Inside: Our real, messy lives will be “never enough” until we embrace imperfection and accept that we are not in control of it all.
I opened up my inbox as I often do in the morning to sift through interesting articles and ideas, share some online, and save a seed or two of thought for a later date.
This morning it struck me as funny – in a sort of unfriendly, depressing way – that my intentionally curated inbox, brimming with interesting stats, science, and personal opinion for how to optimize these short lives of ours, simply highlights and exacerbates the pressure we (I) can feel as we try to navigate this messy world and do our best to thrive inside of it.
A smattering of my Sunday morning reading
Paul Jarvis reposted his article about the “exterior mindfulness” of defining enough for our lives. “In order to be more aware of what makes sense for our lives and businesses, we need to be aware of what enough means.” This felt easy enough but then I kept reading.
The Blue Zones email reminded me that “research has shown that if we sit less and move more, we live longer.” They recommend boosting our NEAT, or Non–Exercise Activity (ex. yard work, walking to work, housework, or even fidgeting) for improved health outcomes. “A total of about two and a half hours of standing and light walking around the house or office should do it.” I could use my standing desk more and stand up during some of my work calls.
And then, in another article from the Blue Zone’s newsletter, they remind us that NEAT activity is not enough. “A study from the American Cancer Society followed 140,000 older adults and reported that those who walked six hours per week had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer than those who were not active, but that walking even as little as two hours per week could begin to reduce the risk of disease and help you live a longer, healthier life.” I’m doing not too bad on this front and I keep reading.
Maria Shriver’s Sunday Post highlights the loneliness epidemic (must make room for connection on my calendar this week) and of the myriad emotional/physical/psychological health benefits of mindfulness and meditation (a couple hours or so a week should do the trick). My calendar is getting real full at this point but the good news is I’m already taking part in Tara Brach’s Self-Compassion challenge and her meditation and interview of the day are waiting for me in my inbox too. I’ll need to find an hour for that. Maybe while making supper – engaging in (non-mindful) NEAT activity.
But wait – there’s more!
Maria’s newsletter also shared an article entitled “The Case for Laziness.” This I definitely want to read because I’m already exhausted thinking about the week ahead! “Burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases are on the rise.” And now “The World Health Organization (has) recognized burnout for the first time as an official medical diagnosis.” Yikes.
The solution offered in this article? “Of course, we can exercise, eat well and be mindful about all sorts of things, but that still gives us something to do: thinking, planning and executing one activity or another. Instead, the solution is clear. We need to do nothing.”
My heart rate quickens as I open up my agenda once more and search frantically for where I can carve out some “do nothing” time.
I’m almost done now, but not quite. Brain Pickings is talking about grief this morning – a topic that is very real and present in my current life. Maria Popova writes about “the harrowing aftermath of loss“, the physical/emotional/psychological distress of it and how it’s like learning to live all over again. It destabilizes the life we have known. Every day – many moments of each day – is a new first. A relearning. Remembering how to breathe. And unfortunately, grief will not be corralled into a tidy little time block on my calendar.
Grief is all encompassing yet in the western world we are expected to quickly pull ourselves up by our socks and carry on. “Maybe it’s not a coincidence that in Western countries with fewer mourning rituals, the bereaved report more physical ailments in the year following a death.” Maybe grievers should just walk or meditate more?!
So somehow, as I look forward to the week ahead, I need to figure out how to squeeze “mourning” into my days beside meditation, walking, NEAT, sleep, sex if I’m lucky, preparing (whole) food, being present for my children and husband, work, showering, junk mail, dealing with the myriad painful yet necessary details of losing an adult child, bill paying, solving tech issues, home repairs, car service, grocery shopping, and all my “doing nothing.”
It’s all important so clearly there MUST be a way. Right?
We need to embrace imperfection because otherwise, our messy, real life will never feel like enough.
I feel agitated now. Stressed, concerned for my health. My easy Sunday morning is derailed awhile – until I circle back to the first article I read about consciously determining our own enough.
Not enough time for all the healthy activities and doing nothing. Not enough money for the healthiest food and supplements and to take time off work for enough rest. Not enough days that go according to our well-laid plans. Not enough time with the people we love.
These real lives of ours are messy. They refuse to run perfectly according to agenda and spreadsheet and timetable. There is so much that is uncomfortable and unpredictable about them. Like grief, it’s easier to pretend or live in denial. It’s easier to brush this reality under the rug and pretend that we are in control of it all.
But we’re not. We will have to make hard choices – imperfect choices each step of the way. We will be required to sift through competing tensions and desires on a daily basis. Hang out with our daughter, fully present, or get in some extra movement. Write or meditate. Buy organic apples or stay in budget. Lay on the couch and read or seek out community.
It cannot be all or nothing. We will need to simply do something. And let that be enough.