A few nights ago, I had to brace myself against a rush of anxiety. It started by reflecting on how we made it through last year. It’s still a mystery to me. Then, I went over my goals and hopes for 2022 which led me to the things I needed to do on my first week back at work in a context of great uncertainties. And that friends, is how set yourself up for anxiety if you are an overthinker. My little squirrel brain wouldn’t stop and gave me a whole 3D experience of what ifs scenarios. Most of those, too bleak for my taste. Did I mention it was around 3 AM?
During the whole time, one of the recuring thought I had was I don’t want to go back. It was not especially about going back to work. Not only do I love my work, but I also have bills to pay and responsibilities to face. There is no way I’m not going back to work. That being settled, what I really don’t want to go back to, is “my normal”.
I don’t want to hop back on the grinding train. Did I ever leave? I’m not so sure. I’m tired of unwittingly be part of those mainstreams’ hashtags. You know the one to the rhymes of #sleepisforlosers, #riseandgrind, #grindneverstops #hustlehard or something more glamour like #bosslady. Some may willingly desire to represent them, but I personally want to escape them.
For a long time, some of those hashtags were part of my core beliefs. I thought I had to work extra harder than everyone else if I wanted to reach a certain definition of success. I believed late nights, busy schedules, constantly being available and on the go were testimonies to my dedication and were warrant of my success. I bought into the philosophy of not stopping because we are tired but because we’ve reached the goal. Because we’ve reached success.
Even amidst a pandemic I did not stop. I was part of the crew that aimed to make the best of what was falling upon us. I took classes, I said yes to way too many requests, I overexerted myself. Until life happened and my body had to call me back to my senses. I had to ask myself tough questions and re-evaluate most of my decisions.
Somewhere during the journey, I had lost my way and my why. They had been drowned under every day demands. They got buried under the requirements of grinding. It had become my new normal and it had also become meaningless. Why was I doing the things I was doing? What were my goals and why did I even have those goals to begin with? Why was I so afraid of slowing down?
I do have legit and complex answers to those questions. We all do. But plainly put, mot of us work this hard because we truly believe we have no choice. In a world where the vast majority carries financial insecurity like a dark cloud over our head, hustling has been sold to us as the only way out of a life of precarity. What else are we supposed to do? Whether or not this is true is a whole different matter.
We feel trapped into an ever-spinning wheel. It is not a choice and contrary to social media posts it is not and will never be glamour. I dream of escaping it. It is what I do not want to go back to. I don’t want to be this overworked and exhausted. At the same time, I also know that I’m not at a point in my life where I can simply quit everything and live without a care in the world (yet). So, a few nights ago, when I was almost overwhelmed with anxiety, I decided against my previous choice not to make any resolutions and made one that I intend to stick to. I call it my new year resolution for the weary.
This year, I’m going to start practicing kindness towards me, and invite softness in every area of my life. I am embarking on a journey to be radically gentle with myself. A journey that will mend the bruises of life in general and grinding culture. A journey that will help me realign with myself and find balance.
It’s a journey I am undertaking, and it is uncharted territory for me. What will it look like? I can’t describe it with certainty, but I have an idea.
It will look like patience, when I fail to reach my goals and self celebration when I hit even the smallest of them. It will look like words of affirmation when my mind would be tempted to remind me of all my shortcomings.
It will look like acknowledging, sitting with, and processing my feelings in order to be better aligned with myself. It will also look like discovering unknow parts of me and letting them grow and flourish.
It will look like learning more about ways to be present to my self and practicing what I can to get there. It will look like finding comfort in my faith when feeling overwhelmed or asking difficult questions while accepting the fact that they may be no answers.
It will look like fully loving those I care about and most importantly letting myself being loved by them. It will look like loving myself harder especially the days I’m all but what I want to be.
It will look like showing up for my gifts, creating worlds and writing those stories that have kept me awake while constantly reminding myself to say no the fallacy of perfection.
It will look like rest, when my body, mind, spirit, and soul let me know that they need a break. It will look like identifying the boundaries I need to put in place and honoring them. Saying NO without regret or the need to apologize and saying YES to the things calling to my soul.
It will look like finally getting that appointment with a physician and if I’m lucky enough a good therapist.
It will look like dancing to that old song no one knows about and feeling myself all the way to the last note. It will look like eating my favorite food without remorse and play that silly game without and end goal…
Being gentle may take many forms, but through it all it should always leads us to love ourselves more fully. It should lead us to discover ourselves and love every tiny bit of it.
Would it be easy? No. I’m pretty sure a lot of crying and frustration will be involved but granting myself the right and space to go through it all is also what it is about.
This year I’m giving myself permission to be kind to myself. That’s one resolution I intend to keep for the rest of my life, and I hope you do too.