Welcome to the Trench

It’s funny, I thought about giving myself a do-over for this photo; clearing some clutter out of the background, putting on a different shirt, redoing my hair, maybe putting some plants around… Then I realized that photo, for the purpose of this post, would be a gross misrepresentation of life as I know it right now.

This is me after work, after dinner, after bath time, after the baby has gone to bed, in the 20 minutes I have to myself before I, too, go to bed. On this particular evening, I took my yoga mat out for the first time in weeks (months?), because I wanted to try something I had attempted in a class earlier – the first class I had gone to in weeks (months?).

Let me back up. Like many other people, I easily fall into a deep pit of urgency and routine – a Mariana Trench of “just doing what needs to be done,” and somehow justifying it as normal. Responsibilities, not necessarily ones that I asked for, were mounting at work. Pressure was on. I was spread too thin. I was waking up in the middle of the night wondering… Did I drop a ball today? Is it going to bounce back and smack me in the face while I’m still trying to juggle the rest? Is someone going to toss a couple of flaming bowling pins into the mix? How can I mitigate the impact of said ball/bowling pins? Is this a solvable issue? You get the idea.

Mornings and evenings are Doodle time. Get the hugs in. Get the book in. Is she happy? Is she healthy? Let’s eat breakfast. Let’s pack lunch. We can play for a few minutes. Are there enough vegetables in her backpack today? Is her ear infection coming back? These are the things I am not willing to sacrifice. As a working mom, the time I do get to spend with my daughter and the care that I provide her with are non-negotiable.

So what does get sacrificed? Well, in a word, me.Β  I cut out the morning gym routine or yoga class so I could sleep for 20 minutes longer, get 10 more minutes with my daughter, and get to work 30 minutes earlier. A shower isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Meals have turned into rabidly devouring whatever is convenient. Fun fact: This past Thursday my lunch was literally 1/2 a Snickers bar that I had started eating for lunch the day before. Interpersonal connections feel like a luxury. If you did the math, the mental and physical energy of arranging for someone to watch Doodle for an hour so I can grab a happy-hour drink with a friend would be a net-loss. And, who am I kidding, I need some sleep.

I know I’m not alone, but it doesn’t have to be like this. This kind of insanity is the direct result of getting caught up and ignoring the big picture. This is what happens when there is a complete and total failure of mindfulness and self care. Then comes the tipping point where the urgency and busyness of taking care of others becomes so overwhelming that it stops being productive and becomes crippling.

Welcome to the Trench. Population: You, and maybe a couple of those angler fish. Angler fish make for shit company, so this is when it’s time to recommit to finding balance and start swimming back to the surface. Nobody is going to die if you take an hour out of your day to get some exercise. Nothing truly bad is going to happen if you run out to grab a healthy lunch for yourself. Stop eating lunch at your desk (this is proven to be one of the worst habits of working Americans). And interpersonal connections are so important, lest you end up in an echo-chamber of your own unattainable standards.

This past week, I recommitted: to being mindful, to taking time for myself, to advocating for my health, to doing the things that make me feel good, to putting myself first so I can be a present and sane mother and wife, and the employee that my boss hired. First order of business was to get to a yoga class. My own personal addiction is to making sure I’m not letting anyone down, my treatment is self-care, and my “AA” is a yoga class. I always feel relief and a little guilt as soon as I walk into the room and set up my mat. I should have done this sooner. How did I let it get this bad?

This particular class was about the give and take of achieving balance. Of course it was. This is how the universe works. During the class, I achieved an arm balance – flying pigeon pose – that I had never done before (and honestly never really expected to), but something clicked and suddenly I was teetering the entire length of my body on my hands. I felt strong. I felt balanced. I felt like it was probably a sign, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I tried it again at home, to make sure it wasn’t some kind of fluke – it wasn’t. I had the strength and focus to do it again. It only lasted a few seconds, my feet bopping off the floor, adjusting my center of gravity before finding stability again. Here comes yoga, per usual, with the perfect metaphor: Achieving balance takes constant tweaking and recommitment, but it’s perfectly attainable if you’re mindful enough to catch yourself and correct course.

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