Re-entering the “real world” after 16-days of actual rainbows and sunshine in Santa Barbara was a major shock to my system, as I alluded to in Part 1:
“I’ve been working harder every day but feeling like I am falling farther and farther behind. I’ve felt exhausted to the core; disappointed and helpless as I watched (mortified and even ashamed at) how quickly the clarity and calm from White Lotus escaped me.”
On the first day back I could already feel anxiety pulsing through every vein. My breath was short and I ran around like a maniac all day re-arranging a room in my house (more below) as an avoidance tactic to delay diving into the massive amount of work that had piled up while I was gone.
Ganga and Tracy taught us to breathe – that breath is life – and to treat our whole day as our yoga – but I quickly spiraled into a nervous, compulsive, frenzied state. I wanted so badly to carry that zen, relaxed, peaceful yogini-self with me into my normal life. I wanted to change the way I work and commit to habits that would sustain me over the long-term, especially as I prepare to launch and promote my book next year.
By my second day back I was feeling semi totally panicked about how much I had on my plate. I felt like I was sinking faster by the minute in productivity quicksand. Every day I woke up earlier to start working, but every day I ended farther behind. Balancing a full plate at work, the final-final-final edits of my book and drama over the cover (it goes to press any day now) was wearing on me. Without my full emotional faculties, every text message, phone call, email request and social commitment that piled up felt increasingly suffocating.
By last Friday, I was a total wreck. A hot, hot mess. Case in point: I made myself my first coffee in a loooong time so that I could survive the afternoon slump, then ended up spilling it all over the table five minutes before starting to deliver a three-hour training, eyes still red and puffy from crying hysterically that morning as I was getting dressed for work. Feeling guilty but in survival mode, I regretfully cancelled all weekend plans (again) so I could try to get my life in order (again).
I’m not trying to be dramatic – I know that people have it so much worse than I do. I am ridiculously lucky to have the problems I have (and the unwavering support of my friends and blogger BFF Elisa). At the same time, I am determined to start solving these problems for myself and others who get overwhelmed by the big shoes they are trying to fill.
“Our culture has an excess of doing and a poverty of being” – Ganga White
People often tell me to stop doing so much, to slow down, or to go easy on myself. It sounds so easy. But that doesn’t change the number of deadlines at work or with the book, or the number of email requests in my inbox. If I knew how to change the situation, I would. But somehow I keep ending up back here.
Here is my pattern (which may be blindingly obvious to long-time blog readers):
- Work too hard for too long.
- Get overwhelmed and resentful.
- Feel as though I’ve lost myself.
- Fall out of sleep and exercise habits that keep me happy and healthy.
- Get sick and/or break down.
- Force myself to slow down.
- Feel guilty about not being able to keep up with all friends in all corners of the world.
- Gremlin tells me soon I won’t even have friends (or blog readers) if I keep complaining about feeling overwhelmed and ditching everyone to go into “emergency mode.” (Gremlin also kicks in to tell me not to publish this post because it’s too Debbie Downer).
- Promise to change.
- Try my very best to actually change and put myself first…
- Fall back into old habits.
- Feel like I’m lacking the magic sanity-management skillset that others seem to have.
- Repeat steps 1-12.
I feel compelled to quote Ganga’s wise words once more. This is what I would like to strive for instead of the pattern above:
Sit under the stars with a quiet mind and no goal.
Be attentive to all things in life.
Laugh at yourself.
Listen to the voice of your own body.
Carry joy and light on your path.
Listen to the wise, but always question.
Truth and love are simple and ever present.
—Ganga White, Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice
Even though the first week back was rough, all was not lost.
Here are some positive changes I have made:
- I’ve gone coffee free (in an effort to get my natural energy back) – I’ve only had coffee once in two months (to give me a boost for my 5-hour drive back from Santa Barbara). I started cold turkey when I did the Clean Program cleanse about a month ago, and have been really focusing on letting my body return to it’s natural energy rhythms. It feels great – I can already tell I am way less tired in the afternoons.
- I have been eating mostly vegetarian, and significantly reduced my dairy intake. This change was inspired by White Lotus where we ate delicious vegetarian meals every day and watched Food, Inc. (an incredibly powerful and shocking movie from Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation). I also recently read and was encouraged by Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. His core principle: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Pollan has two other great books worth checking out: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
- On my first day back, I gave away my TV (for free!) – I knew it was now or never — and was curious to see if I could survive without a TV…another seemingly impossible feat. I figure without TV I will be more likely to read, write and think — all things I could definitely use more of. If I were smarter I would have waited until after football season, but hey — this might also encourage me to actually leave the house!
- Taught my first (private) yoga class - I am excited about finishing my certification, which means teaching 20 group classes and 5 private sessions (I’ll gladly take volunteers if you’re in the area!). I successfully fumbled through teaching my first class last weekend, and I know it will only get easier from here. I also really want to make time for my own yoga practice every day – even if it’s only 10 minutes. Now if only I could figure out what my recurring dream/nightmare about teaching an unruly yoga class means (twice now I’ve dreamed about teaching a class that rebels and stops paying attention to me).
- Created an “essential self” sanctuary - this is the change I am most excited about. While at training I found myself longing for a dedicated yoga space. In an “aha moment” I realized that I’ve used my dining room about once in the last year. I never cook and I never work at the table, so it seems ridiculous to have a whole corner of my house go unused 99% of the time. So on my first day back I spent the whole day re-decorating to create a yoga/reading room with books, magazines, candles and all kinds of zen paraphernalia. I also bought a gratitude journal to keep in there — before leaving the room, I make a point to write something in it.
BEFORE (the dining room I never used) . . . and AFTER (the yoga zen room!):
My friend Julie is writing a book on this very subject – navigating work in a 24/7 world. We would both love to hear from you:
What is your biggest challenge in managing your work in the global, digital age?
What related problem/s would you want help solving?