Sunday, December 16, 2018

Time vs. Energy

I have realized something essential, Invisible Audience. It is not so much about the time I spend at a given task. It is about the energy that task requires.

We’ve all had it to some degree – putting off that 5 minute phone call because it feels like such a big deal; dreading to talk to that one person because it feels like they suck all the life out of you. It’s become amazingly clear how that works for me, especially in work settings. It was probably safer and a bit easier for me to make this realization there, first. I realized that the thought of fulfilling some clients’ requests made me want to drag my feet so hard that I could barely function. I would do anything except their task, putting it off for days even if it only took me an hour to complete. This past couple weeks, this realization has completely solidified. I found myself dragging my feet on a lot of things, not because I didn’t have time in the day, but because I didn’t have energy for that time. 

I went to an amazing retreat this summer for empaths, people like me who feel other peoples’ feelings and are hyper sensitive to what is going on around them. In a room full of others like me, I realized that the amount of alone time I need is perfectly natural; that I am sensitive to things that don’t affect others; that I need more recovery time than many people do. What am I recovering from? Well, it depends on the day, but mostly I’m recovering from interacting with people. Even when I enjoy it; even when I sign up for it – I need downtime to come back to center.

The more these pieces click into place, the more I realize how important it is for me to only take on work that requires a proportionate amount of time and energy. If I take on too many tasks that drag down my ability to function because they sap my energy, I end up shaky, sick and overwhelmed. On the other hand, if I work with people/clients and on projects that don’t have me stewing over them when I’m not working on them, or dreading the time it will take to work on them, I have a lot more energy to spare.

Maybe this is a simple thing that you already knew about and understood, Invisible Audience, but it’s a fairly new concept for me. I still struggle with the idea that it’s ok to say no to someone, especially for something that can sound as nebulous or woo-woo as “sorry, your energy is really bringing me down.”

In all seriousness, though, I say no a lot now that I know this, and ultimately it’s led me to better clients and the ability to take on more work for better pay.

In this process, I’ve discovered that there’s a pattern of the kinds of people who sap my energy:

  • ·   They have an idea and expect me to follow through on it for them
  • ·   They ask for the rules to be broken for them and ignore the reasons those parameters are there in the first place
  • ·   They expect that I should be available to them at any time of day or night or weekend, and that their emergencies should be mine, too
  • ·   They expect me to know what they need without explanation or direction and don’t seem to give any thought to how or why I might do something differently, seeing it as wrong instead of different

As I write this list, Invisible Audience, I have discovered something: these people who sap my strength lack boundaries. That very large word that has taken me so long to understand – let alone embrace – has become absolutely necessary to my existence.  And suddenly I see with a lot more clarity that when those boundaries are not honored – or my gut tells me that they won’t be honored – I lose the energy I need to do the work.

I can remember telling someone once that I merely wished for a romantic partner who would not sap my strength.

“Oh no, Morgan,” this person said. “You don’t just want someone who won’t take energy from you. You want someone who gives energy to you.”

Is that possible, Invisible Audience? I don’t know. But I do know that over time it’s becoming easier to see where I can keep ahold of myself – and trusting what I’m feeling is the best place to start.

Love and energetic kisses

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Busy as a Boundary


It finally happened, Invisible Audience.

I finally got so busy I simply could not deliver the things I said I would deliver at the time I said I would.

Do I feel you rolling your eyes? That’s not completely unwarranted. I realize that everybody has that happen, at some point or another. For a lot of people I know, there’s so much going on that it happens quite a bit. For me, it happens less, but for a very specific reason: my sense of self is wrapped quite tightly with my productivity and my ability to deliver what I say I’m going to when I say I’m going to do it.

This doesn’t come from a place of pride to say, Invisible Audience. It’s because I don’t know how to be any other way. It’s because it feels like death might come calling if I admit that I can’t do it all – every last thing put before me; asked of me; requested; needed.

In college, I told one of my friends that I’d received straight A’s for the semester.
“Awww,” she said, “Couldn’t you have settled for A’s and B’s and hung out with us more instead?”

There was absolutely nothing in me at that point that saw any way I could do that. My only reaction was one of horror. What would it mean about me if I wasn’t going above and beyond, all the time?

Well, apparently that’s still something I have to work on, nearly (wince) 20 years later. This last week, I was so overwrought, so overworked, so overloaded that I broke. Not in a loud, messy, meltdown way, but an internal piece of myself that I’d used to hold me up simply folded in on itself.

I could not do it, Invisible Audience. I worked all the way through last weekend, got to Monday, taught four kids’ classes back to back, snarled at anyone who looked at me sideways, stared at my to do list and could not even bring myself to start.

On Tuesday, I finally figured out what I had to do. I had to email one of my clients and tell them that the thing I owed them from 2 weeks ago would take me another week to get to. I am sure I have done other things that have made me feel as humble, but not recently. I had reached a point where I could not do it all.

The most humbling part was realizing that I was doing this to myself, and for a very specific reason: to claim it as a boundary instead of using the word “no.” You see, it’s so much easier for me to say, “Sorry, I can’t. I’m busy,” than it is to say, “Sorry, no.”

I basically work for myself. I run a non profit that I formed; I am a freelance writer; I do other work on the side. Together, all these things pay my bills, but recently they have taken over my life. I live in an amazing town in the mountains and struggle to get outside and enjoy it when I know I have work to do. I haven’t been sleeping that well – if I toss and turn for more than an hour, I get up and start working, hoping to get the projects done that cause the anxiety that keeps me from sleeping. But the kicker is that there’s always another project; another person insisting their project is really important and very urgent; another last minute small thing that surely I have time for.

I can’t do this anymore, Invisible Audience. I can’t use busy as a boundary, because it’s slowly sapping at my will to live. I can’t hope that others will see what I’m doing and give me the validation I’m looking for – respect my time – if I won’t respect it myself.

On Saturday, I read a book and a half. I took myself out to breakfast. I took a bath. I took a nap. It was as if I’d hooked myself up to a battery. It completely recharged me. Now it’s just a question of letting myself recharge me more often, without having to justify it to myself or others.

Love and not-so-busy kisses

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Enough vs. Plenty

Hello Invisible Audience,

I am going to admit something major: I am not perfect.

This is hard to say, because I try really hard to present myself as if I am. It’s hard to say, because I struggle a lot with living up to my own expectations for myself, which are much more stringent than the expectations that anyone else would put on me. I find myself having arguments with myself all the time: well, Morgan, you don’t have kids, so you clearly have more time than most people you know. You’re sitting here writing, so you could be working instead. It’s not really that much extra work, is it? You can just do it.

Frankly, Invisible Audience, that’s an exhausting way to live. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – there are a number of people I know who struggle with the same issues. A lot of us hear a common rejoinder: it’s enough. What you’re doing is enough. But you know what, Invisible Audience? I’ve always hated that answer. Because enough seems like just barely enough to get by. I am a writer after all, so I get really hung up in the details and literal translations. Enough is just…not enough. I want plenty. I want people to know that I have accomplished plenty today. Not just enough, but more than enough – enough for it to satiate, to overflow, for it to be more than enough.

Is this overkill? I think not, Invisible Audience. You see, it feels like I’ve been told forever that I should be grateful for what I have, even when it hasn’t felt like there was enough. There are starving children in Africa, after all, and we should all be really lucky for what we have. The only way I’ve ever been able to wrap my head around how lucky I feel, though, is when I think about what I have in terms of plenty.

I have plenty of food.
I have plenty of friends.
I have plenty of work to do that pays me.
I have plenty of love from my cat at 6 am, before I am ready to get up.

For some reason, plenty works better for me than enough. And lately, I’ve been enjoying plenty of everything: plenty of work, plenty of friendships, and plenty of things that take up my time. I do wish for plenty of rest, but I’m working on that, Invisible Audience. I’m working on it being ok to not have a plan, or an objective, every minute of every day.  
It used to be that I had a lot of health issues that would keep me from being as productive as I wanted to be. It’s been a long, long journey, but I’m finally to the point where I have the energy to work, so now it’s about creating a different expectation for myself. I want it to be ok to not have to work all the time. I want it to be ok to have more fun; revel in more sunsets; spend more time looking at the stars.

But for now, I have plenty, Invisible Audience. And that’s all I want to ask for.

Love and plenty of kisses,