“Fear of being a flawed person lay at the root of my trance, and I had sacrificed many moments over the years in trying to prove my worth. Like the tiger Mohini, I inhabited a self-made prison that stopped me from living fully.”
― Tara Brach
The last two mornings I have stood looking out the window above my kitchen sink listening to the tea kettle rumble. I stood watching the eastern sky light up with streaks of bright pink and orange. I rarely see the sunrise anymore. Most mornings I wake in the darkness of pre-morning, or at least I try to rouse myself out of bed at that hour. I have to admit I am not as disciplined as I used to be about getting up. Or maybe I should say my discipline has shifted, I am now more disciplined about getting enough sleep.
For years I woke up at 4:30 am everyday—even on the weekends— so I could fit in self-care time. I woke early to write my morning pages, meditate, work out on the elliptical before I had to get my son up and to the bus and myself ready and to work by 8:30 am. I was never late, I had each moment of my morning scheduled and efficient. The rest of my days reflected this compact intense schedule of time. There was no room for deviation. From 4:30 am to 11:00 pm I was busy.
I was a single mother going to school full-time, working part-time, commuting three hours a day and taking care of my son with special needs. After I graduated from college and I got a full-time “real job” I thought I was going to have time to rest, work on my art, have some fun, but my internal lack of self-worth propelled me to work 60 plus hours a week to justify having my job. Sure I excelled at my job but I also was exhausted, tense and disconnected from myself. We won’t even mention the quality of my almost non-existent relationships.
It was not until my son’s father passed away of lung cancer at the age of 48 years old did this “efficient schedule” breakdown. From the time D. was diagnosis to when he passed away three months later, the external structures I had built my self-worth on were dismantled.
I collapsed not only from the crushing grief but also from pure exhaustion of over extending myself for 15 years. I stopped setting the alarm clock to wake me up at 4:30 am and started allowing my body to wake when it needed to. My self-care routine shifted to sleeping, crying when I needed, doing nothing. I did less—a lot less.
Now three years later I have more balance in my life. Sleep is my priority in taking care of myself. I know if I am exhausted doing other self-care habits will only deplete me. I will set my alarm clock but not if I have not been sleeping well or on the weekends. I strive to journal and sit on my meditation cushion 5 days a week. I move my body most days but not every day like I used to. I now work 40 hours a week at my day job. I pursue my creative work that feeds my soul in the time I used to work. I now have deeper relationships with friends and loved ones.
The key to my balance is sleep. So if I come from work and I need a nap but I was planning on going for a walk, I take the nap. I might feel like going for a walk after, maybe not, but the nap is key to my priority. If I am awake in the middle of the night, as I often am, I will turn off my alarm so I can sleep in and for go working out or meditating in the morning. I try to go to bed at 8 pm most nights. Sleep must come first.
I do less but I have to admit I struggle with the nagging thoughts that tell me I am not doing enough. I know the dangers of over schedule, pushing my body beyond it capacity but still I think I am being lazy, or I should be able to keep the same schedule I did for years. When I try to figure out how on earth I maintained the frenzy of activity for years, I realize I was disconnected from my body. I had no connection to what I was feeling or how exhausted I was day in and day out.
Today I am more gentle with myself. I allow myself to feel what is happening moment by moment in my body and because I know how awesome sleep is, I am not able to maintain a scheduled like I used to. No, living that way is no longer an option. I value feeling rested and connected to myself too much. ( I didn’t mention how my relationships improved too, but that is another post.)
So somedays I get to wake up and watch the sunrise as I make coffee. Somedays I wake up late and go to work late. Other days, I wake up in the darkness to write and meditate before my day starts. Either way, I allow my body to tell me when to wake. For the most part this works because I am rested.
Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.
The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join by Jason Lengstorf- Ok, if you are stuck in the cult of overworking you need to read this now. While I have made some great strides to leave overworking behind I am not there 100%. Please note that Jason mentions making sleep a priority. As I like to say, sleep is the nectar of the gods.
Are You Ever Hard on Yourself by SARK- Love Love Love this. I first read one of SARK’s books back in the early 90s and it helped me start to play in my life. She also talked a lot about the value of naps but I could never let myself nap too much back then. I think I have a whole gaggle of inner mean girls.
Letting Go by Gil Fronsdal- (Audio talk) I love Gil’s gentle voice and teachings. This is an invitation to explore instead of definite shoulds you need to do. I so appreciate this, it helps create an openness to try new ideas or practices out.
Marie’s Dictionary– An amazing video about one woman’s efforts to save her native language.
What I want to say: How writing in a journal helps a writer get there by Pat Schneider- OK, I am a huge fan of Pat Schneider but for good reason, she is honest, real and gives me permission to be a writer. I love this peek into her journal. I know I have many days like this—I am struggling with the reality of my present—internal and external—and it is only on the page can I sort it all out.