Well that slump I predicted didn’t even wait for the next day.
I tried to get up and do some housework: clean the sitting room, or fold clothes – low difficulty. I even cued something up on Netflix and started the task. Then I NOPE!-ed the hell out of there, poured myself a bowl of coco-pops (which, oddly, appear to be one of the few snack foods that aren’t disagreeing with me) and spent the next two hours playing Bejewelled.
So much for walking the adult path.
Okay, so I did it because I could, because I’m on holidays and there is time the next day and there is space to relax, and isn’t relaxing important too? Haven’t I earned it?
The thing is, earning or not earning – being deserving – is incidental. I feel like it’s a really sticky mindset that mires me in an unhealthy, unhappy, constantly disappointed spot. This attitude I find in myself of feeling like “I didn’t get enough!” or “It’s not fair!” is basically the opposite to gratitude and it leads to my feeling so very unsatisfied in my life. Nothing will ever be enough for the person who thinks like this.
So, I’m not telling myself that I don’t get to relax, but relaxing, downtime, chilling – whatever – should come because I need it, not because I deserve it.
What’s the difference? Because both things can feel pretty similar when I get into that stompy, grumpy, “what about meeeee?!” mindset. You know, I think it doesn’t matter whether I can describe the difference in words, because I know that I know what the difference feels like. There’s another, probably more important question to ask myself: “What am I going to do when I notice that difference?”
First, stop to notice.
It’s so easy to get bound up in the narrative of one dominant part of me. The “woe is me” story about my needs and dues is a powerful one. When trying to practice mindful self-compassion, it’s pretty easy to become overly permissive with oneself, and allow behaviour in one’s self that is lazy, greedy or self-destructive. Then follow-up with an internal call-to-arms; whipping myself into “shape”, pushing too hard, so that I’ll inevitably fall back into that same slump. After all, I deserve it after all that hard work.
And so the cycle goes; oscillating between everything and nothing; juggling all the balls like a goddamn superwoman, or dropping them all and lounging in lazy squalor. Extremes only here, please.
I’ve known since before I started this last year and a half of therapy that I’m an opposite poles type of person. The world slips into black and white far too easily for me. I’m even aware that it’s a bit of a “stuck in childhood” kind of a way to view things. I knew it was “bad” when it came to my perception of people, but somehow I failed to notice that my whole life is set up that way, working always in fits and bursts then downing all my tools.
I am afraid to leave go of the whipping part of me, because I can’t really visualise any alternative other than doing nothing. And I’m afraid to not have anything other than an “All Stop” mode, because something in me thinks it’s the only rest I’ll get.
First, stop to notice.
But stopping doesn’t mean you can’t ever start again.
Once I notice, maybe I can gently check in and ask myself if I can do more. Not tell myself that I have to do more, because that way leads to some point in the future when I’m just going to drop it all. And if the answer that I find is that I’m done for the day, well, then maybe I’ve got to call on that tiny responsible part of me to set some boundaries on what I do next. If my children were over-tired, I’d send them to bed. I certainly wouldn’t let them stay up playing on the iPad and watching gymnastics movies for two hours.
It’s not easy to ask those questions and to really hear the answers. There are a lot of things to wade through that are going to pop up out of my brain as “first responses” because I’m so conditioned to acting and reacting in certain set ways. I know that I need to take time and space in order to really hear my own responses. Some part of me still – despite all my knowledge – feels pretty invested in not doing that.
But I’ll keep trying. Keep trying to remember. Eventually the habit will form and I’ll get through to myself, right?