I began perfecting “productive” and “busy” after a hard break-up in early 2016. Hours that used to be spent living life with another person were suddenly empty. Life, for a short while, became a game of survival. Wake-up, work a morning shift, come home, run, eat, work an afternoon shift, work an evening shift, come home, sleep.
Somewhere along the way, the sadness disappeared completely and I began the long, heart-wrenching process of soul work.
I went back to my hometown. I did good work. I reconciled parts of my past. And yet, I did not slow down. Busy-ness became admirable. Internally, I based my competency on how full my schedule was. Was I successful? Well, how full was my plate?
I did really busy really well for a really long time.
Looking back, I can’t say that I was ever unaware of how busy I was. The writing was on the wall but I could handle it.
I could make time.
I could prioritize.
What I didn’t see was that I was exhausted. When I eventually did decide I was getting a little tired, I was 14 weeks into marathon training, in charge of running a church in transition, a volunteer EMT, a volunteer backpacking guide, a volunteer high school mentor, a full-time Escrow Processor, and a soon-to-be grad student. I attempted to go to 7 AM workouts and 5:30 PM coffee dates three times a week. 9-5, 6-8, 5 days a week.
My hands were in every pot but my own.
Shauna Niequist’s new book Present Over Perfect is exactly what I needed last March. A wake-up call would have been nice before I burnt out.
In her book, Niequist says, “You can use whatever term you want: besetting sin, shadow side, strength and weakness. The very thing that makes you you, that makes you great, that makes you different from everyone else is also the thing that, unchecked, will ruin you. For me, its lust for life. It’s energy, curiosity, hunger.”
Interesting. “The very thing that makes you you, that makes you great…is also the thing that, unchecked, will ruin you.”
Problem Solver. Adventure Seeker, Empath. Driven, highly organized and a caretaker.
Of course, I was doing a million things, feeling everyone else’s emotions, and physically pushing myself further than I ever had! My best qualities were coming out 100% of the time and I needed to reign it in. The battle to balance my amazing, God-given qualities required some grounding and tools.
1) Therapists (for the long run).
Therapists are AWESOME. I can’t explain how wonderful it is to have an objective third party in my life. My current therapist even coached me through my moving transition to California! Skype Dates? Try Skype Therapy. It’s amazing to know your mental well-being is being supported, especially in a new place.
*Added side note: Friends need a break from being therapists, too. I hope my friends find that I unload less on them when I’m keeping my mental health in check.
2) Define Equilibrium.
For me, being at equilibrium means visiting my friends. It means spending time listening and asking questions. It means reading a book a week and indulging in the creative process. Being at equilibrium means honoring my independent, adventurous soul and extroverted self.
3) Ditch Finding Time.
When I didn’t have time, I started “finding the time.” Shortchanging commitments and people? Yeah, Screw that.
People are worth time.
Work is worth doing a good job.
Yes and No are equally important.
4) Love Thy Imperfect Self.
I have curly hair. I have some OCD’s around minimalism, calendars, and scheduling. I spend the majority of my life in workout clothes. I can’t make myself fit into a straight-haired, carefree, bohemian box.
So I’m embracing the curls. I’m embracing my love of calendars, and the fact that I spend most of my life looking like I just came from yoga.
5) Run Towards Agency.
There are three questions to ask bravely and ask often: Where is my Sense of Self? Where is my Sense of Purpose? Where is my Sense of Place? Understanding who, where, and why you are is fundamentally important in establishing agency. Run towards agency ALWAYS. I have this written on my laptop as a reminder.
Establishing agency allows me to cultivate and keep my power.
It provides space to make positive choices in regards to boundaries.
Establishing agency ultimately lets me listen to others without the need to interject, change, or “help”.
So– where are you? If you could check in, what would you say? What is your definition of equilibrium? Are you able to walk through this life with a designated third party? What part of your imperfect-self needs love and validation?