Rest Here

It feels so good to be honest. It’s a relief not to pretend.

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This is where I am. This is what’s happening. Breathe in through your nose, into your belly.

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I’ll be able to look back on this with some distance one day, I know. At the moment, however, I am in the messy middle of it, with a damp shirtsleeve and a dozen crumpled tissues scattered by my feet. I’ll pick them up in a minute.

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Things don’t feel totally unbearable for very long at a time, which helps. Really intense emotion can’t be sustained; it has to peak. I find this very comforting.

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I am proud of myself for eating more; I hate myself for doing it. It’d be good to increase the font size on that first part and highlight and delete the rest, I know. I’m working on it. You can place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly, or you can allow both arms to fall out to the sides with your palms facing up. Take a deep breath. Good. Relax your jaw. Rest here.

It’s Sunday, so my shoulders have finally had a chance to drop down from up around my ears, and I’m thinking about this last week. What went well, and what didn’t.

Do you write things down? “Journaling” feels like a big word for what I do, but I am in the habit of taking 5 minutes before I turn off the light at night.

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You know those gratitude lists everybody swears by? I keep one of those too, only instead of writing down things I’m grateful for, I make bullet point lists of things I’m proud of. Gratitudes feel a little too much like “shoulds” for my liking. A little victory, on the other hand, feels like a great reason to text my mom and say, I am doinnngg it, followed by a fist pump/bulging bicep/dancing lady.

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Sometimes — too often — it’s more like sad/worried/stressed and I am doing my best.

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The “I’m proud of” list helps me make sure there is some kind of forward motion every day. It forces (allows, encourages) me to experiment. To try something new. This is important, when you are trying to change some things.

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But here’s what I’ve noticed. During the week, my entries are almost all work-related. Coping with work stress is maxing out my ability to attend to anything else. I may be doing a good job, but really, I am doing a terrible job. Long-term health and happiness (and short-term sanity and well-being) live at the bottom of my priority list. I’ve been putting them there, week after week, month after month.

By all outward appearances, I may succeeding, but, as my mom keeps pointing out: at enormous personal cost. When is it not worth it? When is life just too short? I’ve done nothing but lose weight since I was promoted again. I’ve been killing myself to be a top performer. To be someone content to “roll with the punches.” To be selfless and supportive and encouraging. To go above and beyond on every project. To knock every opportunity out of the park.

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Good feedback was enough to live on for a while. But all of a sudden it’s so clear: my job has evolved over time, and it’s no longer a good fit for me personally. I hate saying that, because I have no idea what I’ll do next. But I do know I need to feel like I can slow down from sprinting. I need to know that that would be OK — for however long was necessary.

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If I were perfectly healthy, and if I had more time, more help, and more control over my workflow (along with a more clearly defined role and trajectory, while we’re dreaming big), things would probably be different. But as they are — I’m so far from being in an environment that’s conducive to what I need.

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However. The bright side is: I feel like I could leave now, both my job and this city, and it wouldn’t be a failure. I wouldn’t be a failure. I’ve been in Portland for 2.5 years now, all by myself, and I’ve learned a MASSIVE amount. It’s not like I went for a week and decided it was too hard and I needed to come home.

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As far as the food and exercise and being gentler with myself goes, I don’t think there is a way to do it quickly or correctly or gracefully. I don’t think it’s possible to get better without experiencing a fair amount of anguish first. I’m afraid this is very much an “only way out is through” type of situation. But I do believe there are ways to minimize the extent of the mental misery. And to give myself the best possible chance. (Possibly in the land of surplus Vitamin D, pretty palms, and waving cacti. At least for a little while.)

On the mirror in my studio: scared is what you’re feeling; brave is what you’re doing.

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{PDX waterfront via @megaguire, PDX sunrise via @abepdx, sunset via @scott_kranz, golden light via @young.seeker, PDX downtown via @thomasguy, rainy road via @zackkcore — all on Instagram.}

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