When Dr. Selma Lewis and I were coming up with the title for our podcast about and for supporting the women that we know and love, I was thrilled when she suggested “Isn’t This Enough?”
Both of us have a sense in our independent work, that so much suffering in women comes from our sense of never having done enough.
When I work with women in the clinic on their necks, they lie face up and often try to help hold the weight of their heads (zero men have ever done this during my time in the clinic!). I think this is subconscious- an attempt to make the weight easier for me?
Reflecting on many of the women that I know, love and work with- so many are stuck in various loops of overdoing.
Whether in codependent patterns of care taking in their romantic relationships, or striving for perfection in their physical bodies or at work- we women seem to be overdoing everything and in the process, forgetting how to simply care for ourselves.
I had success in childhood by overworking. I would overwork at school or at the gym and I would get the results I wanted. I learned to apply this technique to undergraduate and then graduate school.
By the time I was in my early 30s, I felt like I had to do all of the grocery shopping and cooking, be perfect and likeable at work, work out hard most days of the week, travel and socialize in my brief time off. I needed to like and be liked while doing all of the above. A lot of us women add on top of that stew a side of “looking good” while doing any of the above tasks as a further challenge we need to live up to. I am not even someone who uses social media well, or is that interested in my physical appearance. I can only imagine the heightened pressure those facets bring.
When did the idea that we can do anything, get transformed into the notion that we can do everything?
Doing everything, and doing anything perfectly are ideas I would really like to move beyond. Nothing is perfect, and our energy and time are limited- such that we need to develop clarity and boundaries to really pursue what is most meaningful for us. Not one of us can do everything.
By my mid 30s, I was run down with an auto-immune condition affecting my thyroid and my energy levels. I took a couple of days to cry really deeply and grieve what I felt to be the loss of my youthful health. My illness (Grave’s disease) and the requisite medical intervention necessitated that my husband and I have immediate conversation about our desire to have children. Being exhausted and feeling ill, I truly felt like there was no way I could take on one more thing- including and especially parenthood.
We let our doctors know about our decision not to prioritize getting pregnant. This was the first decision I made when I felt I clear that I was putting my health and wellness at the center of my decision.
I went home and worked (sometimes gently, sometimes with frustration) on changing aspects of my lifestyle. I read books that led me down some unfortunate paths around food (really dichotomous and non-science based thinking, that suggested things that felt bad for my body and the planet) and I threw those books out. I tried supplements and essential oils- some of which I loved and some of which I threw out. I read stories about spontaneous healing.
I reshaped my work schedule and gave myself more time for lunch and fewer clients. I changed how I was working out. I let go (where I could) of the expectation that I could change things for anyone else- knowing that making change for myself is hard enough and sometimes even out of my control. I began to make time for play.
Around this time in my life, a really close friend was diagnosed and living with stage IV cancer. It made my breath catch to watch, first hand, how short and random our lives are and how important it is for us to live each week as though it was our last. I made consistent attempts (yeah, just attempts as I’m not the most playful person!) to play. Jiu jitsu at my good friend’s school, hiking with our dog, surfing when I could. I tuned down some of my habitual worrying.
And in letting things go and pursuing play rather than performance my life didn’t fall apart. It began to have some spaciousness in it. I was better to able to say no where I needed to, so that I could say yes when I wanted to. There has been a slow but steadfast return of making decisions based on my own best interests (as opposed to the best interests of everyone else) and my felt sense in the world.
I can feel clearly that my own wellness is connected with the wellness of all other living beings. That I exist interrelated to all other things on this planet. What is good for the planet is ultimately good for me. This is not a path or a job done, but a lifelong process of evolving to think and feel in ways that help create more harmony and less destruction in my own experience and in the lives of others. I am committed to continuing to allow myself to evolve and transform across this lifetime. And to understand that I am not stuck in any role- other than in my mind.
I am not telling my story to reference any success- there is no- “look what I was able to do” moment here. Rather, I am someone who became exhausted with the holding of things together, who realized no amount would ever be enough and who, when I let things go- realized the world didn’t fall apart.
And so where can we let ourselves know that we have done enough? In most cases, we have done more than enough. When someone goes to hold our head, can we let the weight of our head (and the world) really go and trust that even if things fall apart, they will come back together again? (and really, the idea that we can white knuckle and hold anything together is just a myth anyway)
Over the course of the month of September, we will be exploring different topics in behavioral health as it relates to healing and working with the physical body. It is so important that everyone know that I am not a behavioral health specialist, and that the stories I share are simply observations. We will be working with a wonderful Selma for our September 19, 2021 workshop: Isn’t This enough?