Out of the pregnant darkness of sleep, a dream begins. Not like most dreams; vivid, yes, but this one feels important. Sit up straight, something’s about to happen.
I sit up straight to find my spine filled from tail to crown with a glimmering light. I feel, rather than see, that this glowing column illuminates my body from the inside out.
Pooled on the floor around me I observe the outline of empty shapes in all different sizes and configurations, arranged next to each other like cobblestones on a street. As I look closer, I see each one has a label. I slowly understand that each shape corresponds to a task to be done, and as this realization dawns on me I feel a growing panic rise in my throat. I’ll never finish them all. It’s too much.
But instead of giving in to overwhelm (as I often do in real life), I choose to look closer at the shapes on the floor nearest to me.
Paint my nails.
Return an email.
On and on, the labels list out every unfinished task that’s been on my my mind, every yearning that has arisen, every obligation I’ve faced.
Turning away from the overwhelm, I decide to paint my nails. Out of all the things I can see, it feels like the least threatening. As I’m blowing the last dusty rose fingernail dry, I notice a sliver of light drain from my spine and fill the shape on the floor marked “paint my nails.” The task is done. The energy is spent.
Invigorated, I look around the tasks at my feet and pick another—this time, a work task I know is important and must be done today. If I run out of energy before this one is done, I’ll disappoint my client. It’s a larger task, and when I finish it, a larger portion of light drains into the puddle on the floor.
In place of my former panic, I feel a confident acceptance of the limitations of my energy. I can’t overdraw; this is all there is. I keep choosing one task at a time until my energy is drained low. When the energy wanes, I understand it is time to sleep. I somehow know that after I’ve rested, I’ll wake up with a spine full of shimmering light again.
Tired but satisfied, I look around at the tasks at my feet. A glance around the tasks tells an interesting story, one I couldn’t have seen coming at the start of my day. There is not a single unfinished task left that I regret not doing; even the ones I thought were so urgent in the morning really were not at all…as I gazed at them in the evening light, I feel peaceful. Some of them will get done tomorrow. Some of them were not important in the first place.
Even more interesting though, is that each task I finished—even the frivolous ones—are threaded together in a perfect order I couldn’t have planned. Each one mattered and contributed to the progress of my intentions, even the unspoken intentions I hadn’t realized were operating under the surface when I began.
For example, painting my nails had felt like procrastination while I was doing it. I had felt a little guilty for “wasting” energy on something with such impractical purpose, but in light of the big picture, I realized that later in the day when it came time to make a phone call I was nervous about—a task that would normally make me feel insecure and second-guess myself—my lovely nails gave me the tiny jolt of confidence I needed to make the call instead of chickening out. I just had to press the green call button with my lovely thumb, after all. The phone call was much more conventionally “important”, yet it was only with the benefit of hindsight that I could see how the pools of light on the floor were connected and relied on the energy of one another. I could never have seen how it all worked at the outset, but at day’s end, I discovered I could trust in the choices I made, one at a time.
The dream fades away as I slowly wake up. Eyes still closed, the realization dawns in me like a rising sun. The feeling of relief warms me all over. There is enough energy. There is always enough.
Before opening my eyes, I think of trust. The magic light glows as I rise, excited to see which tasks are laid before me today.
This was an actual dream I had several months back, one that has slowly permeated my psyche and is still working to chip away at the ways I approach “productivity.”
It felt like a gift, and after some thought, I decided to pass this gift along to you with a few parting thoughts:
What if you just allow your day to happen, and trust that whatever you decide to do within it, from moment to moment, will be enough?
What if you follow your inklings and instincts and gut feelings, instead of striving and driving and pushing all the time? How much relief could you feel?
What if you turned down the volume on the voice in your head that says you must do more, faster, better?
What if you made space for more pockets of delight, beauty and seemingly frivolous pastimes?
Can you find it in yourself to trust that nothing is lost on this journey of yours?
Have a beautiful day, my friend!
// Photo by Chris Adamus on Unsplash, modified by moi