When my husband got home from work the other day, he found me sitting on the deck with a glass of iced tea looking at my feet and wondering whether it was time to replace the nail polish. Now, this may not sound like a bad thing - but it felt like a bad thing to me.
See, I did not have the most productive day that day. I started out with good intentions, sat down at the computer, pulled up the "to do" list, and started thinking about where to start. Then I thought "this would be easier with another cup of tea" so I went downstairs and made a cup of tea. But while I was waiting for the water to boil, I did a little clear out of the fridge, then unloaded the dishwasher, then made the tea and headed back upstairs. Then I thought "I should do a load of laundry" and that led to gathering up all the bathroom rugs and towels, and taking the sheets off the bed. In short, I found one task after another to keep my so busy that by the middle of the afternoon, I just sort of gave up on the list of things to do and went outside to contemplate my toes.
When Ray got home, I felt silly and a little ashamed that all my good intentions just disintegrated. How could I have spent the whole day doing nothing? But then I realized I had not, in fact, spent the whole day doing nothing. In fact, I'd been very busy. I had spent the whole day avoiding. Work wasn't swimming along very well and I was tired. But saying I was tired seemed weak, somehow. I work for myself, surely I should be able to pace myself to just work my way down the list. There just aren't that many interruptions - the kids are out of the house, Ray's at work, things are pretty settled with friends and family. So, what was the problem?
I was, quite simply, overwhelmed. The list was long, and many of the tasks on it won't show any payoff for quite some time. When you own any sort of retail focused business, holiday planning begins now, at the latest. So I was thinking about December, and how to manage between now and then and all the things that need to get done for the business. I'm engaged in a war of words and will with one of the big platforms over advertising, and I don't see anyway to make myself heard. Some supplies are in short demand and let's not even talk about the cost of shipping to get those supplies. Decisions need to be made about which in-person markets to attend and I need to finalize the plan to feed the social media machine. And while my family listens to me talk out loud about these things, the reality is these are my decisions and when things go wrong, my mistakes. It's a little overwhelming. And never ending.
Rather than acknowledge that I felt overwhelmed and giving myself permission to take a break, I found a whole bunch of things that "had" to be done, so I didn't feel guilty about the time away. In truth, it was a big mistake. I didn't get any real rest to help quiet my mind. I replaced one list with another and lots of busy work.
Why do we, women in particular, feel so bad about resting? And why have we decided that resting has to be active? You know what I'm talking about - self-care suddenly has become the word to live by, but let me tell you, there are a whole lot of people out there who are turning self-care into an event. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to the occasional self-care event. But it's also true that sometimes selfcare means doing nothing. And, it's ok to just do nothing. It's not a sign of weakness or self-indulgence or lack of willpower or a moral failing. Sometimes, we're just tired and maybe a little overwhelmed and when we refuse to acknowledge that, we just make the situation worse.
It's a cliche' but the tighter we hold onto the sand, the more it trickles out of our hands. The more I tried to compensate for feeling overwhelmed by pretending I wasn't, the worse I felt. Yes, I got rid of that sad bit of pasta salad lurking at the back of the fridge, but nothing I did that day really addressed the things that created those feelings of anxiety and overwhelmed-ness.
So now, I have resolved that when those feelings strike, I'm just going to acknowledge them and take a break. I'm going to let go and trust myself enough to know that I can find the right answers, and if some of the answers are less than perfect or even wrong, I will survive. We need time to rest. We need to let our minds rest. And for me at least, the best way to do that is to acknowledge that need and just let go. Stop clutching, stop filling the day with busywork and stop letting those negative thoughts crowd out the quiet that I crave and need.
It's summer - the perfect time to rest. Really rest. To stop holding on so tightly and to accept that an hour on the deck looking at your toes may, in fact, be just the selfcare you need.