Monday, November 8, 2010

Recognizing Limits

When Derek woke me with, "There's snow outside!" my first thought was, why would you tell me such a horrible thing this early in the morning!  I dislike being cold, and have had a history of unfortunate incidents involving snowy roads and automobiles.  I generally resent the winter and long for the return of warmth from October until April.  I hid my head under a pillow and went back to sleep.

The snow is a reminder that it's the season for hibernation and snuggling in. Rather than resenting the reality that it is going to be cold and snowy and icy, I could accept it and use it the way most mammals do.  We tuck in more food and sleep a bit more to recuperate from a well-lived Summer.  It is the time for dreaming, for reflecting on what has been accomplished, and absorbing lessons learned.  No longer time to forge ahead on new projects, this is the time to slow down and wrap things up.  It can even be the time to enjoy gains in health and sanity by truly sitting still for a while and reveling in the healing that's already taken place.

Since I started acupuncture three weeks ago, my posture has started to straighten out from the left twist I am usually in.  My skin is clearing up.  I sleep better and longer.  I am more awake and have more energy when I am awake.  My anxiety is much reduced and I am finding ways of thinking that help a lot to stop my mental spinning.  Starting this blog is one of those.  Meditation practice is another.

While there is still work to be done, adding new projects is not appropriate for me right now - and the season reflects this.   In times of quiet and cold, stay warm, conserve energy and rest.  I am thinking of it like following the tide - it is going out, and chasing it won't help.  It is true with business as well as with relationships and everything else.  If people everywhere are conserving energy, resources, and time, dumping all of my energy, resources and time into capturing their interest is a failing enterprise.  Better to see this clearly and act in accordance.  If I don't, I will be left exhausted, broke and confused after working very hard for results that are impossible to attain.

The Winter this year is about learning and accepting my own limits.  Thus far I have done a great deal in my life to push my limits, and I found out that they are very far out from where I initially thought I could reach. A few years ago I would never have thought myself capable of even half of what I now consider to be part of my daily existence.  However, now I have pushed so far out that I see where my breaking point is.  I see where the end of my resources extend, and even where the edge of my interest and good will lie.  I pushed beyond them not realizing how far I could go - and it has hurt to find these edges and boundaries.

It hurts because I wanted to believe that I could do anything, be a kind of super woman, and in being that others would like me.  It hurts because I see that I have been so intent on this path of greater and larger and more beautiful accomplishments that I see I have ignored the beauty and greatness and kindness of those around me and what I already did accomplish.  It hurts because I didn't focus only on one thing, and so I haven't really improved at any one thing.  At the end of my shooting for the stars, I have captured perhaps a small meteorite, and I find it surprisingly small and hard and without the brilliance it had when it was still shooting around in space.  My physical, mental and emotional exhaustion from pushing out and forward for several years has caught up with me, and actually, it just hurts.

I want to be great at something.  But I see that I spread my thoughts and efforts so wide that at best I will be good at them.  Wanting to be great hurts.  I'd like to give up on it!  I'd rather be happy content being good and doing my best at things that I enjoy.  I am truly tired of trying to be the best boss, the best tattoo artist, the best painter, the best business owner, the best daughter, the best wife.  It occurs to me that I could only be those things if I stopped trying so damned hard, and anyway - what the heck does it even mean?

The people I know who I consider the best at what they do spend all of their time at it.  The painters who are incredible at painting really do spend 80% or more of their days thinking about painting, drawing for paintings, researching paintings, and painting.  It's the same for tattoo artists.  It's the same for people who manage and run businesses.  Because I am trying to be all of those things in my job and as a person, I have split my capabilities in these areas.  (I do this on a micro-level as well, within each aspect I already split energy on.)  The total energy is diffused.  It cannot be greater.  Wishing won't make me have more energy for it all.  Forcing will not yield results.

Hm.  I like the phrase "yielding results."  It speaks of needing to stop resisting in order to accomplish anything.  Being powerful doesn't mean being rigid or forceful or overwhelming - yielding is what finally produces.  Interesting.

To finish my thought, I have also been bummed that I don't have the attention span or energy to put into my marriage or toward having a family of my own some day.  I envy housewives for being able to actually be a good part of their family.  They don't have to rush off and spend all of their nurturing on a business, or relationships that could further their business.  (It's not that I don't like doing those things, but that I resent that I have felt I need to choose between on the one hand business, and the other, family.)  Housewives actually can keep their house reasonably maintained, and cook and socialize with their children and husbands.  I know it's not all fun and games, but by not trying to do all of that and keep on top of a business (book keeping, relationships between coworkers and suppliers and clients, advertising, cleaning, actually working and producing and improving products), I feel they have more of themselves to apply to it.

Up until now I have seen starting my own family as just one more thing to diffuse my energy on - something I will never be good at because already I am way too scattered to care too much about any of the things I am involved in.  It would be one more part of my life that I can barely keep up with.  In my current state I am feeling discouraged and like I am only minimally able to handle unexpected circumstances.  Even expected ones have been feeling overwhelming.  Simple measures to keep things on course like a single phone call or small sketch feel colossal.  I have to say that I am relieved to be able to observe myself feeling this way rather than starting to feel it and choosing to run off and start a different task in order to avoid the pain.  That alone is a huge gift from the last three weeks.

As I observe, and sit, (and act like mammal in winter should!), I find a space of calm and an ability to take one task and finish it.  Each day, one or two small tasks get completed.  I am not adding new ones.  I am finishing the ones already set in motion.  I am able to feel sympathy for myself as I lament about how far beyond my capacity I seem to have reached.  I am learning to feel proud of how much I can do instead of feeling shame that it is only so little.  I am learning that I could do this little bit very well, even better than I already have, if only I will slow down and stop aiming so far away from my arms' reach.

Also, I am learning how to tell how I feel about things when I am not trying to be the way I think I need to in order to be loved.  How much of what I do is only because I want people to like me?  How much of it is genuinely interesting to me, or worthwhile to me personally?  It is true that I want to do things for the greater good, for the community and my friends and those that are outside of my immediate influence.  But I have forgotten how to enjoy things for myself somewhere along the way.  I think it could be OK to tone it all down and stop pushing very hard when it's only to benefit others right now.  I am not able to reach that far.  I hate that, but there it is.  With time, I am sure I will be able to reach out again.  For now, I want to really dwell in my space of calm and respite from all of this pushing and action.  I even find the responsibility of helping others to be quite threatening right now.  I am scared that if I try to help someone else I will have absolutely nothing left for myself and I might collapse.  This sounds so dramatic to type out, but it really does feel that way.  I am reminded of that rabbit and how panicked it feels and how much it is shaking.  It spooks easily, and any demand placed upon it is something to fear and run from.  And there is just no energy left for running, so now the fear is of dying.  It wants to cry out, "Please, stop asking me to do things!  I just can't.  Leave me alone! Can't you do anything for yourself?  I am tired of figuring everything out all the time, tired of all of the mental acrobatics, tired of providing all of the creativity and money and space.  I am tired of trying to keep it all in line, tired of lifting everyone up when they are down because I am so good at it nobody realizes how hurt and down I am!  Now I am resentful of all of you and fear you approaching me with your hands out begging for my love and support and help and thoughts and comfort.  I have none left to give and no trust that I won't be run over by all of your needs and demands.  You will take everything I worked hard for an run it into the ground because you think it can give forever without ever having time to recover or nourish itself.  Please, just let me shake and rest and sleep.  If you can only just take care of yourselves for a while and leave me alone, I will surely recover and be able to join you again.  But at my own pace, in my own time."

That was fairly enlightening.  On that note, time to snuggle in for the night and get some sleep.

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