Saturday is normally a work day for me. I often have coaching clients on Saturday mornings, and if I don’t, I use that time for writing or other business-related things.
But when I got up this past Saturday, I realized I just wasn’t feeling “right”. After a couple of hours of inexplicably aching muscles, my mind went to all the things that could possibly be wrong; I imagined myself in the ER, or with a prolonged hospital stay; it would feel so invasive, it would be so expensive, and how would my elderly cat survive without me if I were in the hospital for a long time?
Meanwhile I kept telling myself I should make use of my day. It was important to keep on schedule! What would happen if I didn’t get it all done?
Saturday passed in a flurry of anxiety, during which I told no less than three people close to me over the phone that I was surely dying and things were crumbling and life always pulled the rug out from under me when I was feeling productive! Life didn’t want me to accomplish anything!
Fast forward to Sunday, when I felt markedly better and realized that I probably just had a mild bug which was causing weird muscle aches. Though I was tempted to play catch-up on Sunday, my body sent me a strong message that it was time to rest, and rest I did (with a little help from Netflix).
Monday morning, though, the tyranny of the un-done loomed heavily as I woke up, grateful to be feeling well but now back in “get-it-done” mode.
(So many years after the chronic illness that changed the way I related to myself back in my twenties, I still tend to make a very quick leap from “Feeling good” to “Now how much can I get done?” It still sometimes takes “feeling physically unwell” for me to truly slow down — and this is something I continue to notice and work with in myself.)
I went out for my morning walk (making it a brief one, since there was now so much to do!). As I headed home, intuition guided me a little bit out of my way to walk past what I think of as “the cat house” — a house whose side windows are situated along a brick-paved street. In these windows, I almost always catch glimpses of cats. At any given time there seem to be about seven or eight cats living in this house.
The cats in the cat house are often asleep on various pieces of window-oriented cat furniture, but on Monday, I encountered two awake ones. In the first window sat a gray tabby, an adolescent, not quite full-cat size. It watched me as though I were the most curious thing it had ever seen.
In the next window, a full-grown, robust gray-and-white cat, sat hen-like. Its eyes followed me as I passed, and I couldn’t help smiling. It was like these cats posed a silent question to me: What’s your hurry, human?
I turned the corner and headed down the adjacent street, my mind quickly crowding out the happy images of the cats with my towering to-do list. But I felt a little shift in myself — a little bit of breathing room.
And then, as I passed the barber shop on the corner, noticing the barber inside chatting with a regular, scissors glinting, it occurred to me: Whether I approach “all I need to do today” from this place of frantic intensity, or borrow the laidback alertness of those little faces in the cat house and move through the day from a place of peace and curiosity, I will probably get about the same amount done.
And I asked myself, Who do you want to be today? The frantic person who tries to do it all because if you don’t, you’ll be really hard on yourself? Or the person who moves from a place of self-acceptance and recognizes that she is choosing to do what she does, and if it doesn’t all get done, she’ll be totally okay?
I chose the second person. And, interestingly, I got a heck of a lot done yesterday from that peaceful, self-accepting place, borrowing some of that laidback-yet-curious cat energy.
But whether I’d accomplished everything I wanted to or not, the experience of doing it, the journey of my day, felt so much more pleasurable (and powerful) than it would have had I chosen to be the frantic person who operates from urgency.
In her beautiful memoir Autobiography of a Face, author Lucy Grealy wrote that we don’t learn something big just once in our lives and then, that’s it; we tend to learn the same truths over and over again. This lesson is not new to me. In fact, this choice of who I want to be is one I make over and over again. Because I often forget that I have this choice.
The key, with so much in our lives, is remembering.
And when I choose self-acceptance and peace over frantic urgency, I do not contribute to the frantic urgency that is so prevalent in our world.
Who do you want to be today? Who do you choose to be? How do you interact with yourself and others, based on this choice? I’d love to hear from you.
P. S. Way back when, I wrote about how our “not enough time” issues are really issues of self-acceptance. You can read that post, here.
P. P. S. My one-on-one coaching program Light Up Your Creative Self goes away at the end of September as I make room for new things I’m creating. Interested in this program? Find out more about it, here — and get $25 off until it goes away.
Above image © Olena Chyrko| Dreamstime Stock Photos