Choosing Radical Contentedness

I had a bit of an epiphany today.

I’ve been thinking about the consequences of how I’m always chasing the future and pursuing goals, of how it’s easier for me to keep pushing forward than to rest. Many people experience life differently than me, but a coping mechanism for the emotional minefield within me has been staying busy. It feels dramatically easier for me to put my energy into working hard and being productive than it does for me to let go and rest. In my mind, busy = safe. Until I burn out.

The other night as I was laying in bed, I pondered how so many good things have been happening to me lately, things both earned and freely given, and how little I’ve felt content or celebratory when receiving these blessings. For example, about a week and a half ago I created my very first email list to keep people updated on my writing and other future offers. This involved me taking a course on email list creation, creating the sign up form and first email, creating my Shame to Self-Love guide to go with it, getting a PO box to list at the bottom of my emails (which is legally necessary), and finally sending the first email out to my new subscribers. PHEW. On top of this, I created my usual Instagram content for the week that requires hours of effort to write and design. To top it all off, I interviewed for a job as a lead environmental educator, something I felt both driven to accomplish and somewhat unqualified for. The interview was in the morning last Wednesday. I released the email list after work that evening. I was feeling good. I was productive, I was achieving, I was getting stuff done.

The very next day, I had about 60 email subscribers. I was excited. About halfway through my workday, I received a call from the organization I interviewed at. They said they were very impressed with my interview and thought I could bring a lot to the team, and were offering me a job before sending out formal offers to others next week. My heart rate kicked up as it always does surrounding things such as this. Hanging up the phone, I realized I had got what I wanted and accomplished two big goals in one week: a new job and a big step in my writing career. I went back to work at my day job and figured the “happiness” part would come in later.

Time went on. I went back to work, and later celebrated a coworkers birthday. The next day I woke up and started on my usual Friday routine: workout class, writing/content creating, therapy. It was also Valentine’s Day. I wrote a love letter to my subscribers. I wrote a love letter to my partner. I kept doing doing doing. The weekend went by peacefully. People kept congratulating me on my recent accomplishments and I felt myself smiling and saying “thank you, I’m really excited” and inside, I felt nothing. Because as I realized Monday morning, I will never feel content if I never let myself rest. I will never be able to celebrate if I can’t stop doing more things.

So this week, at the start of this Mercury Retrograde cycle, I decided to recenter. I took a look at what was preventing me from feeling the joy, satisfaction, and contentedness that comes with accomplishing my goals. I realized it was a couple things.

1). I feel safer when I’m busy because when I’m mentally engaged with completing tasks, I’m not connected to my emotions, which often feel scary or overwhelming due to trauma.

2). The culture of the world I live in fosters and nurtures this mindset of constant striving, hustling, achieving, and having to earn your rest in the form of a vacation or an inevitable burn out.

This isn’t anything completely new to me. A few years ago, when I moved away from exclusively using substances and relationships to numb my emotional world, I adopted an extreme focus on exercise and diet with the guise of “health and fitness”. I would push myself to work out when my body was exhausted, monitor everything I eat, and generally find control in my body when I couldn’t find it in my mind. When I realized this was harming me by cultivating a mindset of restriction, I did the work it took to let it go and become more balanced. But one way or another, my turn towards busyness always seems to return. This time, it’s been writing, posting, and beginning the process of creating a business while also working full time and getting ANOTHER full time job. I get so wrapped up in what I’m working on, I forget to take a step back, lean into my grounding rituals, and prioritize the rest I know my nervous system needs. This week, I committed to coming back home to myself, and unpacking the reasons I put myself in this position time and time again. I’m leaning into what I’m calling “radical contentedness”.

For some this might not be radical. To be content with life, especially after accomplishments, and to find rest easy to engage in is something that some people are totally capable of. And that’s GREAT. That’s what I’m shooting for.

But for me, it’s not easy. No matter how many things I accomplish for myself, no matter how much rest I “earn”, no matter how much joy I deserve, I rarely get there when I’m constantly planning my next move. So for me, being content with my current, moment to moment reality, IS radical. When I was enduring abuse, my brain learned quickly that when I was happy with my life and accomplishments, my abuser would find a way to turn that against me by humiliating me or minimizing my proudest moments. Or very simply, I learned not to rest in happy moments because they were always short lived. In a way my brain is more familiar with chaos and pain than rest and ease. Because when things are calm, it’s harder to predict what’s coming next.

So now, I’m deciding to see being content as a powerful choice. I vow to step away, at least for a bit, from the constant noise and hustle of social media with its messages reminding me I’m just a few steps away from what will make me TRULY happy and need to keep striving to get there FAST. I vow to notice all the glorious things I have in my life right now, and lean into them. The sun hitting my face. The release of a forward fold. The sweetest comments from people telling me I’m making them feel seen. My partner’s smile and love radiating out from him to me. There are so many good things in my life, and I know how powerful it is for me to choose being present with them over the intrusive thoughts in my head telling me to just. keep. doing. There will be more time to do. Right now I just need to honor my nervous system, and be.

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