Last week I was flat. Flat as a crêpe, but much less delicious. Definitely less satisfying.
I had no energy. Also, no lemon and sugar. All the enthusiasm and inspiration I’d been feeling recently had dried up, like my pot plant Pat when he forgets to tell me he’s thirsty.
Usually when I’m feeling flat, going for a run or some vigorous yoga peps me back up. But my energy was so low I couldn’t be arsed.
Monday somehow became Friday and I was still a mojo-free zone.
Shit. I knew what this meant.
I have always been a very “all or nothing” person. Feast or famine.
I swing like a pendulum from overworking to mini-burnout, at which time I have no choice but to slow down. Then, as soon as I feel rested enough, I swing back to overworking again.
With no travels or social events to distract me, 2020 has shown me this pattern more clearly than ever:
I treat myself like a coal mine.
When inspiration or joyful energy strikes, I jump on it with a shovel in one hand, pickaxe in the other.
I mine the shit out my newfound energy, trying to turn it into productive action. I write, I strategise, I tick off tasks, I rush around bulk cooking, I stay sitting at my computer when my back is sore and I’m thirsty and hungry and I really just want to go outside and starfish in the botanic gardens.
I keep going until I’ve mined myself down to the ground again. Til I’m totally spent. Then I mine a bit more. Then the next day, “unexpectedly”, I find myself crashing into a heap of exhaustion.
All >>> Nothing.
Then I have nothing in me for a while. I continue to function and work (mostly), but the inspiration is gone, the joy, the zest, gone. I’ve taken my nervous system past its capacity and it shuts everything down to help me recover. Just like it does when I have the flu.
From a young age we’re taught that productivity and growth (mainly in the form of material wealth) is the highest measure of our self-worth.
Our society conditions us to mine ourselves.
The more productive we are, the more output we generate, the more we are rewarded.
We are not rewarded for resting.
Resting is for lazy people.
Success is earned with hard work. If anything comes too easily, it’s not uncommon to have someone semi-sneer at you “well aren’t you just the lucky one?!”
We’re all living on capitalist-guilt flavoured egg shells. Do more. Be more. Buy more. Create more. No time to rest.
Tired? That’s definitely a sign you need more coffee, not sleep.
Headache? For sure a deficiency of Panadol, not rest.
We mine and extract everything we can from ourselves – just like we’ve been doing to the environment for far too long.
I wrote a blog post about mining myself for inspiration a few years ago [Might you be treating yourself like a quarry?], yet here I am – this pattern is still well and truly running my life.
Even if one day I work 14 hours, til 2am because I’m trying to wrestle the most out of my high energy – if I work a shorter day the next day, guilt still nips at my heels.
Aptly, I’m finishing off this blog post at 12.36 am on a night where I said to myself “go to bed early Andrea, you’re exhausted”.
I find it very, very difficult to sit and just enjoy the feeling of inspiration and ease, without jumping up and doing something productive with it.
But I’m really at my wits end with all this over mining – certainly of the planet, and now, finally, of myself.
We desperately need to stop taking more than we need and giving back what we can whenever we can.
I believe that all sustainable change has to start with ourselves as individuals. (Hence my business name – Project Self.)
Fit your own mask* before helping others. We have more energy and can make more impact when we do it that way round!
*Oxygen mask, not Covid-mask. Remember the good old days of airline safety videos? Ah, the good old days, 1 year BC (Before Covid).
Our greatest ability to impact others comes when we’re feeling good – not burnt out.
So I’ve been experimenting with slowing down MORE than I need to. Overworking is so conditioned into me, I need to swing back the other way so I can eventually land somewhere in the middle.
More permission, more ease, more allowing.
Less shoulding all over myself.
The cost of me staying in this capitalist/ growth at all costs/ extreme productivity mindset is that it stops me from being the person I want to be.
What a cost!
The person I am when I’m allowing ease and joy into my life is loving, non-judgemental, overflowing with joy and energy, compassionate, insightful, inspired, and wise.
When I’m mining myself beyond my capacity, the person I am is resistant, irritable, stubborn, judgemental, selfish, annoyed, and the complete opposite of wise!
When I come from a place of hard work and exhaustion, I can work for hours and hours – even days on a problem that would take me 5 minutes to solve when I’m feeling calm and well-rested.
My Step Dad once made my Mum a beautiful Pohutukawa seat for their garden. On it he painted a little sign: “Deb, will you sit down for 5 minutes!”
No mystery where I picked up this habit from eh? 😂
So, I put a mattress upstairs in my living room, chucked a blanket over it, and turned it into an excessively cushion-covered daybed to try to convince myself to slow down and rest sometimes.
I’ve been experimenting with bringing more ease into my life over the last few months – with varying degrees of success.
But one thing is for sure, the evidence is conclusive: I’m MOST productive when I come from a place of ease and joy.
It seems that working less and doing things that fill me with joy is the most productive thing I can possibly do for my business!
However, Neville finds this hard to get his tiny mind around, so over the last few weeks,
it seems he must have wrestled the reins back off me, jumped back on the “should” bandwagon, and ran us down into flat-crêpe-ville again.
Luckily my body reliably reminds me when I’ve taken things too far, and round we go again.
Let’s experiment together.
Be scientific – start to notice the difference in your productivity when you allow ease and joy – vs when you mine yourself past your capacity.
Do you think your days could do with a little less “should”?