I saw this meme once, back when I was still on social media: Adulthood is just sending emails that say “Sorry for my delayed response” over and over, forever.
I keeled over with laughter. Staring at my phone, groaning and saying ‘ain’t that the truth! Hahaha’.
It took me a long time to realize that other people’s priorities and timelines are not mine. It feels disrespectful to not get back to people in a timely manner. When I respond and engage, not only am I saying the actual words that are written, I’m also saying you matter. I care about you, your needs and priorities.
A growth edge for me over the years has been teasing apart the difference between caring about someone and prioritizing what’s being asked of me. Those two were collapsed. Caring was equal to action and attention. To be responsive and available, considerate and of service meant I was expressing my care. And if I wasn’t, I feared I’d hurt people or come off as unreliable or a selfish bitch.
There’s a difference between caring deeply, wanting to honor and respect the people in my life (those close in and those further out in my field who grant me their attention or seek mine), and prioritizing their wants and needs over my own. People were the priority and capacity was the boundary.
What do I mean by capacity was the boundary? I could really find my ‘sorry but no’ when there just wasn’t space. Calendar is full. Energy is gone. Nothing left. I would if I could but I can’t omg I’m so sorry to let you down.
It was a fascinating insight to discover that ‘full up’ was where the ‘no’ lived. It was only when things were to the brim that I could put certain boundaries in place (I say certain boundaries because there are A LOT of things I say no to), but ‘max capacity’ was what I unconsciously checked for to draw a line in the sand when I really wanted to say yes and express my care. That was NOT sustainable.
Other possible things I could check for:
Does this align with my current priorities?
Does this feel nourishing, exciting, energizing?
Does this ensure I still have lots of space and time that’s unscheduled?
Is this going to take some monumental amount of effort and energy that I’ll likely resent in the future?
When we opt into things, or out of things, there is always something we’re checking for to decide. We’re either checking consciously and intentionally, or we’re on autopilot. The cultural norms can give rise to that autopilot. Like, what is the reasonable number of days to leave an email waiting?
What I’ve seen for myself, and with the hundreds of people I’ve coached or taught, is when we don’t feel in charge of what we’re giving our time, energy, and attention to, what we’re checking for is unconscious and out of our view, usually driven by a threatening consequence we’re trying to avoid.
As I shared this past fall, I hit a wall. Now that I’ve been wintering, and have scaled back into a 2-3 day work week, turned Netflix and chill into a self-love practice, and elevated my emphasis on health and body practices, I’ve had to ruthlessly examine my unconscious, embodied expectations of myself. This includes the expectations of the culture, or of others, that I’ve internalized.
The result is a whole new pace to things.
Life hasn’t stopped being full, or busy, but there is space. There is a very different somatic experience of not feeling wound up. And it’s a pace that cannot keep up with ‘the pace of things out there’. This requires me to consciously opt-out of expectations I’ve internalized on the daily. My way of checking for what I say yes to, at least in this moment of tip-toeing into 2022 is no longer “Can I fit that in?” but “Does this honor my need for a deep winter’s rest?”
I’ve been thinking about all of you out there, likely inundated with various invitations, pressures, and expectations of who and how you should be or feel, what you should do or pursue as 2022 commences.
If you’re trying to find your way, one that respects the pace you want to live your life, and are finding your attention and energy torn in various directions, even feeling like it’s being extracted of you, may this note bring you some solidarity or even permission to opt-out of paces or expectations that don’t really fit you.
We all gave up structured pants during the pandemic, we can give up on hustle and striving without giving up on our dreams.
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