What is best in life? No, no – no enemy crushing, or anything like that (although I’m as partial to a touch of schadenfreude as the next person). Safety for yourself and loved ones, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of accomplishment or progress. Maybe? I think I’m a bit trying to squish it into the “3 statements format”. This morning I was thinking a bit about feeling accomplished, and wondering how and why sometimes I feel okay with how much I’ve gotten done, while other days I feel frustrated and thwarted in my attempts. After all, crossing things off my to-do list is a bit like subtracting from infinity; it’s not like it gets any smaller.
I woke late this morning and given everything else we have planned for the day, I had to abandon my plan for a long run – or at least leave it for the evening, which is often a dangerous prospect. But I’m feeling pretty okay about things. I’m not experiencing the sweaty trapped anger and disappointment in myself (that I would then project onto others) that had become so common when I didn’t manage to get to something I’d planned to do.
I’m not really very good at “being gentle” with myself. I feel like I need to be constantly vigilant lest I “get away” with something – like being lazy, or greedy or not meeting whatever commitment I’ve made. So, when some obstacle comes up that gets in the way of my meeting an expected goal, I feel like I need to dig down and find the cause, and usually the cause is something I’ve done or failed to do, so then it’s berate o’clock.
I don’t have time to run this morning because I stayed awake too late last night, because I couldn’t sleep, because I’d had a nap during the day, because of Jet-Lag. Okay, not my fault? Or… I didn’t have time to run this morning because I stayed awake too late last night, because I was watching Orphan Black and got myself wound up drawing and reading the internet, and because I had an extended nap during the day that was way too long, despite the fact that I had a touch of Jet Lag, that wouldn’t have been so bad in the first place if I had just gotten over myself and slept a bit more during my travels.
It’s pretty much the same story, but one version is dressed up in a hell of a lot more blame than the other. Which one do I pick, and why? Today I’m leaning towards the first version, but why? What makes the difference in when I choose to beat myself up, when do I summon that Pointy Plague Doctor to whip me into shape? I think it’s got to do with space. I have more space and time in my life right now, so I’m not catapulted into an “emergency” situation where the failure to complete one task results in catastrophising my entire existence, panicking that I’m never going to complete anything, and destined to live in mediocrity and failure.
That seems fairly arbitrary, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t I be happier if I could just choose to always tell myself the gentler story in these situations? When I even imagine doing that though, something rises inside of me going “But! But! But!”. There’s such a strong fear that if I don’t have some strict, internal manager, then I’m going to lounge about an never do anything. I guess I don’t trust myself all that much. I know, that seems a pretty weird statement, even to me, because after all it’s me who’s doing the internal managing and berating. Doesn’t all the science and economics say that you get more out of your employees with kindness and understanding? Even if I just approach this out of logic, rather than compassion, wouldn’t it make more sense to be a little gentler with myself?
I guess these habits have built up over nearly 40 years, these parts of me developed in response to some kind of perceived danger, and their doing the best job they know how to do, given the environment that created them. Trying to tell myself to “just stop thinking like that” or “just stop doing that, think differently, get rid of that mode of behaviour” just results in a panic reaction where those strong internal managers double-down and get even more intense.
But maybe I can think about other ways of introducing some space into my life, especially during times of more busyness and stress. Maybe I can find a pause to breath and think before that cranky manager completely takes over. And maybe these are the months to practice that.