The Happy And Maybe Sad of Independence

Happy Indepence Day to all Americans reading this! And I hope everyone else reading still enjoyed a nice summer Monday today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Independence lately- what it means and what to do with it. As I get older, and more summers go by, the realization of how independence works gets clearer. As kids, we had to live in a certain place, and eat certain things, and be around certain people. We had to do our homework and study very particular things and choose from a specific assortment of extracurricular activities. Now, in our thirties, we are truly not held back by anything. Our liberation is a strange realization to process at first because we tell ourselves that we have only a few choices when in fact we have many, many more.

Summer is the time I really think about my choices and options because I have more time to process. My job is less structured in the summer and I don’t travel for work again until fall. I could spend my summer solely watching tv, or spend it working on a new project. I could travel in the summer, or spend my time staycationing in NYC. I can say ‘I’m bored’ and do nothing at home or I can learn to sing again from YouTube videos, or sit and paint. There are so many options.

But these are only the simple options. I can also question why I live in New York (I can live anywhere in the country as my work is all travel based). I can also question my job itself- I can choose to apply for other jobs. I can go into a completely different line of work. I can dye my hair purple. I can get a dog. I can get on a plane to India. I can party all night. I can eat Cheetos day and night. I can never exercise again. I can exercise all day long. Some options seem insane, but they’re still options nonetheless.

There are just so many options- and it’s great but it can also be scary. Sometimes when there’s lots of open time ahead, I get scared because I want to use the time well. This fear can lead to sadness- I’ve felt bad in the past when there’s empty time, because time leads to options and options lead to dealing with choices. And it can be scary to realize how much independence I actually have.

However, when the reins are grabbed, and I seize the wonderful power of independence and options, there’s nothing more incredible. When I can enjoy my time, own my choices, and make my days truly mine, my joy is unmatchable. All the ‘busyness’ that’s used as a coverup for being afraid of facing ownership of my life can’t match independence.

So enjoy the summer and any time off. Allow yourself to own your time and don’t hide behind ‘being so busy’ with bs time- stealing tasks. Don’t just sit around being bored. If you have time to relax, own the relaxation. Make your own choices and bask in the joy of them. Celebrate! You are independent!

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Unwinding During the Busiest Times In Your Thirties

I’m just coming off of the busiest and most hectic time of year in my line of work. The auto show season has come to a close and many tradeshows I work with are popping up and winding down. Yet my mind still whirls. It’s hard to come down from both the highs and the lows of being extremely busy and mildly crazed.

I remember one tactic I used to have to handle work stress when I felt like I had no time to calm down was to try to find a small amount of time in the middle of the day- sometimes just 10 minutes- and let my mind go completely blank and peaceful. This wasn’t part of the standard meditations I do- it was a separate time or two during the day sometimes during a quick work break. I’d just take a “vacation” in the midst of the busyness. My mind would let go.

This practice has been too long forgotten from my days, but I thought of it again when I was having an anxious moment at the airport yesterday. I was thinking about all the tasks I had yet to do, even though there were less than usual. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep, and an annoying negative loop was playing in my head. And then I suddenly remembered my 10 minute “vacation” practice of thinking about nothing in the midst of stressful times. So I stared around the airport and said ‘screw all these tasks i’m thinking about. Screw them all.’ And I simply smiled and observed the terminal.

Nothing happened. The world didn’t end. I slept on the flight. The tasks happened later and it was no big deal. When you find yourself needing to feel tense and busy out of habit, try taking a ‘vacation’ from wherever you are. Say ‘screw it’ to all the tasks and worries in your mind for at least a few minutes and try to smile and simply go blank. Just observe.

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Don’t let the habit of feeling busy become a need. You never need to feel tense. Just let go.  It’ll get easier every time.

The More Time and Less Time of Stopping

I recently went through a period where I had trouble feeling grateful for things. I wrote about some of my struggles in What Happens When You Start Feeling Empty – I came to a point where I realized I was having difficulties accessing any feelings at all, never mind grateful, peaceful ones.

I’ve started to come out of that funk, at least for awhile, and I think the return of some peace in my life has a lot to do with having gone through the emptiness in the first place, acknowledged it, and just stopped.

Stopped. Cold.

Instead of trying to push through the empty feeling and just get it out of my life by sheer force, I sat with it. I stopped what I was doing- the things I could stop anyway- the busyness and busy rituals that I felt I needed to do but actually didn’t. The emptiness was trying to tell me something and I needed to listen. Jane talks about sitting with feelings of sadness in her last post The Solstice and Acknowledging the Harder Parts of the Holidays. I think you can sit with any feeling, including an empty lack of feeling.

I turned the non-feelings over in my head. I wrote about them here. And then, slowly, painstakingly at first, the feelings changed. And I changed what I was doing. Tiny, experimental changes. I starting a new morning ritual instead of my beloved meditating. I exercised in a different way. I started seeing more friends and changed my work habits a bit. I read a different book.

I didn’t make major changes. Just small ones that felt a bit better. And then I started to feel a bit better.

I didn’t have any more time in my life to sit with my thoughts or change my routines or stop what I was doing. But time is a funny thing. It’ll expand when something is important to you.

Even though the holidays are busy and stressful sometimes, give yourself the gift of your own time for awhile. Peace will come.

And isn’t that what the holidays are all about anyway?

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