Food, water, shelter, warmth are all obvious, life-sustaining essentials. But I'm quick to add space to that list--space to think freely; space to make judgments, and then assess them for honesty; space to move and dance and run without witnesses (because, no matter how popular the quote, I've never been able to dance as if no one were watching); space to make your mistakes and your quiet triumphs; space to decide how to go forward, and how not to go back.
Find space--even if it's under a bed, in a shower stall, under the winter coats at the back of the closet, but designate it, name it, christen it: space.
Make it your second home and watch how quickly you thrive.
We can't live every moment, or even every day, at the same level of importance. It's exhausting, and I'm afraid it's become our habit. It was a revelation the other day when it occurred to me that whatever thing I was doing? It wasn't that important. It didn't warrant the stress or the energy or the tension or the breath-holding I was affording it.
This is not that important. It's become my new mantra, and I can't tell you what a relief it is. We forget, you see, that very rarely are we faced with a life-or-death situation. We forget because we've tuned our stress response so acutely that it responds to the slightest stimuli.
Our bodies are ruling our minds. Or vice versa. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that this, most of this? It's not that important.
You do have to wonder, when you're awake in the middle of the night worrying about something as mundane and supposedly joyful as gardening, if you've really lost it and fallen between the cracks of nightmare and habitual anxiety. And you have to slap yourself out of it, saying aloud, 'Um, excuse me, but what the hell are you doing with your precious and impressive brain?'
And, more often than not, come morning, it all seems so silly, so you chalk it up to restless dreams, but I wonder if there's a lesson in that--that surrendering to it in the moment (the anxiety, the worry, the nightmare) will free us from the fear of recurrence. That maybe if we learn to sit with the anxiety--silly or not--we'll develop a tolerance. We'll vaccinate ourselves against our own sabotage.
You bring your uniqueness to the table every day. You don't have to define it; you don't have to know how you're different than anyone else. You can just assure yourself that, simply by being here, you meet the criteria. To be wondering constantly why and what for and how is to trap yourself in a bubble of distorted self-reflection when you could be spending that limited energy elsewhere.
Just assume your right to be here and take comfort in the fact that someone, somewhere thought you were the perfect match to this incarnation. There is power and freedom in that belief, that belonging.
A dear, wise friend--one who knows me and all my neurosis and history and loves me still--said to me that we are too old to continue to believe that there are things we *should* do. It was the most freeing gift I've ever been given and exactly what I needed to hear.
So, to pay it forward, I'm telling you now that aside from keeping yourself and those who depend on you alive and healthy, there is very little else you should do that you truly don't want to. We've been slaves to the 'should' for our entire lives. We're too old to buy into that limiting belief, and so let's grant each other the permission to live freely, to live with heart, to rest and to be lazy or active at will, to travel or not, to be brave or frightened, to be creative or appreciative of creativity, with no guilt and no regret and absolutely no should's.
I always think of myself as a personality magpie, hurrying away with bits and pieces gleaned from charismatic cultures and people, sifting through what feels true for me. I don't know if that's the typical way of carving out a personality, or if it's just that that's my personality, full stop. Follow the trail for too long, and the conversation gets a bit heady and needlessly meta.
Or maybe we magpies do it as survival instinct--the easiest path to fitting in or standing out, depending on one's leaning. Either way, and no matter who you are, for most of us, the true self is the one we meet when we're alone, and if she can keep you company, then I have a feeling we're doing something right.
I almost didn't write a Satya this morning. I just didn't feel energized enough or creative enough, and the thought of skipping it produced that little thrill you get when you have an unexpected day off.
But then the guilt crept in and the fear of letting people down and of not doing my best when I had no excuse not to. And I realized that this is a microcosm of my whole life--and an example of what we were discussing yesterday with this drive toward perfectionism. And I also realized that while I really didn't have to write a Satya, I wanted to just to share this revelation, just to share how pervasive (and invasive) perfectionism is. It doesn't have to be defined as a need to have everything you do be the absolute best. Perfectionism can be the need to continue on beyond mental, emotional, or physical energetic boundaries, pushing yourself into misery.
So, we'll see. Maybe next time I'll just sleep in.
I have spent a lifetime trying to heal myself and, through that pursuit, have done little but make myself sicker. So, in the hopes of healing from my so-called healing, I've had to drop perfectionism, which as many of you will know, is no easy task. It's a decision that has to be made daily, certainly, hourly sometimes. It's a burden I wouldn't wish on anyone, and if you're out there in the midst of this battle too, then I'm so sorry and know that I know how very hard it is.
To come out the other side, you have to go through the exceedingly difficult task of unlearning: unlearning food rules; unlearning rules about rest and about busyness; unlearning perceptions and standards of beauty; unlearning that to be memorable, you have to be the best, the smartest, the thinnest, the strongest. You have to walk away from conversations, from friends, from awkward situations. You have to learn to say no, and you have to teach yourself that 'no' is a full sentence, all on its own.
It's not about the perfection of the act or the skill, but the process of doing it, the delight in the physical experience. It's feeling the guitar strings under your fingers, even if you only know two chords. It's the singing, full throttle, in the shower with only the dog to hear you. It's not caring a whit what the guy stuck in traffic next to you thinks of your mad steering-wheel-drumming skills.
It's when we lose ourselves in the movement that we find our tune and the inspiration to play it.
I am allowed to change my mind. You are allowed to change your mind. We are allowed to change our minds. They are allowed to change their minds.
It's the most powerful permission we've been granted--to change our minds, to change our definition of ourselves, to change our passions, to change what it is we find important. And we can change as often as we wish--every day if that's what it takes. Because the most important thing is for you to be content with yourself.
But here's the trick and the hardest thing--love yourself as you are, even in the midst of change. Otherwise desperation, panic, and hatred will find you drawing hasty conclusions and taking paths that may look clear and easy, but bog you down in their sameness or, worse, leave you exposed and without shelter. There is no shame in stopping, turning around, and heading back the way you came, then choosing a new direction.