Taking it easy

As 2011 continues, I’m pausing to reflect on what this year has brought, so far. There’s been a lot of activity, a lot of productivity, a lot of accomplishment. And now that the summer is upon us, I’m ironically starting to back off on my activity a bit. It’s interesting – maybe I’m just the kind of person who runs against the grain, but when everyone else starts picking up the pace, I find myself digging my heels in and becoming pretty contrary. The more pressure I feel to DO SOMETHING, the less inclined I am to do it.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve been coming across more and more mentions in the popular press about how we tend to drive ourselves too hard, we don’t relax enough, we don’t take enough time for ourselves and our health. I’ve been making my health a top priority (literally — getting up and exercising first thing each morning) for some time now. And I still do it. But where my devotion used to be intently focused and driven, now I feel myself backing off a bit. I overdid it a little bit with the exercise, pushing myself each morning to dive head-first into my physical day. And I believe I may have overtrained, to the point where I was actually weakening myself with my constant activity.

I was supposed to be getting stronger, but I felt like I was losing strength.

So, I’ve changed that up, and I’ve been a lot less driven about exercising each morning. Sure, I get on the exercise bike and ride 3-5 miles before I do anything else. But I don’t do those intense intervals, and I don’t always follow it up with lifting weights in my regular routine. I’ll do something else – stretching exercises or some light yoga or lifting different weights in a different sequence. Some mornings, I don’t do anything at all. I used to feel awful, if I didn’t exercise first thing, but I’m past that now.

And it feels good. It feels healthy. It feels like I’m doing myself a favor, by backing off. Sure, I do really push myself, at times. Many times, in fact. But I’m learning the value of rest and relaxation. Finding a balance. Able to rest and relax and not get too side-tracked by my resting… the way I used to.

This is progress. See, it used to be that I was either ALL ON or ALL OFF. There was no in-between. There was only ALL. And heaven help anyone who got in my way. Now, since I’ve been practicing relaxing, and I’m getting a handle on checking in with my body to make sure I’m not too stressed and frazzled, and my energy isn’t getting “stuck” in a lot of tension, it’s like this extra energy has loosened up with me, and instead of relaxation making me lazy or slothful or a stick in the mud, now it’s actually helping me be more active in good ways.

When I let myself catch up with myself, I give my sympathetic nervous system a much-needed break from fight/flight mode, and it can catch up with itself, too. So, when it’s time to get going, I can really get going.

I’m also learning how to get myself up out of a rut, and get on with things, when I’m “resting”. That ALL ON/ALL OFF business gets me stuck in “relaxation mode” and then nothing gets done and I get jammed up and start to piss and moan. And all the relaxation benefits go right out the window. Now that I’m learning how to get myself in gear, even when I’m stuck in the mud, things are going much better.

And I’m happier, too.

And that’s pretty cool.

Toward rut-less-ness

A new trail...

I need a new gig.

Not a new job. Not a new life. But a new way of structuring my days — that incorporates a whole lot more flexibility into my schedule.

I guess I need a new kind of gig.

I took some time yesterday to step back from everything and really think things through. I worked from home and took a nap in the afternoon. Took my time at things. Didn’t focus so much on the little tasks, but thought about the larger picture… what I’m actually DOING with my life.

It’s not enough, anymore, to just take care of issues and meet requirements. I need something more. I need some meaning behind it all. When I was 25, it was enough to do what other people told me to do, and it was profoundly fulfilling to just do the things that I thought I couldn’t do.

Now, though, things are different – very different indeed. And why I do appreciate the need to deliver on promises and achieve goals, there needs to be something more to it, than just doing as I’m told.

I think a lot of people get to this point when they get to be around my age — mid-40’s — wondering “what’s it all about?” I won’t say it’s a “mid-life crisis”, because it’s not a crisis. It’s more of a check-in along the way. I also won’t say “mid-life” also because I plan to live past 90. I’ve got relatives who are in the 100-year range, and they grew up without a lot of the medical and health resources I have. I believe it’s entirely possible to life well past 90, in my case. So that’s what I’m planning for.

That means I’ve got a ways to go. And I need to pace myself. I need to not drive headlong into the future just for the sake of driving. I need to live my life fully — mindfully. I’ve tried it other ways, and I got hurt a lot, when I did it that way.

I don’t want to get hurt, anymore. It’s time-consuming, soul-consuming, and very, very expensive. Hard to bounce back from. Been there, done that. Still kind of there, in fact. Don’t much care for it.

So, back to this “rut business”. I’ve noticed that I’m getting more and more tired, as time goes on. I’ve changed up my sleep schedule, because I just don’t do well with going to bed early. But I don’t really sleep in, either. I’m getting maybe 6 hours of sleep a night. 7 if I’m lucky. At the start, it wasn’t a big deal, but it’s catching up with me.

I really need to start taking naps around mid-day, and stop pushing myself through. Or at the very least, step away and do progressive relaxation for 15-20 minutes. I feel SO much better, when I am at least slightly rested. I’ve also noticed that being tired takes all the joy out of what I’m doing.

Sure, I may be feeling high and pumped from the extra adrenaline, but it’s taking a toll on both my body and my spirit. I want to enJOY what I’m doing with myself each day. And I can’t do that, when I’m overtired and struggling just to keep awake. When I’m rested, everything just flows… and I don’t need as much structure, as much of a rut, to keep me going. I just keep going, because it feels great, and I’m really into what I’m doing. When I’m rested, when I’m alert, I’m so much better able to participate and contribute. Because I’m all there — and I don’t have to funnel my energy into the most basic activities. Rest takes care of those for me, so I can focus my attention on the higher things. The really, really important things — like what all I’m doing with my life.

And why.

I really do need to be disciplined about this nap business. Really make the effort. Do this nap thing on-purpose, regularly, for six weeks — that’s how long it takes to develop a habit — and see what it gets me. I suspect it’s going to really help. I’ll have to report in regularly about this… now I’m curious.

Well, speaking of discipline, it’s time for me to get ready for work. I’ve had my exercise and my breakfast, and I’ve written a little bit to keep myself on track. Next up — the rest of my day, wherein I work with others towards common goals and greater prosperity for us all.

ONward.