Yesterday I wrote about a smack in the face moment of busyness: that much of the time when I find myself “too busy,” rushing around, and spending my day hurry, hurry, hurrying — I’m the one who has created the busyness, the rushing, the need to hurry.
I was thinking about why the soap/pasta/tears moment yesterday stuck out so much to me. I think it’s because I’ve changed a lot of what I do each day, week, and month (in many respects, I do a lot less, go to fewer places, and chill more). My life is structured much differently today than it was 2, 5, 10+ years ago — by choice (which I have to make over and over and over and over again and again). So when I find myself following an old story, the hurt stands out more.
5 years ago I was working at a company in San Francisco. On a usual traffic day, it was a 3 hour round trip commute. Though if there was extra traffic or a delay with the train? It could be 4+ hours. At the time, I had an 11 year old and a 1.5 year old. I was pregnant again. Each day was one rushed moment after the next.
Drag myself out of bed, hurry to get ready, bark at my son, drive fast to the daycare and see how quickly I could sign him in and get back on the road (I’d feel my irritation rise on the days someone else got there first and needed to talk to the teacher — now I’d be 3 minutes late, dammit). Rush to get on the train. Frantically answer emails on the train. Spend the morning fielding questions from employees and my boss (No, I have no idea why there are new filing cabinets — I’m sorry you feel so upset about them). Gulp down lunch at my desk. Give a glazed look at my to do list and get back on the hamster wheel. Rush out the door to make the train. Pick up my son. Drive home. Make dinner. Wash a zillion plastic containers and pack lunches for tomorrow. Get back on the computer to do more work. Snap at my husband. Look at the clock and panic at the time and that I’m not in bed yet. Rush, rush, rush.
And the kicker? Despite whatever I’d done during the day, it was never enough. I didn’t feel very satisfied or happy. I still felt like I was failing, that something was still missing (and I kept trying to fill it with food, which didn’t work very well). Life wasn’t very fun. And it kind of was like I hadn’t even been there through any of it. Yes, I might have been watching my son play or hugging my husband — and yet a huge chunk of me wasn’t present. I was so focused on and worried about whatever “needed” to be done next. I wasn’t there for whatever was happening. My insides were already twisted into another stress knot. I’d estimate I wasn’t mentally present for 80% of my day (maybe more).
Occasionally I would drag myself out of bed a little earlier in the morning for some exercise. (While I was starting to see that the movement helped with residual crud in my mind and body before going into the day, the main reason for doing it was still that I needed to lose some weight and look better — still clinging to the story that losing weight would make everything better). While my body was moving, it’d be a war zone in my head: Something has to change. I’m going to explode or implode if I keep going like this. Are filing cabinets that important? My marriage isn’t going to last if nothing changes. This life sucks. There is no way I’m going to make it another 20 years, let another 5 (or even 2). It all feels terrible. I feel terrible. There has to be another way, right? But I don’t know how I’m going to change anything. What if I’ll always be on this hamster wheel? Oh no, the stress in my chest is rising again…
Looking back at this time from today, it’s like looking at another life. Occasionally I feel the level of “oh shit, hurry, hurry, hurry” and tension rise, though it’s much, much less often.
I see that it’s been making a different choice again and again that has led to a reshaped life. Okay — rushing to get to that event wasn’t worth it for me. Next time I’m going to remind myself that I can say no if I want to — the world won’t end if I do. Crap. I said yes again and rushed again — and here I am again feeling stressed, irritated, snapping at my family, shoving food in my face, and not happy to be here. Okay, note to self. We’ll try again next time.
It’s been a journey of a million steps, some forward and others back. I’d bet it’ll continue being a journey of a million more steps. As I listen more and more to what feels good (which is how I prefer to feel, I’m learning), it’s becoming easier to see what could feel good (though sometimes it still seems scary to choose what feels good — old stories do pop up).
Slowly things have and continue to change. And life feels more and more fun and, frankly, easier. This isn’t to say there aren’t challenges or hard times. I’m betting there always will be — that’s probably life (a hot mess!). However, it’s getting easier to ditch creating unnecessary challenges for myself and then to see more possibilities for what might feel better to me with the other challenges that do come up. And the space that continues to open up inside (not to mention all that I’m noticing around me as I take the time to actually be present to where I am)? It’s rather awesome, and I want more of it. It feels great.