It got bad.
Like sooo bad.
The walls of my mind were covered with to-do lists- pinned there, piercing any chance of peace. As I waded through all the things the more energetic and enthusiastic version of myself said yes to in the months before, I could feel myself losing contact with the ground of my being.
I know I’m under stress and have totally lost the plot when I earnestly believe that the solution to my stress is getting more done. That’s NEVER true. That’s my red flag warning sign…I’m ramped up, tossing every behaviour that grounds and nourishes me out the window in order to tick tick tick off the list.
My witnessing capacity starts to get flimsy, like when Marty McFly looks at his dissolving hand in Back to the Future. I’m there, but not quite there…I try to watch myself and my thoughts, but I’m fading away and I become my thoughts. I’m no longer in my life, inhabiting my body with thoughts and sensations arising…I am all thought and all the thoughts are is a flood of what needs doing.
What I can say about this place is that it’s really really painful. My mind is lying to me. My body is exhausted, I feel completely overwhelmed and my mind says…
Just get this, this and this done and then you can relax.
What we really need usually feels counterintuitive. For me, it’s rare that the solution is to get more done. When I have way too much on my plate, there are a few things that are predictable going on…
- I actually have too much on my plate. There’s only so much a person can take on and get done. At some point something has to give. I have to say no. Sometime I have to do the dreaded…I know I said yes before, but I should have said no…so I take my yes back, please don’t hate me. But the thing is…If I have aborted all of what keeps me centred, I won’t have a clue what should stay or what should go…I lose all discernment.
- I’m just not settled. I’ve become a servant of my mind and I can’t actually tell the difference between what really needs to be done and what are the same items that flit through my awareness four hundred times in a minute making me think there’s a shit ton to do. In this place it’s not an issue of what needs doing, it’s that I’ve forgotten to honour the holiness of the space between action.
- I’m slipping from my interior. I’ve started to focus on my external and measurable world too much. I’m seeking the satisfaction of completion…I am seeking resolution through action but what’s actually happening is a deep ache to feel complete. When my mind is lying to me here, it tells me that I will feel complete when I get these things done. But that just ramps up the chase that leads nowhere but the more-to-do narrative. When this is occurring I must find the Me that is already always in a state of completion. Action from this place is light and easy. It’s when I’ve forgotten my wholeness and that all that I do is only between God and Me anyway that I start to swish about in the world out there with no sense of orientation.
Earlier this summer I was due to write an article for Beams and Struts and I was all frantic about not having time to write it. So I wrote an article about time. The irony being that my own felt wisdom around the topic was lost on me for another month after it was published. If you don’t have time to read this, you probably should.
While my summer has been so summer in so many ways…there were a few weeks of My-Mind-Is-Lying-To-Me-And-I’m-Caught-In-Compulsive-Action-Habit-Hell.
It got so bad that my version of getting things done was actually laying down sobbing with a pillow over my face while my cousin sat there with pad and paper in hand writing down the non-negotiable-action-items I could choke out between sobs. Bless her. She’s hired.
You know what kicked it? You know what brought me back? Not getting through everything to get done….not even close…
That’s right. Not just regular camping. Camping in the rain with a tent door that wouldn’t zip up.
That final night camping, a few of us sat with our pillows in front of the fire, hoping the flames would dry them faster than the rain pouring down could soak them again. I crawled into the tent next to my son, our clothes and blanket and tent floor damp and we cuddled up with our toasty dry pillow and every muscle surrendered.
Going to sleep wet is very uncomfortable. But there’s something about sleeping on the ground, having dirty feet for days and smoky hair that pulls a person right back to ground. I am of the Earth. My life is very comfortable. I am not that far from primitive survival and I don’t really have to fend for myself at all. If I got nothing done for the next year and let everyone down, I would still be loved, held and taken care of by my clan. When I relax into that first, tick tick tick off the list is like sauntering in the sand.