I want to tell you the truth about what my life was like a few years ago. I was overworked, exhausted, addicted to sugar and caffeine. Whenever I’m tempted to sugar-coat (pun intended) the stress of that lifestyle, I remember this: I came down with shingles at the ripe old age of 23.
During that time, I felt as though I could never get enough sleep. I’d spend my weekends in bed watching Gilmore Girls because I didn’t have the energy for much else. (Since I couldn’t go out and banter with my friends, I lived vicariously through Lorelai and Rory.)
Back then, I didn’t fully appreciate the body’s wonderful (and terrible) capacity to rebel against situations that stifle the soul.
During this time I felt, acutely, the weight of my responsibilities to others. I served as a full-time, live-in caregiver, then a non-profit program director. I was working for and alongside beloved people, and that kept me going.
As is par for the course for perfectionists, I did well in my roles. I kept getting promoted. I kept taking on additional tasks and saying yes to new requests. But in order to ‘succeed’, I’d push aside the responsibility of caring for myself.
The responsibility of caring for myself was like a discarded piece of luggage that I tried to leave behind at an airport. But it was as though I had a diligent security guard next to me, a vigilant man who recognized that the bag was mine to carry.
And whenever I tried to turn away from caring for myself – whenever I’d explain that the other items I carried rendered it too much to bear – the guard would look at me with sad eyes and place it on my shoulders anyway.
Inevitably, I’d walk a few strides, then tumble under the strain. This kept happening until I realized: I had to carry my own bag. And in order to do so, I had to let go of other things, though I’d carried them so long I believed they belonged to me.
Finally, I ended up on the floor enough times.
My life was falling apart, but it was also coming together.
Those ‘crashes’ gave me an invaluable gift: the chance to see the truth about my life. They pointed me in a new direction; they helped me to let go of the excess baggage and focus on the essential instead. Slowly but surely, I grew stronger … strong enough to pursue (and realize) my dream of writing full-time.
So yes, my friend, I empathize; it is tough to keep falling down under the weight of all those bags you’re carrying. I may not know much, but I do know this: the process itself is trying to tell you something.
The experience may feel harsh, but it’s actually benevolent. Sometimes life has to get difficult, to get loud, in order to wake us up.
The process will keep repeating itself until you listen.