Okay Doing Nothing


I did something akin to 'playing sick' during much of last week. Only, I wasn't exactly unwell… nor dishonest to anybody about it, for that matter.

Lying around the house, refusing to change out of my sweats or turn off the TV or basically move my body at all, the symptoms surely resembled depression. Only, I wasn't depressed. Quite upbeat about the future, in fact.

Simply: I hit my limit. After months and years of virtually nonstop productivity—actually, at this point, it's decades— I couldn't bring myself to do anything. Closing a window, grabbing myself a meal, even lifting a limb seemed to require more effort than I was willing to put forth.

I heard an inner calling, and it desperately desired its own super-internal, super-passive, super-yin moment for respect. My ethereal energy-body (or whatever the hell else you want to call it) needed a recharging.

I would be a self-aggrandizing liar to posture as if I'm a robotic work machine, never taking a single breath of relaxation as I continue on and on and on. Please. I take breaks all the time. I've even taken my fair share of these extreme, bender-style escapes from earthly existence. Usually, though, they're accompanied by massive amounts of self-torture… like I'm wasting my life with such self-indulgent laziness, what the hell is wrong with me, I don't want to get up, everything sucks… I'm always behind on everything because I never do enough because I'm so damned lazy… and oh, yeah, I'm fat and ugly and nobody gives a crap about me… and… and… and my feet are flat, fuckin' feet! (Wait, did I miss anything?)

It's like there was some weird longstanding deal between these different parts of my psyche: We'll grant you the occasional few-days'-absence from membership among 'the responsible living', but only if you agree to relentlessly rip yourself apart the whole time (because, if you don't, you just might start enjoying the nothingness a little too much and end up sliding down the slippery slope to complete ruin).

But what crappy kind of deal is that, anyway? And how much decompressing can really take place, when a droning internal monologue of 'I'm not good enough' keeps beating its drum?

What made this most recent retreat, in all its excessive motionlessness, so noteworthy was that I allowed myself the full experience. I did not beat myself up. Instead, I looked back over my lifetime of responsibilities met, goals achieved, and passing downturns borne then recovered from… and rested on the comfort of faith in myself never to accept 'complete ruin' as an option.

With age comes the recognition of familiarity: 'I have done this before. Everything worked out just fine last time. It'll be fine this time, too.' In the end, we draw calm from the act of actually learning the lessons our experiences provide us.

Growing up, I do not recall much instructive mention of such concepts as personal satisfaction or happiness. My benchmarks for success, as far as I understood (or misunderstood) my parents' desires for me, were always inextricably wrapped up in external achievements others could point at and accordingly validate. And more than anything, I wanted to be a good kid. So, naturally, I achieved my little heart out—and scored myself a bit of renown as an exceptional academic performer. My ability to nab 'exceptional' status, alas, only fueled an ever-increasing need to strive for ever-higher achievements, lest I become complacent and risk losing the validation I'd earned myself (but which I surely didn't innately deserve). And because I'd been led to believe I was exceptional, the standards I held myself to were exceptionally high. As a result, I developed a fairly hardy competitive streak. Unfortunately, it played out most harshly through constant competitions against myself. In competitions, someone always loses. My odds were unbeatable.

All these years later, I still grapple with giving myself permission to choose behaviors or activities that don't win awards, score good grades and gold stars, woo or impress. Somehow, such choices always seem pitted against the belief that any time taken away from the achievement machine is a wasteful squandering of my limited time in this incarnation. 'Every minute must count,' I tell myself, as if to imply that simply doing something because I want to do it might not 'count'. Don't my desires count, too?

I most decidedly do count, that's what I'm teaching myself… even when I cannot muster the juice to return one email, clean the stinky kitchen, or write a single inspired word… even when the thought of interacting with any other human being actually hurts my soul because I just don't have it in me… even when, for the first time ever (as I did this past week), I must sit across from a client ten minutes into her first-ever reading, look uncomfortably into her eyes from a very vulnerable place, and tell her, 'I just can't do this right now. I'm happy to reschedule for another day, but I'm not doing a very good job and would feel wrong taking your money.'

I'm teaching myself: I am human. Please respect my desires, as well as my limitations.

Regardless of what this, or any, week's astrological outlook may hold in store—and, let's be honest, the astro-forecast continues to get bumpier from here for a while—there's only so much that doing will do for us. We've just got to ride it out together, looking into each other's eyes with deep compassion, if only to say, 'This is me. I am human. Here's what I need. How about you?'

And when we just can't deal with anybody else, we must step in and say these things to ourselves, lovingly.