What do you do when you feel like you can’t catch up, can’t catch a break, can’t stay ahead? When you feel like no matter how fast you swim or run, the finish line keeps getting farther and farther ahead?
Business articles are constantly showing up in my feed reader (feedly, ftw!), being linked to in the business group I’m a part of, being talked about amongst my other business-running friends, and one theme almost all of these articles have in common is that they’re all giving us advice on how to do more, push ourselves, how this app will save us time or that time-saving article will teach us how to be more productive… and some days I just have to ask myself… what’s the rush?
Why? Why do we have to push ourselves to do more, to do faster, to get more in, to check more things off on a list? Why isn’t there a push to be our authentic selves, to live our best lives, to literally stop and smell some flowers? Why is it always rush to the finish line, and not pause to enjoy?
We spend our lives subtly being told that we’re not doing enough, that we’ll never catch up – either to ourselves, our plans, or to be equal to or surpass our neighbors. Why aren’t we subtly being told that to stop and watch that glorious sunset is the pinnacle of our day, that to pause our work and freely give of our attention and time to another is worthwhile, that to practice self-care is important? Why do we seem more addicted to chaos, to telling people how behind we are or how much work we have to do, rather than addicted to life, to telling people how grateful we are for them in our lives, to pausing to drink in all the special moments that happen during a day that are often missed?
I’m guilty of this myself. I set goals for myself at the beginning of the year, goals for release of products and restockings of things, and I’ve hardly met any of them. Why not? We had family in town. Family we hardly ever see, family who lives far away but whom we love greatly. I fell behind in work to spend time with them… but did I fall behind in life because of that? Aren’t I richer for having spent time laughing and experiencing and being with loved ones? Then I fell behind last week, because of a tornado and a couple of days without electricity. But without being able to be on my computer for work, or fire the kiln and get those ceramics done, I was able to sort through boxes of old family photos I inherited from my father when he died – years ago. I may not have already late ceramics finally finished, but I have seven decades of family photos sorted and ready to scan, and I have a project accomplished that’s been making me feel guilty for years, easing that weight off my shoulders.
In the last three days, though, I’ve fired the kiln three times. A glaze firing Friday, a bisque firing Saturday, a small glaze refire on Sunday for some things that came out of the big kiln a little wonky, and I’ve already started the small kiln again this morning for some color test tiles. Tomorrow I’ll fire the small kiln again with some test decals, for something I want to try out. Meanwhile I’ll be glazing today and tomorrow, and I’ll probably fire the big kiln on Wednesday. Yet, oddly, this doesn’t seem rushed. I no longer feel I’m “behind” in my work, even though I wanted to release mugs this Friday that I might not have finished (it depends on how the decal test firing goes), and two weeks ago I wanted to launch the February mug, and some new biohazard mugs, but neither will be done until Thursday, and four weeks ago I wanted to launch those pizza plates and that was just an epic fail. Until this weekend, really, I was feeling like I couldn’t catch up – either I caught up this weekend and didn’t notice it, or I stopped caring that I wasn’t caught up.
I hear, in the still of my heart, a voice saying – like a song or a movie quote that’s just out of reach of my memory – that things just be that way sometimes. I may be behind in work according to an arbitrary deadline, but am I behind in life? Am I doing good work? Am I bringing good things into the world and am I being generous with my time and my heart? Then what’s the rush? Am I really behind? Or do I just feel like I’m supposed to feel like I’m behind, because I have unchecked boxes on a list?
Apparently, what I need to do when I feel like I can’t catch up to myself, is stop. Get more “behind”. Read a book (I also re-read the first Preacher graphic novel when the power was out, and started both a Robin Hopper book on ceramics as a business and the latest Expanse novel). Look in the garden; I took some pictures of early flowers in my butterfly garden, and watered thirsty plants. Pet cats; I don’t have an option, here, that’s a given. Spend time with family; we had birthday cake with Cetty and Joe for Cetty’s birthday (she used an egg replacer for the cake, so I was able to eat some!).
What about you? What do you do when you feel like you can’t keep up with everything? Do you work harder? Or do you have a way to slow down and take care of yourself?