Equanimity is my word of the year for 2023 and I sure have had a chance to practice it lately. Quick refresher on the definition:
I have a visualization for equanimity that is a tall, solid tree in a fierce wind storm. The outside stress of the wind is bending the tops of the tree. The tree is visually swaying with and resisting the force of the wind. Yet it remains steadfast and grounded by its strong, deep roots in the earth. Roots that have been tended to in times of calm to prepare it to withstand the inevitable storm.
And boy did that storm come for me.
The specific circumstances don’t matter, but generally life has not been smooth sailing lately. Nothing catastrophic, just those nagging things that life brings:
- Schedule too full (even with good, fun things)
- Learning curves
- Challenging relationships
- Rain (and other bad weather)
- Work demands
- Medical appointments
How these nagging things came together to create chaos for me will surely look different for you, but the resulting feelings are what might be more familiar.
I wanted to just crawl in bed and pull up the covers. I felt like a failure because I could not get everything (or anything) done that I had planned. It felt like everything I had been working on would suffer from this setback.
Have you ever felt this way? Are you feeling this way right now? It was like complete overstimulation on life. It was neither sustainable nor productive, which is the signal for me that adjustments needed to be made.
These adjustments took on two different views. This was not a case where I needed to work on habit change so that in six months I would feel less pressure. I needed immediate relief too. Luckily I have this snazzy word of the year to lean on.
Short Term Adjustments
The first thing I did was triage and made adjustments to the plans for that weekend. Basically I cleared the decks. Cancelled two activities and modified a third to not have to leave the house. The only chores I got done were the truly necessary ones.
I want to acknowledge that I am really privileged to be able to do this. I did not have work on these days, and I did not have kids depending on me. The lesson that we might be able expand on though is that if we as adults are feeling this burnout, I wonder if our kids are too? If we are feeling overwhelmed at work, maybe our co workers would appreciate a softer foot on the gas pedal too?
This short term fix helped restore some equanimity but I still needed to do more work.
Mid Term Adjustments
A major part of my spin out was being overcommitted. The adjustment I needed to make was not a fun one. I had to reschedule somethings, cancel others, and not take on some really fun things that I wanted to. Inevitably, I disappointed people, which of course made me feel badly. I am working on reframing this – I would rather disappoint you than make myself sick with overcommitment. People who really care about me will understand.
I sure want to be the person who can fit ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag and skip happily though life but I am not. Living life in reality vs. fantasy is what will make my choices sustainable.
Dance with the one that brung ya, am I right?!
Life will continue to keep coming and while I am through this particular patch of overwhelm, it will happen again. This is what life is made of. There is a such thing as good stress. Science calls it eustress. Having a baby is a good kind of stress. Getting married is eustress. We don’t want to live a bland life without any stimulation. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist spiritual leader, has said (and had a book with this title, “No mud, no lotus.” Without suffering through the mud, you cannot find the happiness of the lotus. Without grit, there is no pearl.
I want the pearl and the lotus. And I know that to do that – and be able to enjoy it when I have it – I need to feed my roots to create a life that is Sustainably Productive. To go back to my equanimity visualization, I need to accept where I am and feed the roots to be able to withstand the future storms.
Sustainable You Reflections
- Write down the last time or two where you wished for a snow day to cancel plans or that you could just hide from your schedule. How would it have felt to have a chunk of time freed up for you?
- Looking at your calendar for the next week or month, what 1-2 things can you cancel or reschedule to create that space?
- Take a 30-day reprieve from taking on new things. No new classes, dinner dates, travel, etc.
Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.