I have been really busy with my business lately. Almost all of my time has been spent doing web design. I have paying clients and a ton of new design work on my plate. Almost half involves me learning how to do new stuff, which is exciting. But at the same time, I found myself stressed beyond all reason with the enormity of it all. I also had this nagging feeling that I was falling hopelessly behind in everything else.
And if that was not enough, I also kept beating myself up for being stressed out. Geez, maybe I would not be so stressed, if I wasn’t also stressing about how stressed out I felt.
My next few blog entries will explore my process for getting through this difficult period.
This first one follows weeks of waking up to a mental list of everything on my plate. Sometimes I woke up with a new algorithm or a new code fragment, but after a while the message was often just “… gotta go, gotta go, now, now, now ….” And throughout this entire period, I felt this deep regret at not living up to some past level of true efficiency.
... from my journal ...
Woke up thinking about coding again or at least that is what intruded immediately to my waking mind. But I somehow knew that I had not been dreaming of code, so I settled back to sleep after my bathroom
run intentional walk. And slowly an image began to emerge.
I saw myself being pulled along by a dog on a leash. A dog hunh? I am being pulled along by a dog? Instantly, I heard my father’s voice, “Never let a dog drag you!” So I pulled hard on the leash. Instantly I was awake again … then I slowly began drifting off.
This time the image was of a car, an old car, an old ivory colored car but it looked brand new. It was long, spotless and gleaming. It even had fins and fancy grillwork. But something was not right about this car. The proportions seemed off. It did not seem to have room for the wheels or they were completely hidden.
The image is distorted. How would you change a flat tire for instance? It is like nostalgia, what parts that are remembered are off in many ways. Hmmm …
The nostalgic car is impractical and impossible to maintain. So whatever I am imagining of my old ways of handling things is not only distorted it is non-sustainable.
After my chiro visit, I sat with my journal in my favorite haunt and pondered the meaning of my morning images.
I remembered hearing myself arguing with myself the day before…
“Ivo has a business along with all his teaching and counseling.”
“But I am not Ivo. He is healthy and still he works really hard at keeping up with it all. Plus his store has staff and a kick ass manager. And he lives with all these incredibly talented and dedicated people who are also pulling long hours”
“I like having real deadlines to work toward.”
“But not if it means nothing moves forward for me personally. And the reasons these deadlines are real are because it involves someone other than you. What does that say about your commitment to achieving your own personal goals, aspirations and dreams?”
Later that same day, my healer elder said that I needed to listen to my water self during this fiery period. Which is interesting because in my system of elemental classification, my water self is also my child. So in effect she was once again calling attention to my child self.
I decided to listen to what all the parts were saying:
“You gotta work hard and keep commitments to get ahead in this world. All this lollygagging is getting you nowhere. Get busy, time is money.”
“I am tired of all this work. I need more down time, more rest. Even my playtime is filled with, ‘Do this! Do that!’ I can never have time just for me.”
“ I am out of balance. Yes, there is a lot on my plate but the way we handle this is by getting enough down time, rest, good food, and by focusing on home and hearth. And of course taking care of my physical self. This is not the time to walk away from Radical Self Care.”
So I decided to take an afternoon nap. I also spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching some of my favorite TV shows. I think I also made myself a chocolate sundae.
Next time, the morning after…
This is part two of an exploration into how I navigated a recent difficult period. The first in this series is, Distorted Nostalgia.
So the next morning, I decide to skip yoga class, but not the yoga.
… on the mat …
During savasana ... day dreams about someone setting the monastery on fire. I kept trying to get out but every exit is blocked. Then I wake up to discover that someone had rigged it so that the monastery catches fire. So I go around disarming the devices, turning off the gas and carefully opening all the windows to let the gas out safely.
I kept asking, “Why would someone set fire to the monastery?” And I hear the sound of screeching brakes … wrong question. “Who is setting the fires?” Oh yeah, me – I am setting the fires.
… deep breath, adjust my body …
And now I am in a yoga class in the studio. A woman loses her balance and begins to fall. I jump up and catch her before she slams into a wall. She is not grateful, she is angry. “Let me go”, she shouts at me. And I respond, “No problem, just stand up first so you can regain your balance before I let go.”
Again, I ask, “Who is out of balance?” And the answer is the same, “I am out of balance.”
…I wiggle my fingers and toes, slowly turning on my right side then slowly sit up …breathing deeply,
I begin my metta prayer. “May I be healthy …” I remember yesterday’s message about my fire needing balancing with water. I make a mental note "Today will be a water day." I hear protest from my fire side, "Yesterday was a water day dammit!”
Good point. “Today will begin as a water day.” Which for me means taking things slowly. I mentally add laundry and dish washing to the morning chores. Later I will pay bills and go through the mail.
“Okay?” Blessed silence … okay, time for breakfast.
The next morning … from my journal …
…dreams … of this young woman who seems in a hurry to experience the joys of life. It is hinted that it is because she has not long to live. So she rushes to marry the man of her dreams so she can be sure to experience the bliss of her wedding night. It is also hinted that it is a family curse that can only be broken by experiencing true love, multiple orgasms and real happiness.
I had been up past midnight the night before trying to solve one of the design problems. I hug myself wondering, “How am I going to get all of this done?”
I ignore the dream … I am truly scattered and worried all day.
Next, a revelation … of sorts.
This is part three of an exploration into how I navigated a recent difficult period. The first in this series is, Distorted Nostalgia.
I awaken with the following listed on my internal chalkboard …
- Nothing is actually wrong.
- Web design is my business. And as a business owner, I have to step up to the plate and meet deadlines. It is my job. I am a professional, and this is what professionals do.
[… break to catch a design idea for one of my clients …]
- I am a priestess, shaman and warrior mystic – this is my vocation. This is my calling, my great opus. It is who I am.
- I am not missing out on life. This is my life. And there is nothing wrong with it.
- This is exciting times. I am in demand. I have customers beating a path to my door. This is the life I had hoped for all these years.
Yes, I am scared, worried, and filled with anxiety – but this is what success looks like.
[…break to catch an idea for a personal goal…]
And on toward my day …
…next morning … from my journal …
Whoa! Yesterday was really hard on me. The quick fix I had hoped for did not materialize and I feel as if my entire day was a wasted effort.
And all my dreams last night were about (1) Disasters and picking up afterwards, and (2) Getting lost on a road in the middle of nowhere and dealing with it.
In the first dream, I had to pull out the carcasses of the dead and work with what was left. In the second dream, I had to find a way to care for these orphans without causing myself even more problems.
This week is impossible! Too much stuff on my list! And now I need to add in what someone forgot to tell me about as well, Aieee! This is all very stressful!
[ .. oh and here is an idea for some future classes ..]
Omigod, can [you] stop already? … sigh …I have enough ideas … really.
next ... run away child...
This is part four of an exploration into how I navigated a recent difficult period. The first in this series is, Distorted Nostalgia.
"Runaway child, running wild …
Better go back home … where you belong …"
From my journal …
My niece, wearing a pink outfit, is throwing up and running away ... from me. She has a bruise on her forehead. We were traveling together, and at some point she returns from the bathroom without her jacket – also pink. When I inquire, she said that she had thrown up. “On your jacket?” “Yes.”
Later she is upset at losing all that was in the jacket pockets – especially a photo of a young boy. The photo had been worn and creased, but it was all she had left and now it was gone.
At a restaurant, the staff helps her to escape. At first I say fine and leave. But at home I looked over all I had acquired for her. They were all inappropriate for a fun loving child. They were weights and tools wrapped up to look like gifts. I realized that I wanted her back so I went back and demanded her return.
I sit with the first message from this dream. My child self is not happy with what I have been feeding her (throwing up) and giving her (weights and tools). She was mad about what she had to give up and finally ran away. And I was fine with it until I looked at what I had been offering her. Then I realized what I had done and what she really meant to me.
The second message in this dream was where she chooses to run away -- a place filled with food. Aha! My runaway child is placating herself with food.
There is definitely a pattern here. My fire self, [the one who interrupts my quiet moments with the flame of anxiety and tension] is overbearing and pushy. My water self is rebellious and running wild. Ai yi yi, something has to give.
They are each overreacting, one to fear, the other to hunger. My fire self takes over at the first sign of chaos, loss of control and stress. I am afraid of losing ground to the chaos, the ten thousand things of life that haunts introverts like myself.
And whenever I succumb to the fear, a second reaction spills out due to my hunger for life itself. My water side rebels and starts me to binging to compensate – as if there will never be a chance again … to enjoy life.
Ah! The message of the dream I ignored comes dancing back before my eyes. I do not want to lose any more time, I feel like I have given up so much already, I do not want to miss out on the passion of living in the moment, not again, not anymore. I have been so sick for so long, enough with all this working hard all the damn time. And it does feel like a family curse, now that I think of it.
I sit with these realizations as tears well up and fall to my journal obscuring the words. When I can talk, I say out loud, “Please don’t leave me again … we will get through this together … I promise.”
Next … a dialogue … finally
This is part five, the last part in fact, of an exploration into how I navigated a recent difficult period. The first in this series is, Distorted Nostalgia.
Dream: Walking a path underground that I usually walk above ground. I get lost at some point. So I come up but nothing is familiar. So I retreat underground trying different options. I think I run into this man who I am sure is not to be trusted.
I begin thinking about the beginning of this disease (CFIDS) and the kind of stress I was under at that time. And although I am not under anything close to that level of stress, it feels/felt like it.
My dreams point to my walking in the dark of the unconscious where I normally am aware and conscious. And thus when I finally come up – I am lost. And being in unfamiliar ground, I retreat into the unconscious.
So where am I, really. I hastily write out a list of all that is on my plate. As I survey the list, I notice two things. First, no wonder I feel so stressed. And secondly, it is all doable. I note the conflict between these two views.
“Who is that? Doable based on what? How do you get the idea that I can do all of this?”
“I just know … we, I mean , I can pull this off … if …”
If what? Nothing else explodes? Nothing else happens unexpectedly? No surprises? No disasters? What?
… if we, I mean I just do it …”
Just do what?
It ... y’know .. get to work …
That m’dear is a lie! It is not going to happen. I cannot just get to work! I am working as hard as I can already. I cannot just work even harder!
Why not? It is what we, I always do!
Yeah, but at what cost?
Then, then … I will have to let something go … so smarty pants, what do I let go?
Oh, this is painful! I do not want to let anything go.
So we are at an impasse then?
No. We are in the midst of a dilemma. We have a lot (some would say too much) on our plate. But we truthfully cannot bear to drop any of it. So we have a dilemma. What this calls for is creativity, not hard work. We/I already work hard, and so more hard work may not be the answer.
Because of the cost yes, but also we will learn nothing from it. And learning is my/our prime motivator.
And at that moment, my entire internal chorus finally reached an agreement. I had found my way back to my passion. Learning something new was something all parts of myself were keen about. So I hastily wrote down some ideas on approaching this issue. None seemed to fill the bill. So I took a break for lunch. As I munched on romaine and grilled chicken, something caught my eye on my list of projects. And then another item caught my eye, then another. I picked up my pen and some scratch paper … at the end I had a new view. I had laid out the original list into groups. Some had relationships between them which I noted by connecting lines and some had a natural hierarchy. By the time I finished, I suddenly understood the big picture in a way I hadn’t before. And I discovered something surprising!
Apparently, it was all doable. But what was required was not more hard work. What I needed, most of all, was space. I needed more air. I was too close to the work.
An air person needed more air. Aha! I was underground where I should have been above ground. I began laughing out loud. I was in my shadow element, I was ensconced in earth. Not the healthy earth of a balanced earth person, but the shadowy earth of an air person.
I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Who would of thunk it? Air!
Two weeks later …
I am still under a lot of stress, but it all seems lighter somehow. Like before, I am getting a lot done and some days are harder than others. But I am not burning my self out nor escaping into ice cream – my drug of choice. I am sleeping better and taking plenty of breaks.
It still cracks me up, that all I needed was some perspective. I needed to spread my wings, lift off and gaze at it all from thirty thousand feet.
Blessings from a Bateleur Eagle,