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On the one hand, I’m frustrated because I tried and failed. I hustled so hard this morning, squeezing in my workout and run and meals and shower before leaving for a noontime yoga class with just a little extra time to spare. I reached the building 20 minutes early and felt victorious, but after circling block after block and not finding a parking spot, I started to get worried. Then I got stuck behind a train. On this side of the train was me; on that side of the train was my yoga class. How long can a train be, really? Surely it wouldn’t take more than ten minutes for it to pass.
But it did take more than ten minutes for the train to pass and even then, I STILL couldn’t find a parking spot. Class was set to start in a mere two minutes and I had no idea where to park. I circled a few more times, the clock kept ticking, and I realized there was no way I was going to make it. Walking into a yoga class a few minutes late seemed absurdly rude but somewhat doable to me, but as more time passed without a parking spot it became apparent that even that was no longer an option: I wouldn’t be a few minutes late. I would be late-late. So I bailed.
And that’s when I realized why I was really frustrated: not because I couldn’t find a parking spot, not because I got caught behind a train, and not because I’d now have to pay a fee for a class I didn’t even attend. I was frustrated for scheduling my day in such a way that the only chance I had to succeed was to go-go-go at a rapid-fire pace, allowing myself no space for deep breaths or quiet stillness. I was expecting myself to go from one thing to the next to the next to the next without pause. And for what? What was I supposed to gain from making myself crazy?
I generally don’t fall into the “busy equals success” trap that seems to plague my generation. Packed schedules serve as a status symbol to some, but to me they just serve as a stressful headache. I openly admit to all of my friends that there’s no way in hell I’m ever going out more than a few evenings a week. I value the quiet time I spend at home too much. I also tend to structure my days in a flexible manner, leaving big enough chunks of time between projects that I never feel like I’m running from one thing to the next. But today, here it was: a class that I scheduled for myself in the middle of the day, even though the middle of the day is never an easy time for me. It was like I set myself up for failure by pushing myself toward something I knew would make me crazy.
I’m counting today as a learning experience. I can’t do a workout AND a run AND a yoga class before lunchtime. I can’t navigate a busy area with only packed street parking in the middle of the day. And I can’t be mad at myself for the fact that it didn’t work out. Noontime yoga was not in the cards for me today, no matter how much I tried to force it. And that’s the biggest lesson of all: there isn’t a lot of good that comes from forcing things. You can’t force another person to behave or feel a certain way. You can’t force an outcome. You can’t force a situation. And you most definitely can’t force yourself. Today I tried to force myself to do something beyond my capabilities. And for what? If I’d successfully squeezed in that yoga class in the middle of everything else I had going on today, what exactly would I have gained?
Sometimes we think the best way to take care of ourselves is to do more, more, and more. This isn’t always true. In fact, I’d argue that it’s rarely true. So today I’m going to give myself a break. I tried to do too much and it was just that: too much. But now I know. And now I’m ready to take better care of myself.
What about you? Have you been putting too many items on your plate lately? Do you feel like you’re not doing a good job unless you’re juggling a million things? Can you remember the last time you took a moment to quietly take a deep breath? I’m such a huge advocate of self-care, but sometimes I fall short on giving myself what I really need. Are you falling short? It’s okay if you are, but maybe today’s the day you can look at your over-packed schedule and your enormous to-do list and say: No, I don’t REALLY need to do that thing that’s going to make me insanely stressed just so I can say I did it. How about saying you DIDN’T do it and feeling proud for taking care of yourself?
You’re the only person in control of your life. Organize it in a way that makes things manageable, not stressful. Recognize what you’re gaining by letting a few things go.