THE IMPORTANCE OF STEPPING BACK
Not long after walking into the office on a recent morning, realizing my laptop, crucial to my performing the day’s duties, was sitting on my bookshelf at home and not on my desk as I had anticipated, did I feel a wave of panic wash over me. I felt my cheeks become instantly warm and flush with equal parts embarrassment and anger. After exchanging a few hurried words with my cubemate about the predicament I had found myself in, I walked furiously to the elevator, rode it furiously down to the lobby, walked furiously to my car to make the drive home, and when asked via a simple text message from my partner inquiring “Are you at the office?”, I responded, furiously, “Yes, but I left my f*!@#$%g computer at home.”
His response, just like him, was succinct and sweet . . .
“Can’t you just work from home?”
The answer was yes; yes, of course I could work from home. But my mind was too busy, too full, and too unruly, racing right past the simple solution to a myriad of other concerns, the legitimacy of which is up for debate, but which seemed all too consequential mid-meltdown.
“Yes, I can work from home. But, I have so much to do, and now all of this driving from home, to the yoga studio (I had taught that morning), to the office, and now back home, and then back to the yoga studio later today (I was due to teach that afternoon), is going to set me hours behind on my workload. And I am already behind on my workload. And what kind of pseudo-adult leaves her computer at home? And I can only imagine what my cubemate must be thinking. . . And . . . and.. and . . .”
You know how children, when they are really upset and are trying to articulate something, take big gasps between sobs, stuttering and stammering over their words, inadvertently soliciting verbal help and cues from the adults they are speaking to? That was me. (The child, not the adult, to be clear.)
That was my reaction to one simple problem with a glaringly simple solution. I had a meltdown. I sobbed. I threw my hands up in surrender.
I knew then, as I know now writing this in retrospection, that this was an overreaction. I am embarrassed to admit, and as a yoga teacher perhaps shouldn’t admit, that I tend to be more reactive than I am reflective. But this? Crying over an inadvertent work from home day? This was flat out bizarre behavior.
Bizarre as it was, I am also embarrassed to admit that as sporadic as behavior this extreme is for me, when it is exhibited, it is often symptomatic of one familiar phenomenon I experience in my life: over-exertion.
Let me preface this by saying, this is not meant to be sob story; it is meant simply as an exercise in self-reflection and self-examination to diagnose specific reactions to specific circumstances in my life that, quite frankly, I’d like to challenge and change.
With that said, those closest to me are no stranger to me saying that my life is beautiful, but also very, very full. And full of all of the best things. Full with a full-time job that, while rewarding, has recently been spurring some uncertainty in my life as to whether or not I am feeling as fulfilled as I’d like to be professionally. Full with where my true passion lies, teaching yoga, and managing the social media and blog for Better Buzz Yoga, both of which I love infinitely and fulfill me more than I can articulate. Full with a behemoth family who I love dearly and try to see as often as possible. Full with a tight knit group of friends, many of whom have been in my life for two decades. Full with a loving partnership with a wonderful man I try my hardest to show up for as my best self, every single day.
And yet, with all of this fullness, I have realized that my life is full of so much that I often neglect to save room for one crucial piece . . . and that is myself. And, as it turns out, when I cease to make time for myself, when I cease to step back, shit gets really weird, real fast (i.e., crying over a forgotten computer.)
I was thinking about all of this, between sobs, on the drive home from the office the day of the forgotten-computer incident . . . about how over-exerting comes naturally to me, and I think much of this stems from sheer inability to say “no.”
I will say “yes” to a colleague asking for a favor when I know I hardly have the bandwidth to handle my own workload because I want to be a good teammate.
I will say “yes” to a loved one inviting me to a social outing when I know my mind and body need time to reset and replenish because I want to be a good friend, daughter, girlfriend, sister.
I will say “yes” to opportunities even when I know they are of little interest to me because I want to be everywhere for everyone all at once.
Here’s the thing: I think I am doing everyone, my colleagues, my loved ones, and even myself a service by overextending to make it all happen when, in reality, I am doing the exact opposite. Sure, I make it happen, but rarely is it my best work and rarely am I fully present. And, it’s not fair to anyone, including myself.
I arrived home prepared to do what needed to be done: grab my computer, head back to the office computer in tow for an abbreviated day of work before heading back to Better Buzz Yoga to teach my afternoon class.
Instead, I didn’t do any of it.
I put on my sweat pants, lit some candles, made some tea, and worked from our home office. Sure, I could have gone back to the office. But I was defeated, and wouldn’t be arriving as my most professional self. And so, I stepped back.
I picked up my phone, got on BBY’s scheduling app, selected my afternoon class, and requested a sub. Sure, I could have taught class. But I was depleted, and wouldn’t be arriving as my most authentic self. And so, I stepped back.
And, it wasn’t easy. It was really, really hard. I felt like a shitty employee not showing up for my work, and like an even shittier yoga teacher for not showing up for my students. And I think societal pressures, cultural expectations, and productivity guilt make it really easy for us to think that if we are not doing it all. . . if we are not moving 100 miles a minute . . . that we are doing it wrong.
I also think that kind of thinking is bull shit. We cannot show up fully, for our work, for our loved ones, for ourselves, for others, f we don’t occasionally take a moment to step back and take an introspective self-inventory.
I am privileged to have a life as full as I do; I know that. But when I don’t take time to step back, even if just for an afternoon, I do myself, and others, the disservice of not showing up as who I truly am. And who I truly am is simply a passionate human in pursuit of making this life as joyous and well-lived as possible for others, and myself . . . not a human who cries over a misplaced computer.