There are days, weeks, months when I am worn. Where I am battered and beaten and stretched so thin that I swear I can see through myself. Where the segments of my heart and my soul that touch the world are translucent and the secret pieces that I keep for myself are pulling away from the bone. The sinew and muscle being separated from their strength leaving me with a weakness that drains the usually deep well of my passion and drive.
I am familiar with this feeling by now. After pushing everything so hard for so long. Running from the demons and chasing the dreams. This is how I get when I neglect myself. When I take on too much and I feel the great imagined weight of responsibility and duty digging into my shoulders like a thin strapped pack laden with bricks.
It is a feeling that creeps in slow at first, hidden behind achievement and accomplishment and the accolades that parade alongside the long hours and the constant struggle of trying to be more and do more. And when I do not catch it early enough it breaks me. It wrecks me and leaves me paralyzed, no longer able to muster the energy to do what must be done and to push through the minor discomforts of stretching for more.
And when I crash against that proverbial wall, everything shatters. I am left picking up the fragments of my motivation and discipline and trying to piece together any sort of direction I can muster. It breaks the borders I have put up to keep out the merciless demons of doubt and I am forced to face them – unarmed and outmaneuvered.
And so I slip into old habits and old complaints. The voice of reason and discipline is silenced by a million howling screams begging me to give up, give in, and get out. Stop the pushing and the pulling. Stop the struggle of achievement. Put aside all your passions and dreams and lie still and silent in the slow breaking dawn of mediocrity so that others with more to offer can have space to give themselves to the world.
Recognize Your Need
But my familiarity with these feelings has given me awareness. A recognition of what to do when these doubts and distractions threaten to strangle the breath of passion from my lungs. I know I need to take a purposeful step back to continue marching forward.
The problem that so many of us face is that we always want to be moving forward and we occasionally forget to bring ourselves with in our progress. We forget that we are human. We forget that we are fallible. We forget that we are sometimes fragile and frail. We forget that we can not always push our own limits without the occasional need to refresh in whatever way we need. And in this forgetting is the potential for a flood of self-imposed pain.
I am often guilty of taking on too much – of stepping so far outside of my comfort zone that I find myself completely lost with no landmarks to guide me back to myself. I get so focused on what I want to be that I lose who I am in the process. And when I get that far out I crumble.
Now, this is not a call to remain in your comfort zone, it is a call to know the utter extremity of your mental and physical limits; the far off reaches that you sometimes brush against to pursue your passions. You have to know those limits and press against them just so much that you gain the otherworldly benefit of breaching your comfort zone, while never falling outside and losing yourself in the void.
Sometimes we must be reminded that we can not win every battle that we fight. We must be strong enough to acknowledge the need for an occasional retreat. And when we know that we are on the verge of fighting a losing battle because we are not properly equipped, we must move back to the safest places that we know so that we can recover and recharge.
How Do We Recover and Recharge?
For some of us, it means blocking out the world and retreating to solitude where we recover ourselves in the quiet and comfort of a steaming cup of tea, a good book, and a purring cat on our laps. We are refreshed in silence and stillness where we are able to draw out the strength from the quiet things that live between the breath and the thought. Our energy is manifested internally and given out to the world. We give it to others throughout the day and we are left with nothing of it to call our own if we do not return to our silent selves on occasion.
For people that draw their energy from others, it is to the consolations of company that they must go for the rejuvenation of their spirits. These people require the action and excitement of socialization in order to recharge. So they put down all of their solitary things and seek comfort in the company of others – in the camaraderie of a meal shared with friends or a group outing of familiar company. They soak up the exhalations of laughter and the energy of others like a sponge, using their tribe as a means to recharge.
It does not matter which one that you are. What matters is that you recognize your recovery method. That you recognize when it is needed and at that time you run towards it with wild abandon so that you do not become so drained that there is no hope for a speedy recovery. Because that is what can happen. If you do not monitor your mind, and the trajectory of your energy, there are times that you will find it impossible to unburden and that is a situation we should all seek to avoid.
You must recognize the roads of your retreat. Be familiar enough with the slowing of your pace that you know when it is time to step off of the path, not moving backward, but straying far enough from the struggle to recover yourself and by doing so regaining your strength.
It is important and necessary to consistently push outside of your comfort zone, but in doing so, you must be careful not to stay so long that you are lost without a path back to yourself and the healing things that bring you comfort. Know what you need to recover your heart, and your passion, and keep that landmark on the road-map of your progress.
Push through the hard things as often as possible. Revel in your occasional pains and struggles. See them not as limits but as future battles won, but through it all, leave a trail of breadcrumbs to your happy place and return as often as necessary to recharge. The whole of your life will thank you and all the things you want to conquer and vanquish will still be there when you return and what’s more, you will be strong enough to defeat them.