I have friends who jam their schedules from morning to night, who — despite a busy work-life — pack their weeknights and weekends with a variety of activities, and who thrive on full calendars. I also have friends who prefer to stay at home, who keep their calendars quiet and full of white space because these people unravel if they get too busy. I’ve always fallen somewhere in between the two, living a continual dance between the thrill of busy-ness and the peace of a quiet calendar.
But what I’ve noticed in the last few months is a pulling back of sorts, like an invisible rein is drawing me more and more towards stillness. In a time when it seems that all around me things are speeding up, I feel the strong urge to slow down. To say no to things. To be very picky about what I take on.
Perhaps it’s because as my children get older they have more activities, inherently affecting the overall ebb and flow of the family calendar; perhaps it’s because I’m finding deeper appreciation of the small, simple moments; perhaps it’s because I care less about proving myself or defining my success in relation to others than I once did; or… perhaps it’s all of those things and none of them. Perhaps it’s simply a phase of reflection and quiet, which we all need for varying reasons at different points in our lives.
Whatever this means, one theme stands out for me: knowing my limits. Physically, my energy limits change depending on how active my work is on a given week. If I have a particularly busy teaching week, I know that my body is more tired than during a week when the work scale tips in favour of writing. But during a heavy writing week I notice I may have more physical reserves but my mind gets tired more easily.
My meditation is always my true north when it comes to re-calibrating my limits. When I drop in to meditation, both my mind and body send signals that are right there in my face. And I cannot avoid seeing or knowing what I need. Sometimes all it takes is a five-minute practice to know that I’ve taken on too much, or that I’m antsy because I have energy that needs to be channelled into a project.
Knowing my limits isn’t always easy to accept. There are many things I want to do or feel the urge to get involved with but then have to weigh those things against whether I really have the time or the energy. With social media it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of who’s-doing-what and how quickly and look-at-that-awesome-project and do-you-want-to-join-us-for-this? It’s a yes-girl’s dream. But as a yes-girl, I feel that invisible rein pull even more tightly right now. Because even though I’m enthusiastic about so many things and I do genuinely want to say yes, yes, yes, I’m trying to be aware of my limits.
In past experience, just as a low tide is followed by a high tide, my periods of quiet and reflection have often preceded bursts of great creative energy and new chapters. But whatever this quiet may be, I am savouring it and accepting it.
Do you know your limits? How do you stay true to them?