Earlier this week, I spent 24 hours on a solo, self-imposed writing retreat. I rented a room at a gorgeous and secluded VRBO, packed a bit of food and my favorite comfort objects (devoted mostly to keeping me warm, as it turns out—like slippers, a rice bag, and warm PJ’s) and settled in with a notebook, my laptop and some good old fashioned solitude.
I left for the overnight with very open-ended expectations. I didn’t have a list of projects or goals in mind, I simply wanted to get away, spend some time alone with my thoughts, and see what came up.
It was amazing, to say the least.
I could write an entire post about the wonders of taking time away, but the slice I want to share today relates to something I noticed—something rather important.
I arrived at about three in the afternoon, and to my surprise, it took the entire first evening to simply slow down and relax into a state of ease. Before I could even think about writing, I needed to chill the f!@# out. I was so wound up from my unusually busy week, hyper-drive preparations for leaving town and abandoning my job for two workdays, that it took hours and hours to unravel the chaos and feel the stress, anxiety and overwhelm—which I’m so used to living with moment to moment—to gradually lift away and roll off, to reveal…calm. Quiet. Me.
I like to think of myself as a person who enjoys a lot of ease in life. And truly, I’ve come a long way from where I once was. But this experience was an eye-opener to how my everyday hustle lately really feels in my body and my mind—it feels hectic and tense, and it is so habitual I often don’t even notice it.
For a person who loves ease and hates feeling stressed out…I still catch myself feeling the opposite of relaxed, too much of the time. Because it’s a habit.
I’ve been thinking about how to integrate this new information, now that I’m back from my retreat. And as I was in the car this morning on my way to a client meeting, I noticed something I can change.
I tend to leave the house in a flurry of activity—I have to put make-up on! And a bra! And don’t forget to grab the baggie of change to drop off at the bank, and my shopping list, and shopping bags and oh, dear, where are my keys? Even if I’m not already running late, I feel like I’m in a fight against the clock.
I land in the car like a tornado and roll down the driveway while buckling my seat belt (multitasking ftw!).
I was halfway to my destination this morning when my brain slowed down enough for me to notice: I was riding along in silence, with only my anxious, hurried thoughts to keep me entertained.
It wasn’t helping me at all to be mentally spinning in this way. I wasn’t getting downtown any faster. I found myself smack dab in the middle of habitual stress.
What’s more—this is the way I always drive, regardless of where I’m headed. Without an anchor to remember I’m not, actually, in a panicked hurry between one Super Important Thing and the next, I tend to act like I’m in a panicked hurry and THERE’S NO TIME TO STOP FOR FUN OR ANYTHING ELSE!
In an effort to start something new, I’m going to change one small detail of that sequence, which I’m hoping will be the anchor I need to remind me to slow down, at least mentally.
That one small detail is to plug in my phone and choose some music I feel like listening to. It’s so simple it’s almost stupid (almost), but most of the time, I act like I’m too busy to turn on the music before I leave to go somewhere. Even though it takes literally FIVE SECONDS, and it makes the whole trip delightful. Once I turned on the music today, the car trip felt completely different, in an awesome way. (I have excellent taste in music and I’m really good at singing loud in the car, sooooo…)
I will remind myself to do it by leaving the auxiliary plug on the car seat when I get out, and I’m going to do it—even when I am running late. Because no matter what my monkey brain says, I always have five seconds to remember that it is, in fact, okay to relax a little bit on my journey.