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A few days ago, after I finished writing, I noticed that I felt unbalanced.
The energy moving through me was frantic and overactive. I couldn’t settle my thoughts or soften into my body.
I meditated to quell the erratic motion, but it didn’t calm me. When I opened my eyes, I still felt the chaos circulating inside.
Because fresh air grounds me, I went for a walk.
At one point, seemingly without conscious thought, I veered off my path and sat down by the edge of the river. I listened to the soothing sounds of nature and watched its movements dance above and all around me.
I focused on deepening my breath—intentionally easing myself into the act of simply sitting there.
Lately, I’ve been working on something that is really exciting, but it’s also taking a lot out of me.
I haven’t been particularly good at managing my energy and I’ve found myself slipping into a manic state—the hyper, rampant, uncontrollable energy taking over my experience. It tends to happen to me every once in a while, but this last week, it was uncharacteristically persistent.
Every day I’d alternate between high highs and the inevitable subsequent lows.
If I am going to be honest, for the most part, I didn’t mind. I was aware of what was happening. I watched it and felt it. But I felt creative and inspired, and I’d even found a way to focus it into flourishing bouts of extreme productivity.
But this state is not stable or sustainable, and the other day, I realized how much effort it takes for me to come down from it. I noticed that it left me feeling empty, hollow, fractured, and depleted.
I know that not everyone gets manic—that this excess of emotion seems to touch only a few of us. But most people, I think, have difficulties with the idea of stepping back and slowing down, with recognizing how we feel, or at least with accepting it.
It seems to be incredibly hard for us to admit that we have our limits.
We fight the inclination to rest and refuse to yield to the subtle call for surrender.
We think that by always moving we’ll get to our destination faster, but that’s not how it works. And, we lose something in the process.
I write a lot about learning to be gentle with ourselves—probably because it feels so unnatural to me. I’ve always pushed and forced, believing I could make things happen through great effort, action, and hard work. For much of my life, I was consumed by the endless pursuit of the always-more and the could-be-better.
But that way of living doesn’t feel good—it’s not fulfilling.
We need to learn how to work without forcing, and progress without pushing.
We all need to rest and relax. We need to be able to pause and breathe. We need to learn that it’s okay to take it easy sometimes.
We need to be able to notice what is happening inside of us. We also have to find a way to accept it and allow it.
The allowing part seems to be the hardest.
I am self-aware, and I generally know what I’m feeling when I’m feeling it. And yet, I sometimes still refuse to listen.
There’s still a part of me that believes that I should be able to barrel my way through. You know, if only I could just dig a little deeper.
The idea of rest feels weak and inefficient. And we often assume that there must be something wrong with us if, for some reason, we can’t find a way to will ourselves through whatever is blocking us.
But there’s power in vulnerability and strength in admitting it.
It takes courage to acknowledge our vulnerable moments and humility to listen. We’re not used to being tender with ourselves and it might even seem like an odd concept. But we all need kindness, gentleness, and self-compassion.
Besides, we will be far more productive, and the entire process will feel far more joyous, if we come back to doing, whatever we are doing, after we’ve rested.
Working hard isn’t always better, and losing ourselves—even momentarily—just isn’t worth it.
The other day, when I got home from my walk I still felt unsettled.
As I sat in bed, I recognized the frantic rhythm of my anxious heart.
I understood what she was saying, and though it was difficult to release the plans I’d so carefully crafted, I relented.
I did yoga and meditated. I journaled and read.
I watched the shifting colors of the early evening sunset.
I still heard the voice of my inner critic—her worrying and drumming on about what I was missing, losing, and wasting with this senseless inaction.
I didn’t try to silence her. I let her speak. I heard her words.
But I chose to listen to the soft, silent voice of my fragile beating heart instead.