn’t change. It just kept on coming. So I did the only thing I felt I could do - I took Time Away - from my writing, from my business, from anything I didn’t have to do to keep the very cogs of my life turning.
Our culture doesn’t give us permission to stop. It tells us to keep on going, to push through. But when we “break” there’s nothing to support us, no system in place. Except the loony bin, and trust me, that’s not the kind of “time away” you want.
If we haven’t broken yet, but feel like we are nearing our breaking point the message is “handle it yourself” - don’t let people know what is happening behind the closed doors of your home or those cheery social media posts.
During Lockdown, it was even easier to hide the truth of what was going on. Waist up, we looked fine, but out of sight from the Zoom video feed it was all wrinkled PJs and mismatched socks. To those people who wrote entire books, tripled their income or built a thriving biz from scratch all the while homeschooling multiple children, kudos to you! For the rest of us it was more like this: tears, talking to yourself, depression, anxiety, fear, hopeless moments.
The waves of this experience are still ripping out and some mornings I still find myself waking up feeling like something is just wrong but you I’m not sure what.
Everything shifted. Tectonic plate-level shifts. Things fell apart, and now, they’re coming back together. But maybe you don’t recognize yourself anymore and your life as you knew it doesn't feel authentic. Maybe it never did.
Maybe there is something that is pulling on you, calling to you, that you are not doing. That you have put aside for all the other things. All the other people and pets, activities and adventures, but there is one thing that is calling you and not answering it - is stifling a part of you.
What did you do to survive?
I hid. To survive the chaos without and within, I “flighted” and it is only now that I am coming back out, like a turtle tentatively peeking its head from its shell, I am emerging. And with it - come my words.
What is “that thing” for you?
For me, it is writing. That is my literal Calling.
I do it for joy, inspiration, reflection - it was the cord that kept me tethered to life as a teenager. Writing it has been my everything, my best relationship! Even when I quit, it didn't quit me. It is the lover that keeps on giving, the confidante that keeps on listening, the place I can go when there is nowhere else to turn.
Writing has brought me to luxurious beaches, to the highest mountaintops, to the fields and through all the dreams I ever had and more! Writing is my best friend, my child, my parent…
In a sea of humans, I am guessing at least a few of you can relate. I am clearly talking about myself. But am I also talking about you?
We are starting to hear about the personal cost of doing “all the things” day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
Six years of living abroad ruined me. In a good way. I expect to work no more than 30 hour weeks with a bonus day off thrown in here and there; I expect a full month off in the summer and to take multiple, short vacations a year.
One of my favorite jobs was teaching ESL at Westchester Community College - it had me working three days a week for three months, then getting one month off, year round. That worked for me. I was content and happier, go figure, than when I was working five part-time jobs and mostly single-parenting my then one-year old, all while managing a new home. Crazy? Totally. But I “did it for my kid.” How many things do we do for others?
When it becomes an equation of too much / not enough then something’s gotta give.
Too much for others and not enough for ourselves is a recipe for Shutdown. If you run a car without water it overheats. The engine seizes. We do, too. Without cooling input - replenishment, reflection, and good old-fashioned rest (What’s that!?) we cease, too. We stop being who we are meant to be - our Truest Self.
That is when things fall apart. Including us.
Which is usually when my Higher Self chimes in, saying things like: “Sometimes things need to fall apart because they are just not working the way they are. Let it happen.”
It’s this deconstruction that gives us the chance to pause, then fall back together.