It’s scary to create space. Seriously. Taking a break is not for the faint of heart. To stop the things you normally do (work), habitually do (blog), or even compulsively do (take photos) and to sit in the space that’s left over. Well, it is confronting.
My aim was to look at the month as a cleanse, a spring cleaning of the spirit. You know those cleanses you do for allergies? where you remove all sorts of things from your diet, like dairy, wheat, sugar, and then slowly, incorporate those items back in? The idea is that you get to see how your body reacts, distinguish how each thing effects you, for better or worse. It’s also an opportunity to see if you can nourish yourself without these things.
And so I started my cleanse by clearing my physical space. I purged the heck out of it, selling everything I could, cleaning and organizing all the cluttered up nooks. I even pretended we were moving and considered each item with the same precise question, If we were moving right now would I bother putting bubble wrap around this and putting it in a box? I loved this task and felt like with every item I let go of, the more my mind could be clear, the more space there was to breathe.
And then there was my body to cleanse. I needed to heal. I needed to rest. I was sick as a dog for nearly two months, had had a sore throat for most of that time, and after a round of antibiotics and lots of acupuncture I was out of ideas. Let me add that when I get sick, I keep going. Partly out of necessity (Ben has needs that supercede my own) but also out of habit, out of a compulsive need to do do do, keep up, lest everyone forgets about me, I fall behind, I blow it, I fail, it all falls apart. There is some deep fear embedded in there, like if I stop or get help, or god forbid take a vacation, I will be behind. Losing. I have always been like this, as evidenced by my perfect attendance record all through elementary school and high school. Seriously. I have witnesses.
So I rested, and also made a pledge to stop finishing Ben’s hot dogs and french fries and go to Farmer’s markets more. I started practicing yoga again (oh, painful) got on my bicycle (I love you Flirt) and started drinking Kombucha tea (the first few bottles tasted like salad dressing, but now I quite like it) I also planted vegetables for the first time in my life, three kinds of tomatoes.
But those were the easy parts.
The thing about creating space is that you get to see where you’ve been hiding.
For me, it was in work. I stopped blogging, for example, but couldn’t resist filling my blog with awesome guest bloggers while I was away (They were so good I considered outsourcing the whole enterprise) I put an autoresponder on my email that I was away, but couldn’t resist filling jewelry orders anyway. It took me weeks to unfurl myself from my habitual ways of being and doing. it was uncomfortable. I noticed that there was empty space there. What do I do now? And there is some pain in feeling that emptiness, noticing the holes we fill by working hard and using social media and compulsively connecting, connecting, connecting… It was painful to see some of the places I hadn’t tended while I was tending other parts of my life.
It’s easy to do what works. It’s easy to feed the thing that is flowing, that makes you feel satisfied because it is giving you some juice. There is nothing wrong with that. Of course we are going to feed the things that are working best in our lives. But having the courage to look squarely in the face of what is hard, to turn toward what is challenging and tend those things too, (however confronting they are) well that’s another thing entirely.
So what are the benefits of stopping then, right?
At yoga recently, the teacher talked about how our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses. He used the example of how he is really friendly and kind, and how this strength gets him really far in life. “Until,” he said, “I really have to fight for something or set a strong boundary. Then it is my greatest weakness.”
I mused on this as I practiced, noticing that my greatest strength in yoga is my flexibilty (like feet behind the ears crazy talk) how I don’t have to be incredibly strong because I can always use my flexibility to pick up the slack. I can get by on my flexibility in almost every pose. Except for the poses where I can’t! and then I get to see where I need to build up my strength.
I think that’s what this break did for me. I got to see where things are out of balance. I got to see the pieces of my life that I lean into because they work, because I am good at them, because I can almost, almost, get by on just those things.
I can even forget that say, being strong is important too. That being healthy is important. That having fun is important. I can forget that inviting friends to dinner and going on adventures with my family is important. But it is. I want all of that too.
I’m adding blogging back into my diet again and I’m going to watch how it feels. I don’t think I’m allergic to it, but everything in moderation, right? I did miss you guys. Thank you for being here. And guest bloggers, bless you! It was so much fun to visit my blog and see your faces and words here. It’s good to be back!