Yesterday I was talking to publisher and entreprenuer Paula Bisacre about how it sometimes feels like you have to constantly push, push, push to create a life that has meaning. This is a conversation I have had many times over the years with different people: Why can’t my life be easy? Why can’t I be like those people who seem to find happiness so effortlessly? Why can’t I be less complicated? Why does my Inner Critic have to be so critical of me? Why can’t I just have a simple life? Why do I have to work so hard?
While contemplating this idea, I took a break to play with my daughter. She is currently learning how to stand up. I put a box of diapers in front of her. She grabbed the sides and pulled herself up into a stand. Wobbling back and forth, she practiced balancing for a good ten minutes. Then with little grunts that showed just how hard she was working, she pulled one hand off the box and waved it in the air like a bull rider. She was so pleased with herself that she grinned and giggled even as she continued to struggle. “I did it! I did it!” she seemed to be thinking. It brought tears to my eyes watching her work so hard.
But then something happened. She stood up straight, let go of the box with both hands, pushing herself backward as she did so with absolute faith that I would be there to catch her. She was in free fall for a few seconds before her tushy hit my lap. Then she snuggled into my shirt and smiled.
My daughter stopped pushing when she needed a break. It was that simple.
But she can still listen to her body. Her movements are dictated by her energy and she doesn’t know how to ignore what her body needs. When I try to take breaks, my Inner Critic, The Heavyweight (TH), immediately starts yelling at me:
TH: What are you doing?!!! You lazy, son-of-a-b&*?%!!!! Move! Move! Move! Don’t you know that you are going to fail if you just sit on your butt and do nothing?!
ME: But I’m so tired. I just need a break.
TH: Take a break and you’ll never get up again!
ME: Just fifteen minutes. That’s all.
TH: You are such a loser! This is all because you’re fat and stupid! You have no self-control!!! Etc. Etc. Etc.
I don’t know about you but I would rather be like my daughter. I would rather listen to my energy and push when I need to push and relax when I need to relax.
When do you stop pushing? When you need a break. Even if it’s only five minutes here and there to begin, start building breaks into your life. For the next few days, pay attention to your energy levels. When you get cranky or feel de-energized, stop and take ten really deep breaths all the way down into your belly. Put on some beautiful music. Visit a flower shop. Call up one of your beloveds. Watch your all-time favorite movie.