“Be yourself” is what my tea bag fortune said this morning.
Two simple words and yet such a difficult task at times. A little more than a week ago I came to terms with the fact that I had drifted from myself as we neared the solstice. I experienced that pervasive, lonely feeling and realized I missed ME. As my life sped up, I was having trouble figuring out what to prioritize and why.
A friend told me she would be pursuing “joy” over the winter break. That reminded me of a book, The Joy Diet by Martha Beck, that I’d read a few years ago–the last time I’d become untethered from myself.
Martha Beck created this five-point check-in. If you relate to three or more descriptions, keep reading.
1. Irritability, feeling “frayed”
2. Boredom (oddly enough)
3. Feeling disconnected even when in the company of others
4. Being unable to unwind at night or on vacation
5. A sense of not being, having, or doing enough
Does it resonate? Martha has some big-time advice for us: Do Nothing. She writes, “Do nothing for fifteen minutes a day. Stop mindlessly chasing goals and figure out which goals are worth going after.”
So I started last Sunday doing nothing for 15 minutes before the household roused in the morning. I sat in front of our fireplace and stared at the candles I’d lit. My brain immediately began planning my day. I took a deep breath. “Nothing,” I reminded my mind and pictured a blank blackboard. Within seconds my mind skipped back to a past memory. I was patient with my mind, “Nothing,” I reminded. And so it went for 15 minutes as I reminded myself to come back to nothing. No future, no past, just right here–right now. Martha said we busy humans do nothing imperfectly and that’s what I did.
I continued each day until I found myself in a Wednesday meeting led by my friend and colleague, Amanda. She’d just been sharing an example with other coaches and principals around the table and it was my turn. I sat up straight. I’d actually zoned out and was thinking absolutely…nothing. I would’ve been more excited about my progress if I wasn’t on the spot in front of my peers. While it was disconcerting, it was also very freeing.
Martha writes about how powerful it is to do nothing, but until I took up the self-centering practice again, I couldn’t know what a difference it would make immediately. “Don’t just stand there, do something!” we are taught from a young age, but now I realize the opposite is also true: “Don’t just do something, stand there!” Monday I had more energy. Tuesday I got very clear on why I was angry. Wednesday I spaced out in a meeting. Thursday I laughed at myself joyfully. Friday I felt very connected to the people around me. Little by little, doing nothing was bringing me closer to something. That “something” was a closer connection to self.
Here’s a summary of the Joy Diet exercises if you are interested:
Happy Winter Break to many of you out there. May you do something for yourself by doing nothing.