The Happiness Manifesto Blog

How I Beat the Living Hell Out of Suffering and Made It My Bitch

Archive for the tag “work”

Working On Forgiveness

We’ve all heard some variation of the idea that holding a grudge is hurting ourselves rather than the person we’re angry at, right?  We understand, logically, that getting ourselves worked up does not make the offender feel bad (especially since most of the time they’re unaware that we’re worked up, or why), and having an internal dialogue full of “GRRR!” and “RAWR!” not only does nothing to solve the problem, but doesn’t even make us feel better – usually it just serves to inflate our anger.  So those of us that are on this path and trying to better ourselves are usually working on forgiving those that have hurt us, and letting go of grudges.  Sounds like a great idea!

But there’s a key point: we’re working on it.  Now I don’t mean to say that if you haven’t achieved total forgiveness of everyone who has wronged you, you’re doing it wrong.  On the contrary.  I think we’re working too hard.  Let me explain.

If you’re working on something, you’re thinking about it, right?  Whether that thing is a project, dinner, or A Book, you have to be actively thinking about it in order to work on it.  So… in working on forgiveness, we’re… dwelling on the thing that hurt us.

And that is just about exactly what we don’t want to do.

Law of attraction time!  What you think about is what you attract, right?  So why the hell are we thinking so hard about things that have hurt us, in an effort to let those things go?  That’s not letting them go, that’s letting them take up residence in our minds.

But Wren!  I hear you say.  We need to process the hurt in order to let it go!

Yeah, yeah, okay.  At a certain point, you do.  As I’ve said, I do not advocate plastering on a fake smile and pretending that nothing is wrong when your insides are doing their finest impersonation of paper in a cross-cut shredder.  But eventually, you’ll have all the insights you’re going to have on the subject, and dwelling on it further is just rubbing salt in the wound.  Or lemon juice.  Or anti-bacterial gel.  Because holy hell does that stuff sting when you’ve got a cut on your hand, no?

Nor does this apply necessarily to hurts in order.  Sometimes the most recent hurts are the easiest to let go; sometimes the old ones are.  Sometimes you can say, yeah, that was a long time ago, and it can’t hurt me anymore.  Goodbye!  And sometimes those are the ones that thirty years later will whack you upside the head so hard cartoon birds will be singing in your ears from the sudden shock.  I’m not saying there are hard-and-fast rules, here.  But we shouldn’t be defining ourselves by our hurts; we shouldn’t be labeling ourselves a victim; we shouldn’t play over and over again past tragedies on repeat in our minds.  Nor, for that matter, should we wish to make ourselves martyrs.  I think God’s got enough of those, don’t you?  He is not asking you to suffer needlessly for some Greater Good.  What greater purpose could be served by you living a life of fear and anguish?

So… if you discover some old, heretofore unexplored specimen that reveals some insight into Why You Are The Way You Are, great.  Self-realization is a fabulous thing.  But then I don’t want you to make it Your Project to study the hell out of it like a scholar with the Dead Sea Scrolls – see what it had to teach you, appreciate it, and keep the lesson, not the hurt (and by “lesson,” I don’t mean keep the lesson that your mom calling you fat when you were ten means that you have to obsess over your weight now and for the rest of your life – I mean, keep the lesson that sometimes things we didn’t realize the origins of (obsession with weight) have a very discoverable source, and don’t define us.  We can let them go, because our mother’s judgement all those years ago was hers, not ours).  Let the hurt evaporate like morning dew under the bright sun.

And don’t, for the love of God, go around patting yourself on the back about What A Big Person You Are for no longer being angry at whoever the perpetrator of that past hurt was; that’s making yourself a martyr.  Don’t believe me?  You’re thinking of yourself as saintly for enduring cruelty at the hands of the unenlightened from your place of Spiritual Greatness – isn’t that, essentially, martyrdom?

OK, you say, I got it.  I’ll just let go all those times someone hurt me, and not think on it anymore.  I’m done!

But wait, there’s more!

I was thinking on this very subject the other day in response to a friend on some message boards online, and her comments made me have a realization of my own: there is no finish line to forgiveness.

Yup.  It’s unlikely that you’re going to forgive someone for something, and then cross them off your list, like a to-do for inner peace.  Maybe you forgive your mom for calling you fat when you were ten.  You let go the notions you carried all these years about weight.  You think you’re done forgiving Mom.  You cross her off your list.  But then – shock! – a year later, you remember some other comment of hers that altered your world, and you find her square in your “working on” area again.

I do not then want you going through your mental catalog of Mom Comments, searching for any and all instances of How She Messed You Up, so you can thoroughly and completely forgive her, and be done with it.  You’re not going to find them all!  And then you’ve spent all that time (and perhaps therapy) rehashing every not-so-nice comment she ever made, essentially re-flogging yourself, in pursuit of some “finish line” that doesn’t exist.

We’re humans.  We’re messy.  We don’t stay within the lines.

I have a person (who shall remain nameless) that I’ve got a catalog of instances like the Mom Comments in my example above, who I’ve been “working on” forgiving.  I felt like I was “making progress,” and was going through the catalog, page by page, banishing those “lessons” from my psyche that no longer served me.  It’s great that I let those things go.  But was I serving myself by examining things that didn’t need to be examined?  Do you enjoy unnecessary, invasive medical examinations?  Didn’t think so.

It wasn’t until I gained the perspective of that person as just a human – a weak human, sure, but a human – instead of some large, looming monster lurking in my closet at night, waiting to pounce – that a much larger shift began to take place.  I turned on the proverbial light, and saw that this person was just a shadow, not a monster.

When you’ve got someone that has made such an impact on your life such that they are a huge, powerful creature in your head – it’s a bit of a different animal to forgive.  It’s unlikely you’re dealing with one issue, which you can forgive and forget.  You’re likely dealing with patterns and behaviors – theirs and yours.  But when you realize they’re just a messed up human, and can see all those individual instances of pain add up to a pattern of behavior because they’re messed up too, suddenly they don’t loom so large.  They shrink in your psyche.  They become… spirit.

Because we’re all spirits!  We’re all spirits having an in-body experience.  Sometimes we mess up in this grand experiment called life, but I just can’t bring myself to believe that a person’s spirit, their essence, is “evil”.  I don’t care what they’ve done.  They could be the most evil SOB ever to grace the planet – something made them that way.  Maybe it was ignorance, their own hurt, delusions, or some combination thereof.  I don’t think when they die, they’ll still be the same.  I don’t think, in spirit, racists will be racists, or there will be religious intolerance.  Because when we’re all spirit, there is no race – and I seriously doubt there is a Protestant/Catholic, Jewish/Palestinian line in the sand in the afterlife.  Do you?

When you look at the people that hurt you as just little spirits, same as you, they are no longer big scary monsters out to get you.  They are just humans who messed up.  Maybe you don’t think they are just awesome now, but what they did no longer looms so large.  Thinking of them does not produce the same anger or hurt that it once did.  You are no longer punishing yourself for once being hurt.

And that, my friend, is pretty darn good work.

Fulfilled = Fulfillment

This thought is still fresh and somewhat percolating, so forgive me if I need to revisit it later to clarify some things, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the difference between being fulfilled and being a fulfillment.  Here’s what I mean: being fulfilled, as in, you’re content, you have all that you need, your wants and desires are fulfilled.  Being a fulfillment is more like being the fulfillment of a plan, your destiny, or even your potential.  How many of us were told in school to “fulfill our potential”?  In other words, it would have been a crime if Einstein had become a janitor (that one movie with Matt Damon notwithstanding).  We want the great scientists to be great scientists, the great artists to be great artists, the great parents to be great parents, etc.  We don’t want people inherently gifted in one area to ignore those gifts trying to pursue endeavors where their contribution might be mediocre at the expense of what would be amazing contributions in their naturally talented subjects.

A lot of people don’t believe in destiny or fate, and that’s fine, I’m not altogether certain that I do, either.  At least not in the sense of how they are normally understood.  However, I think it was Leonardo DaVinci’s purpose to be a great artist and inventor, Stephen Hawking to be a great scientist, Michelle Kwan to be a great athlete, and Jimi Hendrix to be a great musician.  And I think all of us have a “purpose”.  No, we’re not all going to be world-renowned or famous, but say your purpose is to be a great parent: maybe you don’t win any awards or get a ton of recognition, but your contribution goes forward beyond your life through the lives of the kids you raise.  You’re still changing the world, even if you’re not in any history books for doing so.

So, fulfilled versus fulfillment was what I had been dwelling upon, and then tonight while meditating, I was asking questions of the Universe/God.  What am I supposed to do, why am I here, what’s the meaning of life, you know, mild stuff.  No pressure, Universe.  In this same meditation session I was putting out there my wants on a very “physical realm” type level.  I want financial security (I’ve already discussed the difficulty in focusing on higher purpose when you’re stuck low on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs totem pole).  I want a home.  I yearn for a home.  I dream of a home.  I look at real estate listings and cry.  Really, really (really), I’m obsessed with having a home of my own (yes, it’s just me and the kitties in my apartment, but I rent.  I want a home I can truly call my own).  And as I was thinking of the more physical realm stuff, one of the larger answers hit me: I’m supposed to write my book.

Yes, the book has transmogrified in scope these past several months, and the original “happiness manifesto” idea has given way to a much larger concept (plus, I found out sometime after starting this blog and the book that there is apparently already a book called “The Happiness Manifesto” – oops!  While I’m sure it does not have my subtitle (“How I beat the living hell out of suffering and made it my bitch”), I didn’t even think to search for similar titles when I was still in the just-starting-out phase of writing.  Gah!  If anyone finds this blog looking for information on that book, sorry – not me.  I didn’t even know it existed until I was browsing on my Kindle one day and lo, there it was.  I just about kicked myself.  I’m sure there are books out there with alike titles, but still – so it’s a good thing that that is no longer the title).

Anywho, The Book (it will heretofore be referred to as The Book in capital letters, as even though it has another working title, I don’t want to a: goof again before I’ve researched that no one else has a book out by that title and b: it’s still shifting around in my head, and I may change it again when all is said and done.  I’m not putting it past me at this point).  The more I think on it, the more The Book is my raison d’être.  I want to write.  I’m meant to write.  Don’t worry, I’m not growing a massive ego and thinking I am The Most Awesome Writer Ever, but I must write.  I used to write so prolifically that I could reliably sit down and pound out a chapter in one sitting, giggling to myself as twists and turns came to me as I was writing them.  I gauged if it was any good or not by how violently my best friend threatened my well-being if I did not write the next chapter soon (I was really good at a cliffhanger).  Now, of course, I look at those old stories from my college days (or high school days or junior high days – yes, I wrote stories to share with my friends back then, too) and think, wow, I was really young.  Characters developed in my head as I was writing them, and so the original vision didn’t always mesh with the end product.  I was famous for going back and doing re-write after re-write after re-write in an attempt to align the earlier flying-blind parts with the later now-I-know-who-this-person-is-and-where-the-story-is-going parts.  I was more famous for forgoing paper altogether and just regaling my friends with verbal stories; the aforementioned best friend and I would take a random drive and she would put forth her one-word request: “Story?”  My friends knew the universe inside my head by then and it was nice to just shoot the shit with my characters and not worry about having to spell out backstory for potential new readers to understand what I was talking about.  Also, it was the most awesome way to test out new ideas and character developments ever.  But I digress.

The point is, I’ve always been a writer.  And lately it seems to come in fits and spurts, and as often as not I go back to the completed parts and look on them with disdain some time later.  It’s not that it seems terrible, but it does seem contrived.  Or young.  Yes, there’s that word again.  When I look back at my writing and think young, it’s the equivalent of crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it in a wastebasket.

Though now I look at my old stories and think young, I actually was young at the time.  I’m allowed to think the oeuvre of my twenty-year-old self seems young.  But I don’t look at it with disdain: I look back on it with fondness and pride.  I actually wrote that book, and that book.  I told thousands of stories.  I drew thousands of related comics.  One of the friends who read and heard the stories even drew comics based on the characters in my universe.  I inspired someone else.  My stories spoke to someone else.  I couldn’t have asked for better confirmation of worth than that.  Yeah, I was young, but my youthful stories spoke to other young people.  To this day I can drop a reference to those stories among that group of friends and get a giggle.  And two of my cats (I have three) are named after two people from that pantheon of characters.  Those stories are a huge chunk of my life.

Today, not only have I shifted my focus both in reading and writing to non-fiction (it’s rare that I pick up a novel anymore, though it does happen occasionally), but I don’t seem to be able to sit and churn out a chapter as I used to.  I would be okay with a slower pace if it was at least steady, but it’s not that either.  It’s very much as if my muse is teasing me with hints of what I will be writing more than actually writing it.

Tonight, in that meditation session, the reason came to me: my mind is still too focused on the Maslow’s Level Two stuff to be absorbed in The Book.  Back when I used to sleep, eat, and breathe Story, it was my survival mechanism.  Life was supremely craptastic and so I escaped to the much better world in my head, and ran on autopilot in “the real world”.  Now I’m firmly anchored in “the real world,” and unable to fully let myself escape into Book World.

Therein lay my answer to the fulfilled/fulfillment question: it shouldn’t read “versus”.  It’s more like, in order to be a fulfillment of your purpose, you need to be fulfilled.

I’m not fulfilled in the “physical realm”.  I need to be so I can let go and fully engage in The Book.

Now, I’m not saying every wild dream has to come true in order for me to fulfill my purpose in writing The Book.  In fact, that would be a Star Trek-worthy paradox, as completing and publishing The Book is one of those dreams.  What I’m saying is, I need to feel “safe” enough to go and live in the alternate universe that you really have to take residence in in order to pen a meaningful work.  I need to not worry about how I’m going to pay the bills, or where I’m going to live, or when am I going to do this or that.  I need to have some basic things taken care of that are taking away precious focus from writing.  I have been better about not stressing so hard about things like money, but to be frank when I’m not sure where/how/when it’s coming, I do focus on things related to it, like: I need to list more things in my Etsy shop.  I need to check Craigslist for temp jobs.  I need to make business cards.  I need to “network”.  I need to list more things in my Zazzle shop.  I need to submit another article in an attempt to get published and paid for something now.  Etc.  It’s a very different distraction trying to establish yourself as a freelancer than working a full-time “day job”.  It may be more miserable, but in some ways it can be easier to mindlessly punch in, do work, and punch out again.  The more mindless the job, the more my mind wandered off and dreamed up new stories.  But then again, when I was in a horrid make-you-cry-in-the-restroom type job, there was no daydreaming there.  Well okay, there was, but it involved choice words to certain real-life people and maybe a middle finger or two; not exactly “storytime”.

So, I made a deal with the Universe.  God knows I don’t need or particularly want a lavish, crazy lifestyle.  But I do very much want certain needs taken care of, which would free up my brain to go live in Book World.  I want my own home; I want financial security; I want a car (yep, 33 years old, never owned a car.  In NYC that may be normal, but in Denver that’s shock-worthy).  The car seems arbitrary until you consider how much more involved it is for me to go anyplace (hours instead of minutes whether I’m bussing, bicycling, or walking.  How much can I carry or cart around if I’m grocery shopping.  The fact that I can’t do those things I would love to do and have always been good for my soul, like drive into the so-close-and-yet-so-far mountains and just enjoy the scenery or load up an SD card with metric tons of photographs.  There is no city bus that reads “pulls over at every cool spot for photographic opportunities”.  Go and visit friends and not worry about the last bus out or if I can hitch a ride.  Not have to deal with creepy creepers following/chasing/stalking/bothering me (yes, that’s happened… a lot) walking home or waiting for a bus.  Etc.  For me, it would be rather life-changing.  So I told the universe that basically, I need for the little things to not be so hard.  I need for them to not be so thought-consuming.  I need to be able to live somewhat on auto-pilot again but not because things suck; because it’s easy to do so.

It’s not that I want to be permanently on auto-pilot, though I do want my life to be permanently at least a little bit easier.  I want to know that if I follow my muse into Book World, where time moves much more slowly than it does here in physical realm, then I’m not going to come out of it with a completed chapter and an eviction notice.  I want for my physical realm to be safe so I can go play in the alternate Universe.

So there it is.  I get a safe home, the world gets my purpose fulfilled.  Not a bad deal, eh, Universe?

A Time For Every Purpose

Modern life is filled with a whole lot of tossing aside of natural rhythms and forcibly conforming to some arbitrary man-made order.  If we don’t mold easily to whatever contrived system is deemed “normal,” we’re freaks, we’re lazy, we’re procrastinators, or we’re just plain weird.  If your energy, your muse, or your motivation doesn’t come in eight-hour bursts five days a week, then something is just wrong with you.  I’ve already discussed my struggles with the fact that I do not have a 24-hour circadian rhythm and how that has affected my sleeping and waking life.  But I’m not just talking about sleep.  My energy and my inspiration comes in waves, and it does this with everything.  I’ll have a spate of painting inspiration, or writing inspiration, or knitting inspiration, or cleaning inspiration.  For a while, be that a few days or a few weeks, I will be painting like a being possessed, or writing at a pace that if sustained would get something the length of War and Peace turned out in a couple of months.  But do I sustain this frenetic knit-a-thon until I’ve made a cozy large enough to hug the cash register building (attention non-Denverites: look at a picture of our skyline.  We have a skyscraper shaped like an old-school cash register)?  No.  The wave of knitting mania peters out before it goes that far.  And then I won’t knit for possibly months until I feel compelled to pick up a pair of needles again.

Sometimes I wish I could control when these bursts of focused energy hit, but that’s the thing.  I can’t.  No one can.  I can’t say, “Writing muse, activate!” like I’m a Wonder Twin.  When it’s there, it’s there.  When it’s not, it’s not.  That’s how the muse works.  And it’s not just creative endeavors, either.  I mentioned cleaning, for one.  Sometimes I go on a cleaning/purging/organizing binge that would make Mr. Monk proud.  Other times the mere sight of the dirty dishes piling up in my kitchen sink fills me with dread.

Here is where I estimate about 50% of my reading audience is going to attempt to diagnose me with bipolar disorder.  And though I will admit that idea has been floated to me by a doctor at one point, I really don’t think it is the case.  Because usually the “swing” isn’t a swing at all, but a shift.  One day I might be a cleaning fool.  Then the next day I might be click-clacking away at the keyboard.  It’s not that I’m “high” or “low” – it’s that my focus has changed.  And you can put away the ADD diagnosis as well.  When I’m inspired, I have the focus of a laser.  For HOURS.  Or days.  Or weeks.  You get the idea.

Which brings me to the larger point: why do we seek to label things that don’t fit the “normal” mold as disorders?  I’m not saying actual disorders don’t exist, but why is it a problem if all I can think about is writing for a week, or if I have twenty things I am flitting about in one day?  If I’m functional, I hardly think that’s a disorder.

Aha, therein lies the rub: define “functional.”  You might say, if I’m so absorbed in what I’m doing that I skip a meal or a shower then slow down, turbo, that’s just craziness!  But would you think so if you were reading about some great artist and how they created their masterpiece?  I’m guessing you’d just label that “artistic genius” (unfortunately, telling my mother that I was an artistic genius growing up because Leonardo DaVinci was supposedly a slob didn’t get me out of cleaning my room, but ya know, worth a shot).  And how many gamers do you know that get whatever new game they love and will not be seen or heard from for the next two or three days until they’ve beaten the thing?  Are they disordered or just passionate about that game?  Since it’s an actual thing for significant others to call themselves “<enter name of game here> widows,” as in, “Are you free this weekend?” “Yeah, I’ll be a Skyrim widow for the next few days, so I’m free!” …I’m thinking that’s not so abnormal.  So why do we treat it as such?

Why do we make exceptions (see above gaming example) for some things, but that is absolutely out of the question for other things?  Why can’t you call out of your day job when you need a mental health day without faking a cough?  Why isn’t it enough to just say, my focus just really isn’t there today, and I wouldn’t be very productive if I tried to force it anyway?  Because it’s seen as immature to admit to the fact that you can’t turn your focus and passion on and off like a switch?  I would think it would be more mature to know your “limitations,” though I hesitate to call them such.  I don’t see these things as limitations; I see them as natural cycles.

Think about it historically: people living closer to the land had natural cycles built into their lives that us modern city-dwellers don’t even acknowledge today.  There was planting season; there was growing season; there was harvesting season; there was the cold season when you retreated indoors.  Your focus was on different activities, in different quantities, at different times of the year.  And those activities were influenced by things like the weather, and how much sunlight you had, and how many people were working together to accomplish a goal.  Yet we’re expected to still maintain a year-round five days a week, 52 weeks a year, eight hour burst of focus on the same exact thing for our entire adult lives.  Sounds rather arbitrary, doesn’t it?

So why is it “irresponsible” to not fit that unnatural mold?  It sounds more like being in tune with the real world to me.  But we’ve become so conditioned, in a very short period of time, when you think about it, that this is just the way things are, and how they’ve always been.  But in reality the industrial revolution, and with it, the scheduling of people’s lives around factory schedules instead of the natural world, is a relatively recent development.

I say down with a man-made contrivance, and up with listening to your body, your spirit, and your natural rhythms.  I find I accomplish a lot more of value this way, as opposed to a pile of busywork and an ethic of butts-in-seats.  Do what is worthwhile.  Time is relative.

Let It Be

For the past couple of months, I have been largely in what a friend of mine calls “cave time,” that is, time when you turn inward and live in your inner world rather than participating so much in the outer world, or as some might say, “the real world.”

I’ve had a lot of good insights into myself, my path, and life in general during this time, as well as a lot of “What on Earth have I done all day??” moments.  That was part of the lesson I learned during this time.

We often feel in our go-go-go, work-work-work, now-now-now society that “just being” is just a polite way of saying “lazy,” and of course, being “lazy” is “bad.”  We’ve got that masochistic work ethic drilled into us so much that the idea of “rest” is foreign and to be sneered at.  I’ve had this theme become rather ubiquitous in my life as of late.  Someone I follow on Google+ – or was it Facebook? – commented one day how it was brought to their attention when they had shared an update that they were taking a “lazy Sunday” and just resting and relaxing.  One of their friends had commented “Don’t make a habit out of it.”  Why not make a habit out of it?  They wondered.  Isn’t that the idea behind the weekend?  The sabbath?

Remember that notion?  One day a week where it was religiously mandated to relax and live in your inner world and commune with a higher power.  Why is that now “bad”?

I was browsing Kindle books a little while ago and found this gem I had never heard of before: “The Right To Be Lazy” by Paul Lafargue (Karl Marx’s son).  I’m not done with it yet, but in it he talks about how historically “work” was something to be scorned by free people, and how being free from work spawned a lot of great philosophies and discoveries, such as in ancient Greece.  Back then, the work was foisted onto slaves, but now we have machines that can do much of this work for us (and keep in mind, this book was written around the turn of the 20th century, so this holds even more true today than it did then).  So why didn’t automation become a way for people to work less and have more free time and still have enough to get by?  Why did our society develop the way it did, with “workaholics” and overtime galore, or even if you didn’t want to live that way, feeling pressured to perform thusly or risk losing your income?  Why did automation become a “threat” to our livelihood rather than a blessing?  Why didn’t EVERYONE benefit from these technologies, instead of just stockholders and CEOs?  And why do CEOs continue to work so much, despite being filthy rich?  If you won millions of dollars in the lottery, wouldn’t you quit your job and do what you wanted (say, travel around the world or volunteer or hobbies or whatever it is you like to do)?  These guys win the paycheck lottery every year but they keep working 80 hour weeks, instead of quitting after a while and living a comfortable life.  Instead of passing the torch for someone else to win the paycheck lottery, they feel driven to “keep busy”.  People, when talking about retirement, often say that they “wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.”  Why is that?

Have you ever read a Jane Austen novel?  Monied people didn’t work.  If you watch Downton Abbey, the family is rather scandalized when they discover that the next in line to inherit the Earldom is a LAWYER who WORKS (gasp!).  Back then, if you had the means, you didn’t work.  But many people who have what I would consider to be plenty to live on insist on working, even though they don’t need to.  It’s shameful if you don’t have a job, even if you don’t really need the money.

Why do we define ourselves by our livelihoods?  When people ask me “What do you do?” I have often said, “I write, though that’s not how I pay the bills, if that’s what you mean.”  Why do I feel the need to make that distinction?  Because I have never defined myself by my job.  The job was just a way for me to pay the rent.  What I WAS was an artist (painter, sculptor) and a writer.  I WASN’T a secretary, or a medical assistant, or a cashier.  That was what I did by necessity; writing, painting, sculpting, etc. is what I did for love.

So, just being.  One of the things I’ve discovered since losing my “regular job” back in June was the nature of the sleep issues I’ve had all my life.  I always chalked them up to being “a night owl,” but even when I worked nights I still wasn’t sleeping enough, or sleeping through five (yes, five) alarm clocks, or any variation of “not being able to maintain a decent sleep schedule” in between.  And yes, I read just about every article on sleep and tried just about every remedy besides drugs, and nothing helped.  What I’ve discovered is that apparently, my circadian rhythm is not set to 24 hours.  Once I finally let myself sleep when I was tired, instead of when I “should” sleep, and stay awake when I was awake, instead of trying to force myself to sleep, it became clear that I just don’t cycle every 24 hours.  For instance, for the past few days, the cycle has been: awake for 26 hours, sleep for 10 hours, awake for 26 hours, sleep for 12 hours.  That’s about three days but for me it was two.  No WONDER I was either an insomniac or comatose.  I’ve beat myself up over my sleep habits – or lack thereof – my whole life.  I’ve been deemed “lazy” and “irresponsible” because of it, even when the majority of the time, trying to squeeze myself into a “normal” schedule meant that I averaged about five hours of sleep a night (or less).  Accepting that I’m just not wired like most people, and not beating myself up over it or trying to force it into submission has been a boon to both my waking and sleeping hours (not to mention my mood).  I feel great, and for once in my life, rested.  One of the many reasons why I’ve been trying desperately to find my niche and earn a living writing/freelancing – I’d get to keep my sleep schedule the way it naturally is.

It took me months to get to the place where I am now, of neither trying to force myself into the “normal” mold, nor feeling guilty about it.  I still struggle with it some days, especially during the winter months when the day is so short and THAT’S when my body decided it was bedtime.  But the difference it has made in how I feel usually means I can override that guilty feeling with, “Don’t mess this up!”  Or maybe “You’re allowed” or “You’re worth it.”  Because you know what?  We’re all worth getting a good night’s rest.  Or staying up when we’re not tired.  Either or.  It’s not a sin.

And that’s been the overriding lesson learned these past couple of months of “cave time.”  I’m allowed to turn inward when I feel the need.  I’m allowed to let my body dictate when it’s tired or awake.  I’m allowed to work like a busy bee or take a day off.  I’m even allowed to have a bad mood some days, and not feel guilty for it.  It’s called being human.  We’re not perfect, and we’re not all the same.  And I don’t have to internalize society’s dictates on what I “should” be or do.  I needn’t feel guilty because I don’t fit the “average” mold.  For years I beat myself up and hated that I didn’t fit that mold.  Today I’m finally glad I’m different.

Post Navigation