Friday, August 15, 2008

Too Hard, Too Soft or Just Right?

Today I got some coaching from a certification client (got to love that, they want to practise on me), and I, in the 15 minutes of powercoaching, got a revelation. Not in that is was a discovery of mammoth proportion, but rather in that it is something that is so pervasive, both in terms of within every area of my life, but also in that is has been with me for as long as I can remember, as to be a huge unfolding.

My biggest life struggle seems to be... when should I push myself harder, and when should I cut myself some slack.

Always I have struggled with this, often pushing myself so hard, too hard, never relenting, and when I am done just pushing some more. To the point where am worn so thin, and completely exhausted. And for what? The end of things "to do" never comes? The more I do the more that I and others demand of me. Until I froth at the mouth like a tasmania devil, whirling and pressing forward. Never getting to a resting point. Left with the question "When is enough enough?", and "What am I trying to prove?"

So flip to the other side of the coin. Eventually, praise be to god, every single time I do this frothing at the mouth thing, I inevitably hit a speed bump of sorts, a kind of "slow down and take another look" moment. When the house of self-will cards falls down and I can't make it work anymore. At this place, this moment in time, I suddenly remember about surrender. I remember that I can't do it all by myself. And I move gracefully and gratefully into gentleness. Where, when I am tired, I rest. When I am hungry I eat. I don't push myself so hard that I lose myself. I don't make things and accomplishments more important than people and I just let myself BE a little.

My strongest memory of this experience came when I was about 6 months out of cancer treatment, spat out from the system, but still in pain, still wounded and wondering. Wondering what was next and how to get there. There was no vine that hung from a tree, showing me where to swing. No breadcrumbs left out by little children to show me the way home. My eyes almost swollen shut from trying so hard not to cry, trying so hard to "get on with my life", pushing so hard, pushing harder than I could and should have, harder than I wanted to withstand, to look good, to get on with things, to be the righteous example of how to survive cancer well.

And then I finally cracked. And boy did I crack, wide open. And suddenly I started crying, even in the midst of being afraid that the tears would never ever end. I didn't have any choice anymore. All the pushing and trying hard hadn't worked, hadn't gotten me anyway, or taken away any pain. In fact it had probably just prolonged the pain, to the point of no return. And now it spilled forth. And now I let it. At long last, I let it. Let the tears fall and the pain swell in my breast like an ocean wave until it broke on the shores of my determination, and melted it away like as much slippery sand, waiting to be given the excuse to move.

In my release I let it all go. All the control, all the restriction, all the trying hard and looking good. And I let nature take her gentle course. I lay on my red sofa, cocooned in my own heart, and let my body tell me what to do. Was is time to cry? Time to sleep? Time to stare out into space, letting the molecules of my body and soul re-forge themselves, together? Time to just be still, for a minute, an hour, a day? Time to get up and do something else? Every single decision of what to do got passed through the filter of my body. My wise, weary, war worn body. With a mind of its own. I didn't move without it's say so. Didn't even think about getting up unless it had been ratified by the union, of body, mind, spirit and emotion. And so I healed. One day at a time. One tear at a time. One gentle, loving impulse at at time. This is how my heart got stitched up, a solid year and a quarter after my breast had been sewn back together. And I will never forget it. Except when I do.

So back to the question... when is it time to be hard, to push myself, to call myself forth and remind myself of the changes that I want to make in the world , that I can't make sitting in front of my TV and I can't make talking small talk at a party. And when it is time to know I am exhausted and I need some peace, some time to just be, just for a spell. I have been trying to know this my whole life, in a sort of rough, haphazard, totally unscientific experiment.

So now, with this new discovery, I start to notice that it is a dance, some days one thing, some days another. Not black and white. But an exploration. Checking in to see what is true in the moment. Learning the signs of when I am cracking under that strain and when am I tolerating my own excuses. No one can know but me, and I need to be brutally honest with myself. And if I can conquer this final frontier (and yes, I am noticing that that phrasology fits more with the driving self than the gentle self), who knows what is possible, and who knows what my heart will call for in the middle of the night.


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