the exquisite art of “not doing”

Soooo, 2017 whooped my ass. And in the interest of self care, I had to pull back. Now, here’s the thing….

Why is it that when we do what we must, like take time off work because we’re sick, we are often racked with guilt? Okay, maybe it’s just me: when I step back, I start to feel . . . Guilty. Like I’ve done something wrong… Like, I’m not where I’m supposed to be. . . like, I’m. .. . lazy. . .

But those “feelings”, are just that. Feelings. They aren’t real. The fact is I wear many hats -mother, daughter, attorney, yoga teacher, sorority sister, friend, community volunteer, blogger . . . whew. . . and dammit I can’t DO everything, all the time.

I’m sure I’m not alone. But in western society, we are conditioned that in order to be successful you must “achieve.” To achieve means “successfully bring about or reach (a desired objective, level, or result) by effort, skill, or courage.” And while we recognize that one becomes successful through a combination of effort skill and courage, most of the messages about achievement in the good ole U.S.A. relate to effort. You MUST WORK HARDER THAN ANYONE ELSE, was drummed into me from the time I was a kid. As a black woman in America, I couldn’t count on family money, connections, or whiteness to write my ticket. So, I worked hard. As I’m sure all of you do.

But here’s the thing about working hard: It wears you out. Sometimes, we find ourselves empty, with nothing left to give. Sometimes, we find ourselves living a life that is unfamiliar, because we’re on autopilot, just . . . achieving. I remember the first time this happened to me,  I was working as a young prosecutor and my grandmother died. While I was in the middle of a trial. I finished the trial the next day, barely making it through closing arguments without crying(the case was a child abuse case, and all I could think about was my loving grandmother), and flew to Miami the next day to bury my beloved grandmother.

When I got back home, I didn’t really care anymore about all that achieving. I was miserable in my job, but I was doing well, so I pushed forward. Through all of the racism, and sexism and bullshit that comes with working as a black prosecuting attorney in a predominantly white county and state, I pushed through. . .until one day, I just . . .  couldn’t take it any more. I quit. Effective immediately. And started working part-time in a rural county, that was even more racist and sexist. (I was THE FIRST BLACK COUNTY EMPLOYEE EVER IN 2009, y’all.) But I didn’t really care, because  I was exhausted. I needed those days off to rest and recuperate and find myself, and figure out what I want, and . . . and . . . and . . .

And, what if . . . we decide that we won’t buy into the lie that doing MORE makes us successful. Do not get me wrong, please, I’m saying this as a woman who has worked as an attorney for over ten years, and I worked my ass off to do so, and for whatever it is you want to do with your life, you will have to work your ass off for as well. BUT, we MUST HAVE BALANCE. We must balance working our ass off with resting our ass off. WE MUST. Otherwise, we don’t take time to enjoy the fruits of our efforts. We don’t take time to check in with our bodies to make sure we’re feeling and doing okay. We don’t take time to take really cherish and care for our children, or our relationships, or our parents, and definitely not ourselves. . . because we’re too busy DOING, DOING, DOING.

I still wear all the hats, because it’s my life, and my pleasure to do so. But I also now take the time to unapologetically treat my SELF as though she is as worthy of time and attention as everything else. When bad things happen, I take the time to heal and grieve. When I’m overwhelmed, I try to acknowledge it and change my life. . . so I don’t feel that way anymore. What if we acknowledge that we live in a society that constantly asks and demands of us that we DO, DO, DO, but we silently, or loudly, reject that premise, and decide for ourselves what it is that we must do, and give ourselves time, OFTEN, to do nothing?

Look guys it will all be there. Work will be there. The dishes and laundry aren’t going any where. The club isn’t going to pack up and disappear if you decide not to go out one night. And home won’t disappear if you feel you want to go out. In the midst of all of our doing, lets try to find time to do nothing. To be.

This is my challenge to you for 2018.  Can you find a place for rest in your life? To not do, or achieve? To sit, and be quiet with yourself, or binge watch Netflix without guilt, or to do something that YOU love, all day, with no guilt or judgment toward yourself for not producing. Just try one day. and see how you feel. If you find that you are judging yourself, as I tell my yoga students, tell your ego, not now, not now. . right now I’m taking care of self, and go back to chilling. HARD.  Happy new year!! I love you all.