Day of Rest

moretomatoesI don’t know how people do it. Seriously, how do you all do it? All the things?! I feel frantic today because there’s not enough time. I start thinking of all the stuff I want to get done — letters to write, packages to get ready to mail, laundry, shoe shopping, a Something Good post to put together (which also means going through the 100 unread emails in my inbox), this post, muffins to bake, tomato soup to make, more tomatoes to pick, a yoga class to plan, lights to order for the bathroom remodel, physical therapy to complete, a flower bed that needs weeded and mulched before the season is completely over and everything goes dormant until next year. I’d also like to sit down with my husband for a meal that someone else cooks for us, watch this month’s Open Heart Project Sangha theme video, watch the Monthly Dharma Gathering video, listen to the latest Good Life Project podcast with Susan Piver, finish reading Pema Chödrön’s new book, keep reading Brene’ Brown’s new book, maybe play with some glue stick or paint, do a yoga nidra practice. I’d also like to go to the gym and take a nap, but that just seems ridiculous. Rest and self-care and play becomes difficult under these circumstances, in the context of this kind of ambition, under the weight of my expectations.

Is it any wonder that I found myself on the couch yesterday, eating a bag of caramel corn and binge watching Catfish? And it makes absolute sense that when I went for a massage after so long without, that so much stress and tension had built up in my body that there were areas so bunched up that when she touched them they felt like they were on fire — the inside of my right calf, my lower back and the top of my glutes, my shoulders. When she was working on my right shoulder, I could feel it fighting back, resisting, refusing to relax, pushing against her as hard as she was pushing. There were moments I thought I’d have to tell her to ease up or even stop, but when she was finished, I felt lighter, softer, like I had lost ten pounds.

What was happening in my body is a mirror of what is happening in my life. There’s a single injury to my right heel, but there’s tension everywhere else, either contributing to or compensating for the injury, and when I don’t deal with it, ignore it and try to keep going, it doesn’t go away. Instead it reaches a point where it’s almost unbearable and I have to stop, address it. There’s no way to compartmentalize suffering. Whether hurt or hunger, when I don’t deal with it, it radiates out, touching everything, binding everything up in a single throbbing knot.

I almost feel bad for bringing it up, especially since I don’t seem to have an answer. I’m like Ringo chasing his tail. It’s like the illusion of ever being able to reach a work life balance, as if our work and our life could, or even should be separate. It’s like that story I heard once in college about a river where they’d built a new dam right in the middle of an established salmon run and the fish returning upstream threw themselves against the dam until they were dead because the need to go that way, the habit was all they knew, was deep in their body and they couldn’t give it up even if it meant they’d die trying. It’s like the running joke between my friend and I that if we could just fold the towels perfectly, have a completely organized and beautiful linen closet, nothing bad would ever happen, no one we loved would ever die, we’d all be safe and happy.

This is the truth at the center of the human experience I can’t seem to get comfortable with: bad things will happen no matter what I do. No matter how hard I try, now matter how much I work, things will continue to fall apart and life will be too short, there will never be enough time. As many of my Buddhist teachers have reminded me, the human experience is just this, getting on a boat that’s going to sail out into the middle of the ocean and sink. There’s no way around it. My only conclusion today is this: I’m an idiot but I’m also amazing, and I’m not going to give up.

12 thoughts on “Day of Rest

  1. Mary Montanye

    Oh, Jill, all I can say is you are so not alone. This is the human experience. It’s certainly my experience. And I’m right there with you–sometime on the couch watching Catchfish and binge-eating caramel corn, and sometimes getting up and trying again. I won’t give up, either. Thank you for your truth and your humor.

  2. Rita

    About 20 years ago, I realized that most of my “problems” come from an abundance of good things and not enough time to fit them all in in the ways I want to. Not all. I’ve got some actual problem problems. But I try to remember the abundance when I get frustrated that I can’t do all the things. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I binge-watch. Depends on the day. 🙂

  3. Dr Brenda RDN

    I also thank you for your truth. Thinking of all we WANT to do can become so overwhelming that it is paralyzing, and trying to do too much can lead to a deep need to just stop and take a binge watching break. Although work life balance may seem impossible, being realistic about our own limits can be important. I personally need to challenge myself more, but I think many women may challenge themselves past realistic expectations.

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      Exactly! I guess what I mean about work life balance seeming impossible is that I hate separating my work from my life. It somehow doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel separate, and I think I get more confused, work harder at trying to keep them separate than if I just see them as on a continuum of sorts — that being said, you are absolutely right about being realistic about our limits, and for me being better about honoring them.

  4. Dr Brenda RDN

    Another thought. In current times, there is so much more available to us, in terms of information, than we can possibly handle. For me the big challenge is to sort out my top priorities and let go of trying to take in ALL of the information that is of interest to me. Even limiting it to just my professional areas of interest, the amount of “stuff” available and seemingly demanding attention is just vast and unwieldy.

  5. Melinda

    Hmmmm, perhaps a bit. Maybe we need to to slow down our expectations of ourselves and give ourselves time and space between activities as we shift from the naturally slower pace of summer to the fall. I’m thinking that we discount the importance of transitions and also the realities of getting a bit older . Slow is good, fast is not better . Much easier to say than to practice……

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      I love at least attempting to look to nature, try and be more in sync with its rhythms. And ah, the realities of getting a bit older. My body is turning 48 in a few months, and my mind keeps insisting it’s still 25. 🙂


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