Some of us are real busy bees – but even those of us who do enjoy taking naps above all else that’s sacred sometimes push ourselves a bit too much. We overwork ourselves. It is so easy to ignore the physical symptoms and lie to ourselves about the psychological ones. From the point of view of our own two eyes we can see merely the tips of our own noses; and everyone knows that mirrors cannot be trusted at all, not after that whole Snow White business. So how on Earth are we meant to know when it is the right time to take a step back?
There are some obvious signs, of course. Like the fact you haven’t slept for weeks. But once these come around, it is often too late – we have ignored all the warnings we got on the way and are now in deep deep trouble. Turning back from this point can be quite difficult, painful and sometimes simply impossible.
And there were so many little yellow warning lights along the way.
We never get to see the people who we used to meet once or twice a year
You know, being a parent whose children never see them is pretty bad to say the very least. The same is true of the partner who hasn’t been on a date with their significant other for the last century and a half. Missing on some time with your best friend? Sure, that’s an obvious warning sign too. Everyone in your closest surroundings will inform you (politely or not) that you suck at life if you attempt any of these. If you are willing to listen, that is.
What about the people we very rarely see?
Once upon a time we used to make a solid effort to drop them an email or FB message sometimes. Once half a year or a year even we would go out for a quick lunch or coffee together. Often these are the people who used to be very important to us but just don’t fit into our lives anymore and we keep dragging them along for a reason we don’t quite remember. And these are the people who we tend to drop first.
That is understandable, right? If we struggle to free some time, we won’t sacrifice a family dinner or a business meeting for someone that we still somehow vaguely know.
But look at this from another angle – if we don’t have two hours once a year to go to a cafe with someone that we actually still enjoy seeing, even though they may not be our closest friend, we must be doing something wrong. Well, I’d argue that if we do not have two hours a year to do anything that could just pop up into our mind in the entire world – we are definitely doing something wrong and it is time to take a step back and think about, at the very least, our time management.
We keep failing over and over again
Mums always say: if you fall off the horse, you need to hop back onto it as soon as possible. Can we argue with mums? I wouldn’t dare. But what if we keep falling off and off and off again?
There is only a limited amount of times one can attempt something without feeling frustrated. Even those of us with the thickest skins will find themselves struggling after a while. It just gets to us and we cannot help this. Sure, after a while hopping back into the horse’s saddle can become significantly less difficult, especially when adrenaline kicks in and we become more determined to do better this time but…
But this more often than not leads to desperation and all desperation achieves is clouding our judgment. We become reckless and are prone to make more mistakes as we fall into the vicious cycle of failure, from which there is no escape.
To take a step back and let ourselves fail is not to give up. Personally I think that is one of the main reasons we get stuck into in these sort of situations; we are too proud to let go. Giving oneself a break from excessive strain allows us to come back to it later with clearer minds and, frankly, can only make us stronger.
We are victims to our own ridiculous rules
Let me tell you a story. Not a very fascinating one but there is a lesson to be learnt from it; and it is an important one.
Around a week ago I went through a little breakdown. I did tons of traveling and I was simply tired after this, nothing more. Anyone, let alone someone as… little as me, would succumb to that. But then the summer heat came around and I am a real heat addict, so there was no way I could give up on the day of an English summer that I was given.
So it started. I lay on the bed for a good half an hour, ready to cry, moaning my heart out about how much I would love to go for a long walk in the sun but that I am too tired to put my make up on.
You got it right. To put my makeup on.
That is understandable in itself, right? Wearing make up in the heat is probably the single worst first world problem I suffer from – everything just wants to melt and fall off my face, and it is generally an unpleasant experience: slowly losing one’s face. And if I were to go for a walk, maybe I could do a 2 in 1 and take some blog photos which meant I had to be covered up at the very least decently, and I suck at make up at the very best of time, so that would take me ages and…
Luckily my boyfriend has a bit of sanity left (although living with someone like me kills any reason whatsoever), and managed to make me realise that in order to go outside and enjoy a walk along the canal on a beautiful, sunny day I, in fact, do not need any makeup at all. This whole drama is only in my head. The only person who needs me to wear makeup is me and the only person to come up with this ridiculous if you go to the town centre, you need to wear makeup rule is also me.
I had to take a step back. And so many of us have been at this point, one way of another. When our own rules stop us from enjoying ourselves. Sure, there are some important ones, like, I don’t know, don’t jump drunk into a lake because you may die – that’s a REALLY good one – but there are some tiny restrictions that make no sense yet can really make our lives a misery.
We have no idea where all our time went
Have you ever found yourself saying: I have no idea where the last week went? Month? Year? We often hear people say: I don’t know when my children got so old. Time gets lost all the… time. And it is impossible to get it back.
There are extreme cases of this, way past the late yellow warning light, way past the red as well. Entire minutes lost because our brain switches off into a state we cannot quite comprehend, too tired to process what is happening around us. But before we reach that state, we go through plenty of not even time wasting but time losing – of forgetting we are meant to live and not just try to prepare ourselves for a greater life in the future.
This may seem like the opposite to the being stuck in between phenomenon I talked about a few weeks past… But it is weirdly similar. We are so stuck in so many things we are no longer in anything.
We are so obsessed with the end line; we cease to enjoy the run.
We find it silly to take a step back
What is the most obvious but the least noticed symptom of any obsession or addiction or whatever we chose to name this urgent need to keep achieving and having and doing?
Not being able to stop.
We say: I don’t have a problem. We say: why would I take a step back? We say: I don’t have time for any of these, I need to face more important problems. This one, by far, is not an unusual sign- it is a natural way we all function, stuck in denial. But it is an unusual thing to notice at its very first stage, the last thing to notice in fact, as we are programmed to ignore it for as long as possible.
People handle it differently. They make time to write ‘to do’ lists which keep them in check. They turn their electronic devices off for a few hours to have time to think. They meditate. They go for walks. They commit to gratitude journals or any other form of thought dumps.
These seem like silly things to consider though, you know, to a busy person. A busy person does not have time to waste on lists and self-reflection, and all that. How busy is busy that does not allow for a five-minute break a day? For the smallest rest?
We look for excuses and we find them, but the truth is: we’re avoiding admitting that we are our own slave masters. And slave masters do not understand the idea of rest. Rest is not productive. And because we don’t want to admit how hard we are on ourselves, we call it just that: silly.
Being dismissive of our own needs is just so much easier.
Yes, that was yet another no make up type of post – sorry! And no, no swans were hurt in the process. Most of the pics were taken inside a swans’ nest that I have been visiting all spring and summer long – but the little ones and their parents usually take a stroll at this time of the day!
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