Today I had a great conversation with a beloved client who is smart, kind, practical, brilliant. And we talked about our core, that center pole of self that we can come back to when the world feels wonky.
Have you ever watched a video on how to prep for setting a post? Like a post for a fence, foundation, deck? There is work. First we have to know where we are going to set the post. It will need to be in a place that maximizes the strength of the entire deck or fence. Too far a part, and the fence will be wobbly or the deck will bend and bounce from lack of support. Once the hole is dug, concrete is mixed and poured. You can put the post in at that point, and backfill with gravel, or fill the whole thing with concrete and then attache the post on top. Whatever.
The point is, there is prep involved.
When we are doing the work of strengthening our own center pole of being, there is prep. I think one of the things that can the most help is to know our threshold. To know what is too much. And then, back away from that for a comfortable fill. Let’s change metaphors. If we have a cup of coffee filled to the brim, and then try to walk across the room, it will slop over the side. If Midge from the diner comes along with a pot o’ coffee to refill and pours it in without checking with us first, it will overflow. And we’ll need to clean up.
Our norm in life is to be busy. To fill up. To set our post holes too far apart. And then when life comes around with a big breeze, a coffee refill, a tragic trip….we are left unable to contain our own living.
What if….I know this is crazy…..
But what if we learned who we are and lived out of our center pole of being?
For example (this is what my brilliant client and I talked about)
What if we try yoga every day one week, 3x the next week, and 1x the following week. We consider, reflect and note that we do well with just one yoga class a week. There. we’ve set a baseline.
How many committees are you on? What happens when they all meet in one week? What happens when all the 20 page papers are due the last week of the semester? What happens when all the families want to gather for a great meal on Christmas Day?
Know your baseline. Know what is a healthy amount in your container. Live there on the regular so that when the extra things come along, you are only then bumping into your threshold. Life is manageable.
To do this, we have to agree with ourselves that we do not need to be busy to be valid. That we can have spaces in our days and pauses on our calendars and that we are ok and of great value. We do not need to overwork, overspend, overplan.
When I was about to have my first son, I got off of all the extra things I was on. The bell choir director was not happy. But I held firm. I said, “I’ve never had a baby before and I have no idea what I can handle. So my son is the priority.” Once he came along and we lived into being new parents, I found that adding bell choir again was good for me, and what was good for me was good for the baby. I had zeroed out my extras, in order to see what my baseline was.
I continued this practice when moving, or at the birth of a second child, or just when I needed to reset my life. It was a chance to zero out everything, and build from there. Not to just get busy again, but to recognize what I was able to handle and be able to offer my best to the rich choices of my life: parenting, marriage, vocation.
When we’ve done this work, and this is not a thought project that can be figured out over a cup of coffee…this takes weeks and maybe months….we create the space to own our strengths, to claim our way in the world, and to shape that center pole.
All of this effort is to live a mindful life. To journey in a balanced way. To be the creators of our living and create from a knowing of our very souls.