When anxious, uneasy, and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.
— Rainer Maria Rilke —
This summer and early fall were HARD, you guys. I was stressed out beyond belief, anxious to the point of bi-weekly sob-fests under my down comforter, and absolutely buried under a mountain of shame (after all, how could I be a “good” teacher and practitioner if I was doing such a terrible job of taking care of myself?).
The first thing I did to try to dig myself out of the hole that I was in was to get really honest and vulnerable and tell the truth about what was going on and how I was feeling — to my family, my friends, and even right here in a journal entry on this blog. And then I made a very earnest, very valiant effort to do more of what made me happy and less of what didn’t and I made a list and a plan of things I should start doing differently.
And guess what? It mostly didn’t work.
These were good thing to do — really good things — but, for some reason, they were not strong enough medicine to pull me out of my pattern of not honoring myself and my true capacity or to reveal what I needed to do to address my bone deep weariness.
So what WAS strong enough medicine? Three things…
(1) In an appointment with my naturopath this September, he said, “Kate, I say this with love, but can I be blunt? You know those people who race from thing to thing, juggling multiple jobs and responsibilities, always on the go? And they do it almost effortlessly? With this incredible grace? It seems to actually add to their vitality? Kate, we have worked together for almost 8 years now, and that is just not you.”
(2) Casually, in passing, another health and wellness practitioner used the phrase “human first, practitioner second” and, holy cannoli, did it hit me like a FREIGHT TRAIN.
(3) I went to Lake Michigan with my two closest girlfriends on a extra stormy Saturday. It was power and it was magic and it was wild beauty. And as I stood on the shore, staring out across the blue-gray waves, something inside me simultaneously unclenched and then… smiled in this completely unguarded way and I thought to myself, “Oh! There you are! I remember you!”
Why did these things work when all my self-awareness and planning and determination did not?
I think it’s because they reminded me not just of how I was feeling or what I was doing, they reminded me of who I AM. A person who needs space, rest, introspection, slowness, nourishment, and moments of connection with power, magic, and wild beauty. I was not made for quickness, endurance, unbalanced extroversion, multi-tasking, or a rhythm of “and and and and…”
I try so hard to be that second type of person, you guys. Maybe partly because that type of person is valued, validated, and venerated in our productivity- and efficiency-oriented culture. But — if I’m honest — it’s mostly because my experiences growing up instilled this persistent belief that never-ceasing effort, achievement, and perfection are the only things that can really make me worthy of love and belonging.
So now, even with so many people in my life who love me no matter how busy or productive I am, I keep chasing my tail, looking for something that I already have.
I am recovering. Slowly. It takes practice, attention, discipline. It takes a moratorium on the word “yes” sometimes. But I am — to use a very old-fashioned word — convalescing. I am keeping still, being quiet(er), and feeding my soul metaphorical bone broth. I am doing my best to listen.
If you are feeling this way too — like you are a hamster on a wheel and you can’t stop running even for a second — here’s my advice…
Spend as much time and energy as you can doing the things that make you feel the most YOU. Go to the places that connect you to the very center of yourself — that small, pulsing seed of the universe living inside your very heart. Be with the people who remind you who you are.
Seek out whatever makes you feel light, soft, true, held, sacred.
These things are medicine, friend. The very strongest medicine that I know of. And if you make room for them, if you go very slowly, they can work whatever gentle magic your tender heart needs. 💙