Adrenaline – and stars and blossoms, too.

I recently found this fragment of writing in my drafts folder, written at a time when work was beyond busy. It sums up the frantic energy — tiring but rewarding — that has been tearing me away from any creativity recently.

 

How rare is it now that I look up to see the stars, or down into the tangled sprawl of blossoms? Though I may look, I so seldom see beyond the words on a screen, printing their way across my thoughts, or the many tiny puzzle pieces of a schedule I must fit together, the ever shrinking number of days left to do it.

None of this is to say I am unhappy. Busy, tired, at times overwhelmed, but challenged, stretched and growing, too. 

So many thoughts employed, so much to do, that I must beg your pardons, stars, blossoms, but it will be another few weeks till we meet again. Till then, I am flying by will and grit alone.

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Back into the fire: an update on working and life

It’s been some time since I’ve written about my return to work, about how I’ve been managing. For a while – a long while – I was managing so well I didn’t need to think about it. There was nothing really to say.

So I can’t tell you when I stopped feeling comfortable in my skin again. Sometime between February and now, while I was looking the other way, thinking about other things and just trying to keep up, I lost part of myself. The part that puts down markers and holds fast to boundaries and says “no more” without fearing the consequences, without giving in.

Without resorting to desperation.

Without succumbing to panic.

Now, again, I imagine the judgement of others – which is my judgement of myself. I jump at unexpected sounds. I am immobilized by the need to make decisions. I feel fragile.

I know it’s work that has worn me down – or at least I know I’ve let it. I love my job but not to the detriment of my sanity. Others surrounding me are running around trying to keep everything afloat as well. Perhaps they are struggling like me, perhaps not quite – not yet. But the mistake I’ve made is allowing that to keep me in the fire. I’ve turned to them for approval when I say no. I’ve pushed myself to perform in return for recognition, acknowledgement. That amounts to putting my sanity in their hands.

Thankfully, I still have all the lessons I learned while on stress leave. Thankfully, I can now recognize the signs of impending doom, and can mark the distance from here back to my boundaries. There is hope, a way back.

I don’t know how to catch hold of that nugget that is my strength, to catch hold and expand it. But I know I have to.

Maybe the knowing is step 1. Maybe I’m already on the right path.

Maybe it is already time to search for step 2.

Veneer

This isn’t what I wanted to write today —
I thought gardens and sunshine and light —
but you know as well as I that truth finds a way,
like water searching for its route.

I stare out from this shell
this broken exterior you see as whole
I bind myself in here daily,
held tight with coloured scarves and pearl-strands
I put on a good show —
you’d never guess, any of you,
just how deep the cracks
how close to breaking open this shell
until, pushed beyond unseen boundaries,
I do,
and then you see.

I don’t mean to test your mettle
but your responses reveal your true nature
either cementing how we move forward, together,
or leaving me broken on the floor.

 

It’s not all as dire as it sounds… but it has been a tough week, pressure-wise.

How not to lose it

Listen to your body
read the signs.
Take the time to stop
stop moving, stop thinking
stop clawing your way out;
it is ok to step away.
Rest your mind.
Focus on small things
objects of beauty
essences of peace.
Inspect the intricacies
of the world around you:
a flower’s petal folds.
Stare into the deep blue and
let it surround you
till there is nothing else
but you and blue.
Read a poem
hear its music.
Follow what makes your heart smile.
Disappear into a cup of tea
and wait, surrounded
by the mint-pepper-honey
its warmth spreading through.
Feel the ground beneath your feet
each step is yours
here, now.
Close your eyes
and just be
just be.

 

A how-to poem for how to stay sane in these busy, anxious days, for NaPoWriMo day 19

Climb every mountain – at a reasonable pace

Source: active.com

I was on a lunchtime run, pounding up a hill about halfway through my fourth kilometer, when I recognized my fatal flaw. I probably have more than one, but this is a big one. (That’s one of the beauties of running – it leads you to insights that are so deep they’re able to knock the breath right out of you.)

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to make things harder on myself than I need to. But as I forced myself up that hill — faster, faster — the voice from my phone’s running app cut through my thoughts and the driving bass to inform me I had just sped up that hill faster than I had run the flats, faster than I usually run when I go much further but avoid hills altogether.

I realized that I was forcing myself up the hill as fast as possible, putting myself under strain just to get it over with, instead of settling into a reasonable, steady pace. Interestingly, I never run down hills because I’m always too busy enjoying the view.

And that’s when it hit me. I do exactly the same thing for any challenge I face. I try to fly through it, rush, get it over with, get to the easy part, or the end. It’s like a panic response – get to the end, fast.

I do it in conflicts at home, and it just inflames the situation.

I do it at work when I have a big deliverable looming, and instead of getting through things calmly, I thoroughly stress myself thinking that I have to do it all “now” when, for the most part, it will take several weeks of methodical work.

I even do it when I have a to-do list. I can’t handle to-do lists. I have to fly through them, check off all the little boxes, leave nothing hanging over my head. Get to the end.

All this rushing through things leaves me feeling overwhelmed, drained and as though I never have time to do what I want. It never seems I will get to the end of anything I have to do because, let’s be honest, life is just one big to-do list. It’s impossible to rush to the end of it. Instead, it’s better to keep a steady pace and grab the odd moment to breathe, to look around, to stop and take in the view, to remember that there are pleasant aspects to whatever it is you’re in the middle of, and to even sometimes take a break partway through and do something else.

It was a beautiful day for running. I was able to appreciate that once I slowed my pace and stopped pushing myself as fast as possible every time there was a hill. The sun was shining on the last of the season’s golden leaves while purple-grey clouds created a dramatic backdrop over the river and the Parliament buildings. People were out walking and running, chatting and laughing – enjoying the mild fall day. As I came to the top of the final hill – Parliament Hill, as it turned out – I paused, looked up at the Canadian flag waving on the Peace Tower and smiled.

Life is really very good, I thought.

I know there’s a valuable lesson in all this, but I may just need the equivalent of that running app’s voice to cut through my thoughts and remind me every now and then that I don’t have to rush past where I am to get to the end.