A Check in on Giving Up

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” 
― Bruce Lee

Towards the end of 2017 I wrote a post about all the things I wanted to give up in 2018. It was a short list of behaviors that I suspected (or downright knew) were making mess less happy or functional. For some reason that post sprang to mind a couple of days ago and I thought it was worth a follow up to see how I was doing nearly three quarters of the way through the year.

Responding, “Busy,” whenever anyone asks how I am doing
Truthfully, I’m sometimes better at this and sometimes worse. Americans in particular worship at the cult of “busy,” to be busy feels like being successful and important. It means you’re productive and high achieving. It means you’re wanted in a lot of places by a lot of people. It’s a fantasy that’s probably killing a lot of people. I’m trying to learn more to think in terms of seasons, not so much annually but as distinct and different periods that flow into one another. It’s okay to have a busy season, but it’s not normal to feel run ragged. Part of my journey towards better mental health has a process of recognizing that most of what keeps me busy to the point of feeling that way, is largely self-inflected, be it imposter syndrome and feeling a desperate need to prove my worth, or the (false and semi narcissistic) notion that I’m a single point of failure in all my projects. Like a lot of people I know, I’ve built a lot of my identity around my work. I want to be good at what I do, I’m vain enough to wish to be known for being good at what I do, but I’m trying to remember that what I do from Monday to Friday is not the sum total of a life. Instead of saying I’m “busy” reflexively, I am trying to learn how to 1) be less “busy” overall and, 2) not feel like I should be.

Freaking out over stupid stuff
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Nope, nothing profound to say here. This issue is alive and well, my friends.

Hitting the snooze function of my alarm several times every morning
Some progress on this point, I’m please to report! I am neither a night owl nor a morning lark. I am a solid, middle of the afternoon pigeon. Getting up in the morning is one of my least favorite things to do because lazing about is one of my greatest pleasures. Wintertime, which in the UK is not a thing to be trifled with, makes this worse because being bundled in bed in the dark is the goal. However, we’re at the height of summer which means it’s light out when I wake up and that does help reduce my slaps of the snooze button. A few of what the kids call “hacks” have helped me cut down on the snooze button even more drastically. I tend to pick and layout my next day’s outfit the night before which eliminates the faffing about of deciding what to wear. At my absolute highest functioning levels, I’ll prep some easy breakfasts and pop them into the fridge because it’s much easier for me to wake up and get moving if I don’t feel like I have to cook first thing. Basically, I’ve leaned into my laziness, but I’ve redistributed it much more successfully!

Social media
I’m probably more active on Twitter than I was when I wrote that first post and I still really like Instagram…ridiculous woman. However, I’m off Facebook and have been since the election. That was before all the news proving how harmful it was to us as a society started coming out. That being said, I’m not all doom and gloom about social media, so much as I want to use it in ways that are constructive. And don’t contribute to the unraveling of Western democracy.

Avoidance as a coping method
This one takes some backstory, a lot of which has been well chronicled in this strange little space on the internet, but to recap: I’ve spent several years of my life feeling like I was in a state of conflict. You can chart my battles (some of them serious, a lot of them stupid). C. vs a particular family dynamic, a religious heritage, a patriarchy, a bad relationship to her mind and body, a faith collapse. I’ve been a person who wants badly to do the right thing, and has at times felt the need to take on battles that, in hindsight, I probably didn’t need or. Or at least, not in the way I chose to take them on. I think I’ve become a much more savvy scrapper in my early 30s, but my mid to late 20s…well, the best way I can put it is to say that several of the struggles I was going through wore me out. I was sick of fighting with people, communities, and my own brain. I was tired. And so, I retreated from a lot of the people and communities and issues that I found so exhausting and painful and have kind of been doing my best to knit a few things together for myself, largely by myself (with the exception of my husband and a very, very small number of friends). The good news: it worked! I’m lightyears better than I was when I felt at my most unhealthy. The bad news: it worked! I have to stop using fragility as an excuse to avoid things. I haven’t made the progress here that I would wish to, but I have made progress, and I intend to make more.

Being lazy
This is a balancing act because I’ve learned that in certain seasons of my life, it is really good for me to slow way, way down and keep my commitment levels low. It’s good for me to stay home all weekend with my husband and refuse to do chores. It’s nice to prioritize being horizontal with a book. But it’s bad when I no longer need these kinds of slow periods and still choose to stay stuck in them. I’m better about not getting stuck lately, and

Guilt about writing
The only cure for this, I have found, is writing. I’m trying to do more of it, no matter how inelegant.

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