This morning in yoga class, I cried over nothing. Before we got into our flow, the instructor led us in a bit of a meditation as she read from a post byMorgan Harper Nichols about the importance of doing nothing.
In this space,
I hope you know this is true:
any little space you create
to do nothing at all right now
matters more than you know.
Even if it’s just for a few minutes.
There’s more leading into that and more following. Go see it all on Instagram.
These words touched me deeply in a tender place. I have worked so many hours for so many years and have gotten to a place where it’s just become the norm that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want or need to, between always being short-staffed at the office and new, unexpected demands popping up, and then the home responsibilities, the messes, the needs of everybody.
Everybody? My everybody is two people. One a teenager. One a grown man. How hard can it be? I mean, they are who they are, and sure, other people might have it easier, but still others have it harder. My job is demanding, but it’s not brain surgery or air traffic control. What’s wrong with me anyway, that everything seems so hard? Of course, there’s more than that, but like so many other working moms, I feel like I should be doing better at all of it.
I sometimes get anxiety about whether I’d be able to face a harder life, or even a life like I had before now—not a salaried employee, for example, but waiting tables. Who knows what else. And it’s a different world than it was in the 90s. And I am soooo much older. And tireder. I have been working in some capacity or another since I was 10 years old babysitting.
In the space of the holiday break leading up to the class, I mostly let myself do nothing in my own way, but it wasn’t really intentional. It was more of a crash that comes from finally taking a real day off. I didn’t go through all my stuff and clean. I scaled back my cooking plans for the family. I didn’t use the time to “catch up” on work (not too much, anyway, maybe a little). I looked back and wondered what kept me so harried and why I completely failed in my 2022 resolution “to have more fun.” I come up with a few reasons that swirl around—objectively, there was too much work for one person—but what stands out is why I thought I had to do it all and that is anxiety.
Anxiety is so common now, I sometimes wonder if I think I have it just by the power of suggestion. But more likely, I just finally have been able to diagnose what it is that makes me feel almost constantly like I have something to be worried about. A therapist diagnosed me a few years ago, so it’s official, but I’ve been working on it.
I really don’t like identifying with it and it’s a little embarrassing to talk about. My family would be surprised, perhaps, to hear this, since they have become well aware of my struggle and might say I talk about it too much. A lot of that, at home, is cries for help—a little more help with keeping the house up, someone to acknowledge what victories I have had in a meaningful way.
But they don’t live in my head and could never really understand how my whole life history has stacked up to right now and then whatever’s ahead. But that’s one of my key learnings for the year and why being in the present is so important.
In recent years, ruminating over my past, trying to figure out “where things went wrong” and seeing lots of social media memes around psychology and self-help these days perpetuated my struggle with anxiety and to some extent depression. Things like, “Five signs you had a narcissistic parent” (I didn’t) or “How to tell you’ve been gaslighted” (I was) and so many others that, for me, just kept me treading water in victim mode.
Never give 100% is something I say to myself a lot but never do in a thorough enough way. I got it from the Eckhart Tolle book, The Power of Now. (There’s that all-important call to be present again.)
Now let your spiritual practice be this: As you go about your life, don’t give 100% of your attention to the external world and to your mind. Keep some within.
I’ve gotten so caught up in proving myself at work in recent years that I gave more than 100% to just that part of my life for too long because of anxiety about losing my position—not only my actual job position, but position in life, and just losing in general—and it really became a self-perpetuating problem. I allowed treatment I shouldn’t have. I didn’t stand up for my own well being when I should have. My relationships have suffered and my physical health, too.
When you know better, you do better, as the well-known quote from Maya Angelou goes. That’s all you can do. And it doesn’t pay to beat yourself up over the past.
Just yesterday, I spent at least a few hours of my paid time off day I needed to use by year’s end to complete my self-evaluation for work, keeping on trend, of course, and bringing me to this Christmas Eve yoga class where I cried when given the permission to “do nothing.” I was able to contain myself enough to keep things quiet and appropriate for the class and went on through the day’s asanas.
I knew things would need to change going forward, that I was the only one who could drive that change for myself, and there is nothing more important than owning that.