Itty bitty sh**ty days

We all have them, don’t we?

When we have a dark taste in our mouth and feel fidgety. Like nothing of any use is going to come through these limbs today. Like you feel unsettled but some rarely felt mix of agitated, pained, stressed, urgent, and listless. You move around the house, wanting to get more done. At work you might shuffle papers around and not get far with anything.

What could it be?

What is plaguing you? Why is it awful and unproductive today?

The forecast is pointless, with chance of showers and a strong northerly pushing whiffs of wistful in through the afternoon.

You want to want to do something useful.

But you kind of don’t.

There’s plenty to be getting on with, but you can’t seem to get any minutes to stick together in a way that produces anything, they slip away like beach sand streaming out of your sandals in summer.

The day! The day! You can just see how it will bloom and fade without any great achievements or small accomplishments to decorate it with. Night time will come and you will be relieved because now you no longer have a day spanning out in front of you and expectations swarming you ears like flies.

Lost. You feel kind of lost.

Why? Why lost? Where is this coming from? For me, on the last day I felt like this I wondered…

  • Is it disappointment, a feeling of failure that has stuck to me like cold chip shop oil in your hair, slyly following you after that thing I did wrong yesterday?
  • Is it unsettled because of the moving and changing things around me, and the feeling that I can’t quite get a grip or rhythm with anything?
  • Is it some mix of hormones and non-sustaining food I’ve eaten this morning?
  • Is it just tired, and the senseless dreamy state that comes with that?

 

When you feel like this it can be hard to get a grip of feelings.

Try tapping into the feelings. Try pausing, with pen and paper and using metaphor to explain yourself to yourself in a rambly way, without knowing what you will say (write) next. Try pausing to feel and name those feelings. Maybe you write them, maybe you draw them.

I feel cloudy, foggy, lost, aimless, drifting. I feel walking in circles, I feel adrift.

I feel hopeless and alone and like I can’t make it, I don’t have what it takes and no one will rescue me. I feel disappointed in my self and cynical, like I was deluded and all was for nothing.

I feel like everything is chopped into tiny pieces and everything is crumbly, and nothing comes together to make a coherent whole. I feel pointless, and meaningless, and without direction. I feel like my compass is spinning around and around and I don’t know how to move. I feel weary and like hiding out.

I feel kind of angry for no reason and like everyone around me is hideously annoying and the whole world is full of jerks!

And now the tears come.

 

And on the movement of the tears our little boat slips forward, no longer quite so stuck. The water feels a little clearer, and we may feel a little more whole.

 

And then we yawn.

And then we wipe our tears.

And then we get on with however the day will be.

 

Image: is one of my collage pieces

Its OK to start with what is close by and easy

I have noticed that I have a tendency as a new business owner to overlook or discredit the contacts and offers close to home – an old work colleague who suggests a partnership, an old workplace that once offered casual work, a friend who suggested a way to get more business etc.
Somehow these ‘familiar’ places and faces feel less BIG and IMPORTANT and glamorous than working with strangers, or building a huge mailing list or the other things I think I ‘should’ be doing.

But who says that’s what I should be doing? Maybe these humble small steps, offered and facilitated by people who already know me and have worked with me before are the way my business is going to grow.

Step by step, contact by contact. Maybe these ‘close to home’ steps are like a plant sending out roots, hunting for nutrients so that I can grow taller and stronger towards the light. Maybe later my roots will grow bigger and extend our towards the Unknown, but even then, they will only ever grow incrementally, nudging from the very familiar and already grown into the fresh empty soil.

Are you also resisting the easy path?

easy-1030467_640Does a small voice inside you warn that only hard slog and chronic busy-ness lead to success? Are you more committed to ‘looking busy’ to keep this puritanical bossy and pushy voice satisfied, than you are to outcomes?

Or is the prospect of success quietly terrifying? Could you be skipping the ‘obvious’ steps that arise with grace and ease because deep down at some subconscious level you know that this is the path to an easy life, a life that you are not wholly sure you deserve?

My tip is to remind yourself that the small and already known (a friend of a friend taking your photos rather than paying thousands you don’t have for a professional photographer, a cousin suggesting their workplace for your venue, an old workmate offering to help in some way) might be exactly the help the universe is providing.
Sure, if you are starting a new business, working with new clients and connecting with new organisations can be great. If you are an artist starting out, a commission from a stranger is thrilling and a boost to your confidence. If you are a consultant, a trainer or even hairdresser nabbing a brand new client that you’ve never worked with can feel fantastic.

By all means do those too if the opportunity arises, but don’t throw away the opportunities close to home, the repeat business, the humble next step, just because they don’t match some predetermined vision of what running your business ‘should’ look like. Instead of being driven by them – like an exhausted horse beneath an insensitive rider – consider stopping to engage in dialogue with the parts of you that dismiss these steps that have presented themselves. Perhaps gently ask them why they distrust and devalue the easy path.

The simple steps to success might already be knocking on your door – don’t turn them away because you’re too busy strategising the next (theoretical) grand move.

Coming Events:

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A visioning workshop is being offered this Saturday the 6th February in Sydney – come along and focus on your dreams, wishes and goals for the year. Reconnect with your power as a dream-maker, in a sharing, safe, fun group environment. See more details HERE.

WomensgroupimageJade is also running a 6-week Women’s Wellbeing Group on Wednesday evenings in Sydney. The next group is starting on Wednesday the 17th February in Glebe. To find out more or register your ticket see here HERE.

Giving up on the already exhausted will

REST

… To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bull’s eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.

– David Whyte 

Thankyou David Whyte. I breathe that in like cool morning air over the water. Thank you.

Finding our way to rest

Rest has been hard for me to learn over the years. I come from a long line of ‘do-ers’ – constantly busy bumble bees, people who collage, knit or do housework while watching television (if they can sit still long enough to watch it), people who catch up on phone calls while cleaning the fridge or making dinner, who quickly repaint walls after dinner and before dessert, who get fidgetey doing nothing, who like to do, do, do and make, make, make. We like to do lots! We like to do it fast! My own projects are often nested one within another like Russian dolls, an endless to do list of exciting things to work on. Whether or not it’s for some grand purpose (usually it’s not), whether or not anyone else will like the outcomes, whether or not the thing is even needed.

Are we hyperactive? Are we afflicted with ADHD or some similar set of letters capitalised and definitive, I hear you ask? Are we suffering some kind of existential angst that grips us in it’s leathery talons when we slow down and so fills us with fear of inconsequentiality, or death, we are propelled into movement? Quite possibly.

Are we ‘creative types’ always seeing a use for things; our minds skipping and jumping to what that discarded drink container, cork, fire hose, piece of rusty metal, lace doily, piece of string could be used for? Full of excitement in the possibility of making something new, propelled forward by curiosity? Yes and yes.

Or are we in fact just typical humans, playing out the arc of the 20th and 21st centuries and riding the waves of progress, the buzz of creating, changing, making a mark? Is it a standard issue part of being human, the happy busy of using our minds and hands together, and I’m just more aware of the particular way my family does this then I am yours? Possibly.

What I do know is that for me, I get such joy out of being ‘up’ and out of ‘making’ that sometimes I forget it is not the only way to be. It took me a long time to even believe that I might be a busy person – instead of seeing what I have already done, I would be looking forward at what I haven’t done yet, what still needs to be done, and my ideas yet to come to fruition. How could people say I am always doing so much, when I knew how much I had yet to do?

For me, I have had to learn, painfully at times, that what comes up must come down, and that like the fairy tale story of the girl wearing the little red shoes*, if we are not careful, we can be carried along on our states of ecstatic productivity or creativity, and left worn out and exhausted, the other parts of our life neglected, and that mysterious thing balance is nowhere to be found.

Sinking in to a deep rest periodically, or having longer periods of less active time as bookends to the most active, is a crucial way to restore. The yin for the yang, the fallow winter field before a productive spring, the waiting and not-doing as complement to creation. After years of grappling with this I came to realise that even much of my relaxation was active (making, doing), and whilst enjoyable, and creatively engaging, was not giving my system the benefits of deep rest. I have had to find easy ways to build in rest into my days, not only so that I can switch states (and wind down at the end of a busy day for example), but also so that over the weeks and months I am nourishing myself, and can sustain the activity and am ‘topping up the creative well’. If I was a tree this might be the image of accessing deep and fertile soil to support the growing branches and leaves.

Challenges on the path 

In my own journey to embrace rest, I have had to look gently at what drives my activity and especially those areas that are propelled by fear of failure rather than joy of creating. I have had to sit with those uncomfortable feelings that sometimes arise when I slow down, or the words of judgement (like ‘selfish’ or ‘lazy’) that came up when I ‘do nothing’. In addition it can be a shock to realise that the structures of your life, or the amount of commitments make it logistically impossible to factor in downtime. Lately I have been taking it further and with the help of my own trusted teachers** trying to connect with the ‘wu wei‘ – learning to listen to my body’s wisdom about whether I am best being productive or restful in any given period. To do this I am having to learn to trust that honouring my tired feelings with rest, rather than fighting them, will help restore me to a state where I am propelled forward into activity gently and naturally at a later date.

I have come to learn that by embracing rest I don’t turn by back on creative activity, I simply add another tune to my repertoire.

Art therapy and rest

In art therapy, we try to create a space where the client is ‘met’ at whatever energy level they present at. They are walked slowly into relaxed state, or met and mirrored in their energetic state. If they are usually ‘activated’, operating with their sympathetic nervous system in full swing (either through happy excitement, stress or hypervigilence), then a more relaxed state can be an unfamiliar place to visit. We try to create a safe space where the client can have their parasympathetic nervous system activated – so they can experience rest, healing and calm. Meditation, guided visualisation, and art processes like sculpting and drawing are tools we use with the client to help them experience this. The process of slower diaphramatic breathing, the activation of positive emotions, the engagement with the senses, all helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. The physical space is also carefully constructed to look, smell, sound, and feel peaceful and safe to help them relax. In the therapeutic relationship itself, as trust and rapport grows and the client experiences acceptance and kindness, the defence mechanisms can be gently lowered, and a more peaceful state of being settled into. The parasympathetic nervous system, so crucial for healing, can be activated.

With our daily armour softened or left at the door and our pace slowed right down, we can find that place where we feel safe and connected enough to work on the issues we face in our lives. Art therapy is a little like a restful haven away from daily life, a space where we are accompanied in experiencing our strong emotions and reflecting on our own thinking and behaviour, with compassion.

* the story is a cautionary tale about vanity carrying someone away from their station or tribe, and their journey back to humility, but like all good fairy tales it can be read in multiple ways.

** by which I mean my own coach, mentors, therapist or teachers – yes, I have them too! Would you go to a Dentist who didn’t believe in brushing or going to the Dentist themselves?