Who ARE we? Who am I? More often than not it comes to my mind that we are all impostors here, on this Earth. What we do in the outside world - and even moreso in the social media outlets - is presenting ourselves as a package. Nice shiny package. Look at me, admire me!
Yep, exactly how one of the sentences in one of the books jumped at me. Would you rather be shiny and admired, or real and loved? Isn't it what we all want - loved, but substitute it, oftentimes without even realizing or acknowledging, for admiration? That whole racing scene, or, yes, admit it, I've done it, it starts as "I want to prove to myself I can", and then it's a race after "good job!" sort of thing. Isn't what "likes" are for on Facebook and Instagram? More, I want more. I take breaks from it, months at a time, and I feel my heart quiets. It sits in my hands...
"I've always given my best to things outside myself, believing that's I'd be fine, that I was a workhorse, that I didn't need special treatment or babying up or, heaven help me, self-care. Self-care was for fragile, the special, the dainty. I was a linebacker, a utility payer, a worker bee". ("Present over perfect" by Shauna Niequist).
Indeed, she, literally, described me. I've always been "more is more" person. The one with "the more you have on your plate, the better you at organizing it and completing it". Until one day my body said "no more". At some point it was no more running. It gave me warning signs, oh, it did. I ignored it, tended to it halfheartedly if that. So it just shut down, period. Like that, overnight, I lace my shoes, get out - and in half a mile I stop and can't go. I could never explain it to a normal person (although now the other stragglers hit with it speak up as well, but it is still nearly impossible to put into description) what it means "I just couldn't go on". General fatigue over your body as if you had just finished a 100 miler. Not a high heart rate, but chest is tight. Not a panting breathing, but difficult and shallow. And heavy, heavy legs.
And it lasted, and lasted, no matter how much time I gave it as a break. And when it made an attempt to come back - I took it full-out, the only way I knew it. And it shut down, again. I went through this "routine" a few more times in the following 4 years, until past January, on its come-back, I vowed to be gentle to it. To listen to my heart. I let go of expectations, force, "more is more", "I am tough and known for that only". I never went "more", and I never went "faster". And it thanked me, my body, with ability to run. Now in my 15th straight month , I just run. I run 5-6 days a week, giving it a Sunday of Sabbath. Got rested on 7th day, too, why not me? So I rest.
And I finally applied it to my weight training I jumped into head on as the running collapsed - and even to my yoga. I do it, oh, I do, but so gingerly, only so, only how much body lets me. I hold my heart in my hands and listen to what it says.
And then there's work. More is more shines here brightly. I nearly broke down last of my cycles of 40 massage hours a week (50 hours at work) for 30 straight days. I've been known as a workhorse, I invented that name for myself! Look at me, you 20-something year olds co-workers, slackers, bunch of sissies with hurting hands and backs! I am twice your age and pulling the doubles of your efforts! I am admired, sang praises to, and I get paid loads - in my world, of course, whatever it means. Until one day I realize: I am empty. My tank is empty, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally...I can still go on, but I absolutely don't want to! (as a side note, I believe feminism as we view it in general terms will backfire one day. I should know. My country instilled it during revolution, 100 years ago).
I backed off in March. I am on 32 weekly massage hours (40 present at work, even if still 7 days, but spread wiser), and in 2 weeks I feel re-born. I suddenly think to myself: wow, such small adjustment, and such noticeable benefit! What will happen if I cut it more, in half? Cut it altogether?!
I've been riding anxiety high. With the upcoming move, it is imminent that I will not work. During the summer I will not work AT ALL! First of all, there is a LOT to do for the house and to settle in and to help Larry transition into working from home and do projects...Secondly, there is a LOT to explore! Why else are we moving? And lastly, in my line of work, summers are pretty dead, clients are traveling, money is tight for them with vacations and kids at home... trying to ramp up new clientele is simply a dead end. Of course, as fall will approach, I will look into places - though the market is far skinnier there (you would think with all those health-conscious folks? but alas, fewer allow themselves such care), and the pay-out from the establishments are far lower. Open my own business? I am an ex-Soviet gal, I prefer to have a job, even if on contractor bases, and NOT do any leg-work for advertisement and self-promotion. So what's next for me? No income to bring into our family, no "my share" (damn feminism), no applying my skills (forget the brain, that hope long gone). And way, way too much time on my hands...I have never-ever been "doing nothing" kind of person.
With these books, though, and my running-death example, I suddenly thoughts yesterday: maybe this forced, yet again, work-death, is exactly what I need? Because I seem to be completely unable to make changes, big, visible, changed my body and mind requires to exist - life "makes" me do it, creates situations where I have to. And then I'd exhale. Slow down. Look deeper into my soul. And only after that, whatever time it takes, I could possibly re-build my practice as a massage therapist or any kind of other health provider, on a new level, with a better schedule...or maybe I will find myself elsewhere. My good friend, Pastor Craig, emailed recently a phrase that stuck with me: "You (and your sister) are very good at re-inventing yourself". I sure hope he is right. Why am I not seeing it in myself?
Why self-hate on such level? Because at the end of the day, all this running around and busying yourself, whether training, working, tasking with household, obligations to friends, co-workers, strangers...is running away from pain of silence and running for substituting love with admiration. Activity - of any kind - keeps me away from feeling, so that becomes a drug, too. Addiction to chaos, like any other, is damaging to a human being. I surely know this part way too well...
What people think about you - if they think about you at all, as it is a known fact they don't for more than 2 seconds - is nothing in comparison to what you think about yourself. I definitely don't think much about myself. The hustling was/is an effort to outrun deep insecurities in me, not believing in my own worth. The stillness feels a little bit like walking on the ceiling, scary, awkward, uncomfortable - to say the least. Very unstable, for sure. "Busyness is an illness of the spirit" (Eugene Peterson).
All my life I've been committed to prove - to the whole world, and to myself - that I can handle it all, whatever life throws at me. Physically, mentally, emotionally. Bring it! Challenge me! I built a reputation of it. I am known as a definition of it - Wikipedia example as they go. I am not weak, and I don't operate on "later"! My motto is 3-D: "Dedication, Determination, Discipline".
What I truly crave, though, is 3-S: "Space, Silence, Stillness". That is why the mountains are calling me. I get all 3 there. The real question to ask, instead of busying yourself and overcoming, is this: "Am I loved? Do I matter? Am I going to be safe?".
I know I've written pages on that before, at one level or another. I've been going through a lot of personal "adjustments" in the last 15 years. Life is like a spiral spring, you come back to the similar turn and land on a spiraling line, again and again, but on a new level, sometimes higher, though occasionally lower. It's ok to be both. It's ok to have a narrower spiral or a shallower, stronger or not so much, even almost at the same place. I need repeating this excursions into soulful reading - I need reminders, so that I can come back to my heart. Time and again.
As I run, I wonder: if I apply my 3-D in search of my 3-S, where will it land me? Will my questions be answered, will I hear them, will I ever believe in positive replies? Can I create the mountains right where I am?
There is a Portland trip coming up. It is always a difficult time in my life, the most difficult of all. For months I am trying to piece together my broken heart, adding glue, painting stitches...and then I go, and my heart shutters in even smaller pieces, again. Yet with that, each and every piece of my heart is filled with so much complete unconditional love, I keep on going. Sometimes hearts need that, too, the breaking down, breaking up, filled to the capacity. I could say it gets stronger - but it really doesn't, I don't think so, not anymore. It just is. Just as we all are. Just as the Universe, the Higher Power, Life itself. Not good or bad or getting anywhere. IS.
I put my hands on my heart, covering it gently, and I sit here, quietly, and I listen. I hope to hear God, because I know He knows those answers. I hope He whispers them to me, one moment. I just need to be very silent, and very still...