guiltYou know when you keep getting the same message from multiple sources?
For a couple of weeks, I kept getting “Relax and enjoy”. I heard it during meditation, and from important people in my life.
But how to do it?
I’ve pondered this over the past couple of weeks, even though I’m pretty sure over-thinking it is not on the right track.
This idea brings up a lot of guilt for me. I feel like I should be doing more. “Should” is always a good clue that there’s something a little dysfunctional going on in my relationship to something!
I’ve not been working for two months now. At that time, the message had been “Rest”. I wrote about it.
I’m feeling less aimless and somewhat more settled about the unscheduled time, but maybe not really. Hence the message.
I feel like I’m not doing enough
I finished up an online course I was taking for a second degree I’ve been working on, so now I just have one class. Which I’m auditing. I read the chapter and attend class, but I don’t have to do assignments or exams. Which I’m not admitting to almost anyone. Because I feel guilty and embarrassed.
I picture myself telling someone that all I have to do all week is a couple hours of reading and a 3-hour class. I picture them saying, “That’s all??” Like I’m lazy and I should be doing more.
I’m actually pretty busy. In a week, I’ll play sports 3-4 times, practice yoga several times, spend time writing, see my therapist, cook and bake for people (it’s how I show love), and spend several hours doing pottery on a number of days, school work, run errands, see friends.
So I guess that takes about as much time as a full time job.
I’m feeling super guilty. Internally, I’m scrambling to justify what I do with all my time.
Listening to the message from my body
My body has been sending me signals for months now that I’ve been too active. Or, too active in certain ways. Mainly high-intensity sports. It’s maybe even been more like 12-18 months that I’ve known this but just haven’t wanted to slow down.
A couple of years ago, I completely changed my lifestyle – nutrition, meditation, emotional/psychological support, relationships, sleep and other habits. I started feeling better than I had in years (maybe ever) and had lots of extra energy. I wanted to DO stuff with all this energy. So, as I often do, I overdid it.
A couple of weeks ago I relented. No more high-intensity sports. At least not until I give myself enough time to recover.
I thought it’d be enough to take a week off, but that didn’t even put a dent in it. I’ve been needing more sleep, not feeling great, and my legs have been hurting way too much. Maybe not like “I’m in pain” exactly, more just the kind of discomfort that is telling me to slow down.
I’ve committed to two months without sports. Which seems to leave even more unscheduled time in my week. However, the sports has been (is being) replaced by calisthenic workouts, walks, and a lot of muscle rolling. It’s a bit harder to be on top of this stuff, because I don’t have to meet up with other people to do it. And because it feels a lot like doing nothing. Which is super guilt-inducing for me.
But, my body knows. It knows what it needs, what I need. I have to listen, and trust it.
Still, I feel guilty.
I know it’s like feeling guilty for being sick and missing work. Do I think sick people should feel guilty for not going to work? No. But I’ve always felt guilty anyway. It’s okay for other people to rest, but somehow I can’t allow the same for myself. It doesn’t make sense.
Release in order to relax
So far, in the last couple of weeks of my Relax and Enjoy chapter, I’ve gotten better at reminding myself to relax and enjoy. I’m able to catch myself worrying about not doing enough, and think or say to myself, “Relax and enjoy.”
I try to picture what it’s like to be a kid, because they are all over this kind of thing. I remember picking flowers and looking deeply at the petals and leaves. I knew all the wild plants around our house so well, because I spent time with them. I try to channel that.
Another thing I’ve figured out is the connection with letting go. I think the “relax” part is about letting go, releasing. Not clinging to old ideas about what I should do, or how much I need to accomplish. Whatever accomplish means. (Note to self: develop healthy relationship with the definition of accomplishment.)
I’ll find myself trying to jam one more activity into my day so that I can consider it productive enough. (Note to self: ditto on definition of productivity.) Then I’ll say, “Relax and enjoy.” It’s okay to leave that for another day.
On the more rational side of things, I remind myself that this is an opportunity I have at this time in my life. It might be the last time I get to just be unemployed and fancy-free. That’s especially true if I squander it! I have the sense that if I can’t learn to relax and enjoy under these [arguably ideal] circumstances…well, you know.
Sometimes I want to over-rationalize it and turn it into another accomplishment. Can I achieve this kind of relaxation and enjoyment?
Or maybe that is what I need to do: elevate this goal to the level of other types of accomplishment. Even higher, because it is just that important. Let’s face it, when I look back on this phase of my life, I am probably not going to wish that I was busier. The more I sink into relaxation and enjoyment, the more peace I can find in just being, the more value I have soaked up from this opportunity.
Guilt as information
I hereby commit to treating guilt as information. It’s a message that reminds me of my relationship to ideas about productivity, and I can use it as a notification. That feeling I get in my body, those thoughts I have around busyness – those will become a signal to take a breath and release the old habits.
The journey continues…