If You Do One Thing All Day, Make It This
Today was a lousy day. I've been hit over the head with some emotional sledgehammers this week, and while I felt all of the stress zooming around my brain like a passenger to Earnhardt Jr., I didn't know how to deal with it.
Thankfully I've learned that distracting myself and pretending all is hunky-dory will get my healing nowhere. Still, I could feel myself pushing these traumas down deeper and deeper, burying them behind my infamous to-do list, hours at work, and more scheduled socializing than I even knew how to keep up with. Not to mention a plethora of unnecessary sweets and my lazy butt not getting into enough yoga classes to sweat out my nerves.
I came home from work and cancelled my big Friday night plans, for no other reason than my anxiety climbing at the thought of giving my brain another event to process later. Disappointed, kinda hungry, and on the verge of either bawling my eyes out or screaming at nothing, I sat down at my desk and popped open a notebook.
While I mentally prepared to release the hounds of bubbling up emotions on my pen and paper, the cat made her presence known at my side. I leaned back and tapped my lap with a patience I didn't yet realize, and after a few convincing words she sprung from the hardwood and into my pajama-ed lap.
Gremlin, my beautiful pain-in-the-butt feline, took months to warm up to me, reasonably so after being a stray and fending for herself. But every day I give the affection a bigger little nudge, and all the time she grows more and more comfortable with me.
This time, I really went for it. I wrapped both of my arms all the way around her, brought her close to my chest, and even gave a little squeeze. I felt her start to purr, and then I felt my heart soften.
I like to do this thing when I'm heated, called Act All Tough And Pissed Off So You Won't Feel Weak And Hurt Some More. Even though I'm finally starting to recognize when my ego plays this little trick, pacifying this reaction is my most difficult daily struggle.
And all it took to calm me, was a hug from my cat.
There are of course health benefits of owning a pet, like lower blood pressure and relief from depression. But in those few seconds I experienced so much more than those already strong advantages.
My mind slowed down. When I took a deep breath, my mind actually caught on and followed suit. I'd had no relief from the whirlpool of anxious thoughts for so long I was starting to feel mad, yet taking a few moments to feel the softness of my cat's paws, notice the pattern of her fur, and appreciate her in my life was all it took to get me in the present moment.
Slowing down is probably the hardest thing for me to do. I constantly watch myself act like if there is more that can be done, then it should be done, and if I can do more, then I should do more, and must do more. But it's dawning on me that savasana off my mat, or processing time, is more than just doing tasks while also sitting down.
Because I can get so wound up, I need to make sure I am taking care of myself, and allowing my brain to unwind again. It's all about balance, all the time, everywhere you look.
And if I am going to push myself to juggle as much as I can at once, then I am going to have to learn to allow a fair amount of processing time in return, or else I'm going to feel like a broken wind-up doll that won't quit.
So, if you do one thing all day, you should hug your cat.
No I'm just kidding. If you do one thing all day, make sure you nurture your true needs. Don't skip out on the processing time, don't rush your healing, don't turn your mind into a slave for your to-do list. Take care of yourself.
You'll know when you're not, because all of a sudden you'll be snapping at your spouse for something that happened on your solo car ride home, eating all the chocolate you can get your hands on, or feeling sorry for yourself alone on a Friday night even when you know it's exactly what you need most.
What I need most right now is to give my mind a rest. I'm lucky this particular wake up call came in the form of a purring furry friend in my lap; much friendlier than some other epiphanies have been. But nice or nasty, I'm grateful for every one of them that opens my mind and my heart to new and beautiful ways to be vulnerable, to learn, and to grow.
Whether you're a pro at taking it easy, or a rushing jack rabbit that has a hard time letting up, find a way to listen to the sounds you're used to ignoring, both externally and within. Remind yourself to take deep breaths and witness what your mind is up to. It's so often the tiniest of joys that can bring us out of our repeating turmoils, proving that taking care of ourselves is often much simpler than we think.
All it takes is a little willingness.