slowing down a restless spirit

I have a tendency to do too much. Not only is “yes” forefront in my vocabulary, but I am also constantly creating new goals and projects for myself. I have various to-do lists scattered in different notebooks, scraps of paper, on my computer, and on my iPhone. And some of the books I return to time and time again are: Time Management from the Inside Out, Getting Things Done, Eat that Frog. If I can just master my time management and organizing skills (I think to myself), then I can fit as much as possible into my day and my life. In fact, I have all of these as audiobooks so that I can multitask…read a book and “get things done” at the same time!

Are you exhausted just reading this?

If the past month is any indication, this way of living is just not working for me. For quite some time, I just couldn’t shake a cold that had decided to latch onto me. I generally don’t like to use medicine, but when this sickness wouldn’t go away, I stocked up on anything and everything I thought might help. Nyquil night after night, and then various experiments with over-the-counter medications during the day. Nothing helped. And, yet, I kept pushing through. Going through a box of Kleenex a day at work, going out with friends at night, doing graduate school homework when I could fit it in, exercising at the gym, and trying to cross as much as I could off my lists.

Even though I knew deep down I needed to take it easy, I just couldn’t bring myself to slow down. Until one day, a few weeks ago, when my body said, “Enough.” It just couldn’t push anymore. My entire body ached, and it was even difficult to walk around for an extended period of time. It took a lot for me to take off not one, but two days of work. 

And now that I’m on the other side of this long bout of sickness and fatigue, I realize it’s time to take a long hard look at, what Dave calls, my “restless spirit.”

Once I was able to put a name to it, clues began to appear for me on why I take on too much, and just maybe how I can change my tendency to overextend. Recently I pulled Julia Cameron’s Walking in this World off my bookshelf and started re-reading it. Things seem to always make a lot more sense the second time around:

Restlessness means you are on the march creatively. The problem is, you may not know where.

So often we feel there is so much we yearn to do and so little time to do it in. We could take a cue from music here: “Rest” is a musical term for a pause between flurries of notes….Without a rest in our lives, the torrent of our lives can be (overwhelming)….As artists, we must serve our souls, not our egos. Our souls need rest.

When I think about what I really want to do over the next few months, this is what comes to mind:

  • Get lost in good books
  • See lots of movies
  • Cook creative meals inspired by the Farmer’s Market

These activities have no place in the accomplishment-oriented ego.  This is what my soul yearns to do.

At this moment, this is what a restful spirit looks like to me.

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