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.
The issue, of course, is that there will never truly be 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.
Very good observations. Some days you get something done. Some days you don’t.
Thanks, Cathy. Agreed.
Thanks for taking the time to write this, Krista. As I was drinking my morning coffee and reading the three morning meditations I’ve designated for my start to the day AND just completed writing my three “morning pages” from Julia Cameron’s book, the Artist’s Way, I took time to open your email for this post. I’m glad I did. Maybe my inner critic will be just a bit softer today and somewhere I will realize it is enough. Prayers for you on your journey with grief. Kathy
Thank you, Kathy – days in which our inner critics are “just a little bit softer” are good days:)
Thank you for sharing your heart. I needed so much to hear this today…. I’m torn between ‘doing’ and ‘being’ then get paralyzed sometimes…..your words were sweetness to my soul . I pray Gods grace upon you. 💕
Thank you, Joy.
You put into words the exact paradox I have been feeling, and therefore noticing. Thank you for this! You continue to help me in so many ways. Love and light to you always.
That is fun to hear, Amy. I too love when I read someting that expresses what I’ve felt or experienced but have not yet been able to form into coherent thought. xo
Last week I gave birth to my 3rd son by emergency c section. I had a narcotic free surgery which resulted in them having to put me under once they got to the sterilization portion of my surgery due to the fact that I WAS NOT numb😟 I had a short stay in the hospital and returned home to a very disorganized and anxious home. I immediately threw myself back into super mom role and crumbled fast. I beat myself up because my 5 year old is likely on the spectrum and can’t bond with his baby brother the way his 22 month old brother finds it super easy to bond with him. My poor husband quit working in order to help me heal and bless him, but it’s a lot more than he imagined. I’m telling you all of this to say… I needed this today because I came home full force ready to be the PERFECT version of myself and you just reminded me that the perfect version is the one who doesn’t judge herself so harshly. My thing is writing also. I sat to write my birth story yesterday and found every excuse to be distracted even though my heart needed badly to pour from my pen. I won’t pressure myself to get it done today, but I will allow myself the space to not be interrupted if it’s what my heart needs.
Congratulations on your new little person, Anne, and for sharing some of your heart here. Former me can relate to the desire and expectation of being the perfect version of me/mom and never measuring up to that expectation. One thing that helped me soften over a decade ago with three kids at home/homeschooling: instead of focusing on all the doing or accomplishment I asked myself “how do I want these people I love to FEEL in our home?” Or perhaps it was “how do I want our home to FEEL?”
As simple as this is, it created quite an observable shift. I named some ideas for how I wanted our home to feel – ex. safe, creative, acceptance, full of laughter, nourishing … and so over time these words became a filter for my thoughts and behavior. I softeneded. The atmosphere softened.
Of course we had challenges becuase life is hard and parenting each of our unique kiddos can feel hard at times. But this was one of the ways that stand out to me that I began quieting the voice of my inner critic to make space for more rest, joy, and simply BEing.xo
This really resonates.. thank you.
Yes! How do I want you to feel in my home?
I love this article of reflection on what life really is like when you’re trying to create a life that is meaningful, healthy, productive, caring, and in sync with your core values and with your needs and the needs of others. Thank you so much again for sharing – it was right where I’ve been in the last few days and it was encouraging to read that it is a reality with all of us, not just something I was going through by myself.
I’m grateful to know it felt helpful and encouraging to you, Joyanne. And yes, we’re on this journey together.
I have to admit that I giggled several times reading this. It’s a “knowing” giggle. I’m laughing at the ridiculousness of being able to fit it all in and the realization that it’s impossible to do so. We can so easily set ourselves up for failure in trying to do everything we “should” do. Thank you for sharing this in such a relatable way.
My husband and I were side by side in bed holding our sleeping babes as I was reading this. I giggled one too many times audibly I suppose, because his curiosity led him to read it once I was done. This was written in a very humble and relatable way. I’m thankful for that .. it’s easy to feel like when you follow a successful blog that they are somehow more than you in some way. They are writing these blogs because it’s just the opposite, they are just like us.
Love that, Anne. I’m glad you shared:) And oh yes, I’m a very real human, inside of a very real – sometimes crushingly hard – imperfect and beautiful life.
I’m so happy you giggled as you read it, Katie:) A sense of humour about all of it helps us keep showing up with joy or even shift course a bit as needed, without self-judgment. xoxo
Krista, this is spot on! Thanks!
Glad you enjoyed it, Anita. xo
Exactly what I needed to hear today. As you say, taking imperfect action I’ll do what feels right-sized for me. Sending you love as you heal. xo
Thank you, Stacy. Yay to imperfect action or tiny intentional steps:)
The tiny intentional steps are one way to choose to keep writing our stories. Thank you.
Sending thoughts and prayers for your gradual healing Krista. Grief takes lots of time and no one should be rushed by society. . I can relate to all aspects of this post. I was overwhelmed last night with being so behind on this work and the rest of my life with added stress today but I am going to do what I am able to do today. It will have to be enough
Yes, it will have to be enough. xo
Dragged a chair deep into my woods this morning with coffee to sit and reread this…
Hi Angi, may it be a beautiful day. xo
Thank you for putting a voice to my feelings. I find it ironic that the very actions prescribed to help me relax cause me further anxiety in trying to fit them all into my life. It’s difficult to make time for what really matters and say no to the things we are expected to do when the rest of society refuses to acknowledge the benefits of slower living. The other irony is that everyone tries to comfort you by saying that grieving takes time, but what they really want is for you to get back to your “normal” self and life asap. I lost my beautiful mother unexpectedly last June and my dad over 13 years ago and it is still so painful, but I’m learning to express it rather than hold it in. Maybe it will help others to be able to do the same so we can support each other through our grief process, whatever that may be and however long it takes.
Thank you, Krista. Reflects exactly how I’m feeling right now (with a touch of rage surfacing above the anxiety). I recently lost my father to cancer and have discovered Francis Weller’s work on grief. It’s the most beautiful reminder of the purpose of grief and a sorrowful reflection on how Western culture dishonors it. His book, ‘The Wild Edge of Sorrow’ is a new life companion. Much love to you. xo
Wow! I am so grateful that your page showed up during my mindless scrolling through the overwhelming bombardment of self help, how to’s, miracle cures and quick fixes on achieving greatness and being brilliant and perfection being as easy as …… bla bla bla. For the very first time my attention was grabbed by one simple question: “What if all I want is a mediocre life?” How refreshing! As a result I was prompted immediately to read not only your article but ALL the comments (I never do that) posted by the wonderful women who seek the same thing. Everything resonates with me. Thank you, Thank you! I am taking a deep breath (actually more of a big sigh of relief) and diving into your beautifully written messages with an excitement to learn how accept the fact that, as I think we all know deep in our heart of hearts, it’s perfectly perfect to be imperfect! With gratitude!