Second morning of the return to “normality” post Christmas and I suddenly became aware, sat there on my meditation bolster, just what it was that had had me feeling so unexpectedly aggravated yesterday.
Its been a really lovely couple of weeks spent in a small unit of 4 with close family; just what we needed and an absolute tonic but as soon as our little group disbanded on Monday and my husband returned to his home “office” on Tuesday morning (no, before that…the very thought of it made him toss and turn all night!) I began to feel as though a tight coil was being wound more and more tightly in my gut. I spent yesterday locked into a sort of exhausted blue-funk on the sofa catching up on my emails and other less-than inspiring things which, given I’ve been surprisingly robust, upright and lightheartedly creative this Christmas, came as a shock to the system. So there it was this morning…I saw it just as it is…the mindset that we are all implanted with from birth, that we must Rocket Launch the new year with dynamic new intentions and high activity, like its a race to the finish line now we’ve had our little culturally-endorsed break-away from the office. What a con!
Nature is (as ever) the clue to the truth. Out there, it’s now far colder than it was over our very mild Christmas and all the birds in my garden know its still deep winter with, maybe, the coldest yet to come. Our very biology is wired to slow down at this time of year…yes, even after the New Year sales have whipped people into an artificial frenzy…and yet we’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that we all need to dive straight back into the usual, frenetic way of being just as soon as the 4th of January comes around. Its utter brain-washing nonsense, and it deprives us of our best gifts and highest natural-born superpowers, all of which get suppressed beneath a thick layer of exhaustion that leads straight to the inevitable mid-February burn-out. We are all at sixes-and-sevens with the way our bodies work, and with the very way we draw on our personal strengths and best sources of inspiration at this dreaming time of the year, like we are allowed to think we are given the freedom to be who we are but are subtly knocked off track, enough to discombobulate us. Yes, we are even meant to sleep more than life makes room for at this time of the year; it’s how we are programmed.
Part of why I felt so agitated yesterday, I now realise, is the massive increase of traffic on my road, from way before daylight, compared to a couple of weeks over Christmas when traffic levels were pretty spartan. Now, my house grumbles to the sound of heavy vehicles once again but, more than that, its the SPEEEED everyone is going at out there…impacting my nervous system long before I open my eyes in the morning. Slow down already, where’s the fire?
I heard something so very true in Lee Harris’ latest offering “Conversations with the Z’s, The Energetics of the New Human Soul, Part 1” just this morning (and I paraphrase). We have been separated from our truth and one of the ways this has been done is that certain “truths” have been wrapped up inside of constructs designed to separate us from remembering we are multidimensional beings and therefore so much more than the locked-in constructs we tend to live to, day-in-day-out, such as the need to make a living to survive. The fact these nuggets of truth are hidden inside the falsehoods we are fed ensure that we allow ourselves to believe we are on the right track, because there is just enough truth to keep us on that wrong trail, for years if not all of our lives. One of these truths, I suspect, is that (yes) this is a very good time for setting positive aspirations in the ground of our year, the way we plant a seed in readiness for spring. However, that’s all we are meant to do right now…plant and have patience…taking each day at just the right pace to nurture the seed, keeping it warm, feeding it with our creativity and optimism, tinkering with the creative ideas we have just enough to draw them from the earth like an early shoot of hope. We are not meant to dash out into the cold winter garden of our lives at the start of January and start ploughing over the earth with a frenzy!
Our separationist culture tells us otherwise. It has us jumping up like a Jack-in-a-box to do the bidding of our inbuilt “training” to be productive, even when we think we are doing it for ourselves (because we are made to think that material goals are all we really live for and/or that our survival depends on it).
My husband has got the right idea this week, opting to flexi-work his way back into the routine with irregular coffee breaks, or walks by the river with me, according to when he wants to take those pauses. He did an hour or so’s work in his PJs yesterday so he could take a longer break a little later and then he finished off his work not long after the sun set, and if that’s what it takes to get the job done in a way that feels gentler, far more organic, then that’s really great. What he’s always found before is that he actually gets more done this way because it no longer feels like work.
The problem comes as the pressure amps up and more expectations start coming in, forming a hard grid of time blocks in a diary that has precious little room for manoeuvre…which all comes back to the expectations of other people to be able to get things done, get answers “immediately” and make progress with their agendas the very moment the New Year begins. Some things in life, for sure, require structure and schedule but I suspect there is a sizeable layer of stress-strata that could be dissolved in a moment if only people were prepared to be more flexible, reasonable and patient. Certainly, “work from home” allowances and far more flexible working hours would make a huge contribution. If only we all worked together on this, the world of “work” could be made so much more benign and far better for our collective health.
Hopefully the current advisory on “work from home” to do with covid will help out some people’s desire to “ease in” to this new year, not least those of us so introverted we always work best in our own environment, but I gather the struggle continues with some employers. The frustrating thing is that we all work so much better, more productively, when we do it to our own and Nature’s natural rhythms, which includes the circadian and circannual cycles. When we force ourselves out of Nature’s groves, we have to push ourselves so much harder…and our health always takes the toll, sooner or later.
When I work to my natural rhythms, I allow intuition to come up and take a front row seat. This is really key for me right now as its been a BIG Christmas period of creativity and strong intuitions about a lot of things that could enhance my experience of life, not to mention my health. I have irons in many fires and they all show so much promise…but I know the key is not to rush the rate at which each of these irons heat up. So much has come up and through me…just so much coherence and realisation…yet there’s no point jotting it down in my journal as though I had some “clever thought” one day unless I live to these new insights, at their own pace. The trick is not to scare them away before they’ve even settled, and launching projects too fast, too urgently, with far too much pressure can do that every time. Speed really isn’t the sexy thing its being sold as (constantly) by our culture and what I’ve found, time and time again, is that slow and steady gets me there, in fact gets me somewhere I never even dreamed of in more frenetic times, without the burn out; and believe me, with my health-history, I know all about burnout.
This time last week, I was “on holiday” getting up to my own rhythms and following my muse as to what to do with my time, whether that was writing, embroidering or knitting, painting, cooking or planning a completely left-field new creative project I’m suddenly excited to get started on (I’ve concertedly focused on activities that don’t require a computer, which has been so beneficial). All of the above activities are still available to me now that Christmas is “over” and yet somehow, yesterday, I felt utterly rigid, almost “rabbit caught in the headlamps” confronted with the very same choices…because I had somehow changed my whole attitude to how I APPROACHED those same tasks, over-layering them with pressure, perfectionism, timescales, stategies and other such nonsense when really I work best when I am in my natural rhythms and “flow”. Its a potent thing in our culture, this mindset…set to explode like an early-morning alarm call on 4th January, driving people to their desks and their gyms like their life depends on it, and I felt it!!
None of those things apply well to the creative process and yet I somehow got swept along on the cultural switch-over to Rocket Launch mode, perhaps because I felt my husband rise from his bed early, or because of the increased traffic noise outside alerting me it was “back to work day”. Yet the latter is just a concept, it doesn’t affect me (thankfully) and it shouldn’t really have to affect any of us that feel we work better without it; who just know we are our own best selves without feeling as though we are prisoners to a work ethic and have no choice. When we offer up our gifts freely and with joy, we work not only smarter but more productively and with less effort, not to mention so much more creativity and inspiration. It’s how we access our “big picture thinking” and make the kind of unprecedented connections that positively impact the world. At the very least, it’s how we live our best lives and rediscover what really makes us tick…not to mention our health.
How to even start? Well we can all start the process of slowly easing into the year by easing slowly into whatever it is we do with this one day. And then the next day. And then the day after that. Avoid, as far as possible, over-reaching with Grand Projects that become rods for our own backs; try planting more seeds and seeing how they do if we nurture them. Its a form of staying present with this moment and if this moment tells us we need to take a pause we make that pause happen. If we know we would do better to put this task down and take another look at it later or tomorrow we do that. We listen to the body, and we make lots of space for our intuition.
If this creates a “rub” with a certain situation or another person then we at least get to notice what or who it is that is acting as a tyrant over our life. If that situation can’t be changed and is making us unhappy or even ill then we can…slowly…start to change this, either by negotiating the way that we get to do our work or changing where or for whom we work in the first place. This was something I had to do for myself, on a very grand scale, for both my health and my sanity, 16 years ago and I sometimes allow myself to forget that was a battle hard won (but so worth it) and that this more fitting life of mine, these days, didn’t just land easily in my lap…its taken many sacrifices, a complete reinvention of my self-perception (as a so-called productive “unit” in this world) and a whole lot of misunderstanding from other parties. However, I’m just so glad I did that for myself; it saved my life, and I’m so happy to see more people prioritising this for themselves than ever before. Its a collective wake-up call happening at quite a rate of knots, even though we don’t always see it happening at the ground level where peer-group pressure reigns, and thus I hope my daughter and her offspring find a very different ethos about life-work balance waiting for them in just a few years time.
Meanwhile, I have seen the trip wire and stepped over it this morning. Back into my slow-groove, I find my creativity is creeping back and my excitement to do what I really want to do, without so much rushing, is fizzing gently in my stomach. If I’m honest, my most productive time of year is always March to April (not that I consider “productivity” so all-important any more), which is pretty-much in alignment with the green shoots of Spring. Plenty of time to go yet then…and I, finally, have more patience (and a lot more joy) than I ever had in my life.