How long can you hold your breath?
That week, I left my job in the public service. I say “job” and not “career” on purpose: I had never planned to embark on a long service career, but even knowing that I’d not been planning to stay didn’t make it any less frightening to leave. Not only that, but it was really emotional: I really loved the people I worked with and I had some serious FOMO on my last day. There was a lot of hugging and, I’m afraid, a lot of ugly crying involved (all me).
Then off I went to enjoy my first week of freedom. I’d planned to take a couple of weeks off, apart from my present clients, to enjoy some downtime, before looking to add to my client practice (which had been full) and begin freelancing as a writer.
What I can tell you, at the close of this first week, was that I did not at all create the week off I had been intending. I booked the week up with All The Things I Needed To Do. I already couldn’t imagine how I’d fit my life into my job and it had only been a few days. I accomplished very little of the relaxing, energizing, reading and writing I’d so been looking forward to enjoying. I missed meeting up with friends I hadn’t seen in ages and I had to reschedule things that I’d been looking forward to, in order to get The Stuff Done. I ended the week exhausted, resentful and with not a lot of fuel in my tank for the big weekend ahead.
I don’t know about you, but every now and then, I get overwhelmed. It’s a place I know all too well and don’t much like, though you’d think otherwise, based on the amount of time I spend there.
That week has been one of those weeks. Actually, if I’m being honest, the last few weeks before. And possibly the several preceding months, too. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve been overwhelmed as long as I can remember. My mom is concerned (just for the record, so am I) and my big sister doesn’t remember a time where I haven’t been insanely busy. I’m not proud to say it, but running ragged is kind of my baseline.
Know what? It sucks. It’s exhausting and it makes it pretty hard to be present and enjoy where I’m at in my life. I’ve always been running to catch up the stuff that’s behind or trying to frontload so that the stuff that’s ahead wouldn’t hit me straight in the solar plexis. Either way, I was sprinting madly between what was and what is to be. You’d think that somewhere along that line would be the present moment, but it’s a trick: Presence is not found in the harried dash somewhere between yesterday and tomorrow.
I kept thinking I’d have learned my lesson, but I must have been on the remedial course: It’s like I was constantly treading water, just trying to keep my head above the surface. I operated from a less-than-serene mantra of “If I can just hold on until I graduate high school/college/university—first undergraduate, then masters’ degree/coaching training/leaving my job, then I’ll be fine.”
That’s a mighty long time to hold your breath, it turns out. Not unlike expecting a fight, I have my head down, my helmet strapped on, and I’m just FRIGGING GOING TO PUSH THROUGH THIS STUFF, SO HELP ME GOD.
What I couldn’t/wouldn’t admit is that seriously, I wanted help. God, help me. Please. I needed support, but it never occurred to me until way the heck past the point of unpleasantness
I’d love to say that, as a coach, I’ve conquered this crappy cycle, and to be a living example of presence, providing a shining example of well-being and balance and empowered choice-making, but I’d be lying. The thing is, I am still human (much to my ongoing dismay) and my actions, which seem highly original and situation-specific at the time, are (“I just need to do this one thing and then it’ll be different), in hindsight, glaring evidence of how easy it is to fall into my own traps.
So what’s the trick? Well, if I knew that, then I’d probably be doing it, right? Actually, probably not: I’m really used to my stress-induced sprints. I’m really good at them, unfortunately.
What it would take is doing something different. Anything different. Saying “no” or “not this week” or letting people know I’m taking time off and asking them to help keep me accountable for what I said I wanted to create. Booking the time in calendar for downtime, since where there’s empty time, I fill it with getting All The Things done (resentfully, might I add) and then some wallowing in the pool of Poor Me.
How long have you been holding your breath? What happens if you let go?