This week, Eric has been putting our garden in. I’ve been weeding the flowerbeds and moving some things around, making plans for new things I’m going to get and stick in the ground. We started gardening years ago with three raised beds in the backyard, then took out a huge Cottonwood tree in front and decided to turn it all into garden, get rid of all the lawn at the front of the house. I think this is the third or fourth year of our front yard garden, and some things are just now starting to take off — like my white irises that have filled in and formed a wall, my peonies that have tons of blooms this year and seem to have doubled in size, and our strawberries which are already producing. Then there’s the raised bed that we decided to leave as is because it was full of Colorado Bee Plants. When it comes to gardening there are lots of surprises, things you didn’t plan, and even the things that turn out like you hoped take a lot of patience and effort.
I feel the same about my life-rehab, started in earnest six years ago but really with its origins ten years ago — that there’s the need for both a lot of patience and a lot of effort. Right now I’m stuck in the funk that always lingers in the beginning weeks of every summer vacation. It’s hard to shift gears, especially when I’m not exactly sane when it comes to my job. It was a real eye opener to read Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed a few weeks ago: It’s Your Job, Not Your Life. “Overworked, exhausted, dejected? If so, you may be treating your job like it’s your whole life instead of one piece of a much larger pie.” I had always assumed my issue was resisting my job, not putting myself into it 100% because it wasn’t my “passion,” being dissatisfied because it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, but this article made me realize the opposite was true — I was giving too much to my work, making it too big of a deal, overinvesting. “By overinvestment, I mean pouring so much of your time, energy and soul into your work that you don’t have any left for the rest of your life.” Oh, snap! Busted. And yet, as she says, “The great news is that you have an entire summer ahead of you when you can reset.”
Recently, I read a quote from Mandeq Ahmed, “There is two types of tired, I suppose. One is a dire need of sleep, the other is a dire need of peace.” I thought about this a lot, because I’m am tired much of the time. Part of it is having an autoimmune disorder, part of it is being a crappy sleeper, part of it is not allowing myself enough rest, but could part of it be a “dire need of peace”? And if so, how do I make that happen? What does that even mean?
Lisa Congdon considered the question in a recent blog post, What Makes a Good Life? Her own over-investment in her work has made her start to reconsider how she does things. “Truth is, it’s time for me to work less, create space around the projects and travel I do commit to and begin to slow down. My happiness, health and quality of life depend on it.”
One idea also comes from the latest issue of Lion’s Roar. Melvin McLeod, Editor-in-Chief, suggests, “The simplest spiritual instructions are often the most profound — and the most difficult to follow. Just sit. Be compassionate. Trust in your basic goodness. Love … They’re so simple we don’t believe them.” He goes on to say, “Here’s another all-too-simple instruction in this issue: Enjoy your life. So much changes when you enjoy your life, day by day, in simple, wholesome ways.”
But it’s what follows that really gets me. “How can you weather strong emotions if you feel inadequate, incomplete, and guilty inside? How can you be happy if you feel you don’t deserve happiness? How can you trust the goodness of the world if you don’t trust your own? How can you enjoy life if you don’t enjoy being you?” And, as an answer, finally this, “How do you be who you really are? How do you become who you are already? Here’s another simple instruction: Stop. Do nothing. Don’t even ‘meditate.’ Just do nothing, and samsara will stop turning and you will be who you really are.”
In my start of summer vacation funk, it goes like this: I’m hyper-aware of “all the things,” that long ongoing to-do list of everything I couldn’t get to while I was working that I imagine being able to “catch up” while on vacation, which doesn’t make it much of a vacation, so I resist, but then feel guilty, which leads to feeling confused and frustrated and even a little depressed. I sit on the couch watching a movie, which I’m allowed to do, there’s nothing wrong with it, but somehow any joy in that activity is interrupted by this little voice saying, “what are you doing just sitting here when there’s so much that needs to be done? you suck.”
Which reminds me of a recent post on Marc and Angel Hack Life, 5 Signs it’s Time to Do Less. All five signs are there, it’s clear. #4 on the list, “You have lost sight of your priorities,” is particularly relevant. All the spinning, the confusion most definitely comes from losing sight of my intention, of not being clear about what I want. Which is exactly what Adreanna Limbach says about the three types of laziness, as discussed in Buddhism, essentially that laziness is “saying no to our best wishes” or “misdirected will.”
The three types of laziness are, as Adreanna describes them, having a lack of vision, speedy business, and disheartenment. We forget our intention, why we’ve said “yes” to something in the first place, lose our sense of purpose, and this can make us feel stuck, apathetic. Or, in a culture which sees productivity as a virtue, we fill up our time doing things that aren’t in line with our vision, our intention, our mission, and we treat busyness as a badge of honor. And finally, we might feel unworthy or disappointed in our efforts and lose patience, maybe even give up.
A few more things I read that were so helpful: The Source of Your Wisdom on The Girl Who Knows and The Next Time You’re Feeling Exhausted, Stop & Ask Yourself this One Question on Elephant Journal. The first says, “When you consciously decide to make space for your inner wisdom on a consistent basis, you are inviting something raw and real to bubble to the surface of your mind. The resulting information often seems simple. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it will be so worth it.” The second offers, “It often takes less energy to unravel our true feelings than it does to keep suppressing them.”
So it seems to come down to this: Slow down, stop striving, be still. Ask yourself what you really want, what you really need. Remember your intention. Be who you are, fully and without apology.