work hard, play hard

work hard
play hard
try hard
think hard
run hard
do we even love hard?
we definitely hate hard
sometimes we even make our yoga hard

Why does everything have to be so HARD?

We’re a culture of extremists, intensity junkies. We go-go-go until we drop. We hold on as long as we can, and then we fall. We hold it together as long as we can, and then we crash.

What about softness, gentleness, rest, innocence, ease, peace, spaciousness, kindness, love, tenderness, curiosity, slowness?

Not as words or ideas or trite clichés, but as things we do every.day.

Things we make time for. Qualities we bring into our lives. Now — not when it’s the second before too late.

when hard shows up

Of course, I am thinking about this because I see it in myself. I justify it because the things I’m doing are (I think) “good” and worthy things. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s too much.

The other day I canceled a monthly lunch with friends because I had an overwhelming amount of work to do. Both women gently came back with, Really? You’re canceling lunch to … work.

In my overly stressed state, I was pouring lighter fluid on the fire. Yes, I had a ton to do and there are times to block out the world, hole up, and get to it. But my state was more chaotic than clear. More self-loathing than focused. And by avoiding the one thing in my day that could offer spaciousness and love, I was buying into hard.

extremes are easy

It’s really easy to tell when you’ve worked yourself to exhaustion.

It’s easy to justify a week-long vacation when you haven’t taken a day off in three years.

It’s not so easy to identify the first signs of overwhelm. Or to build mini breaks into your day/week when you don’t feel like you’ve earned them. Or to be soft and slower-paced… because that doesn’t feel like 100%, and boy, do you always give 120.

Extremes give us something to rub up against. We can feel them (as they slam the nervous system back and forth).

Middle ground is much harder to navigate. It’s broader and doesn’t give such a strong sense signal.

how to tell?

Hard feels urgent.

It’s also LOUD. And aggressive.

I have to keep working or else…
I need a day off now or else…

Or your body tells you — the heart races, you get sick, injured, clumsy.

Middle ground is… well, kind of boring. There’s no big drama. No panic. No bright and shiny.

It’s quieter. It’s wide. You may feel resistant to it (I would much rather work than take care of myself).

One way we can develop sensitivity to middle ground is to practice tuning into the subtle. Even now: notice the sounds around you. There are obvious ones, sure. See if you can begin to listen underneath those louder sounds. Are there softer ones? More far away? Closer? A lower tone?

Or go outside. Not for a power walk, but to sit and watch the leaves dance on a tree. Look at the sky. Plop your tush down in the grass and do nothing. No, you can’t take your phone with you.

We’re talking about feeling spacious. Feeling ease. Feeling soft. What would that feel like?

do the little things before you need a big thing

Take a break before you need it. Rest. Go slower. For God’s sake, go to lunch with your friends (which, by the way, I did—tears and all).

Because here’s the thing: you do not have an endless resource of energy. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to do this good and worthy work, at least not well or with joy.

What one thing can you do right now to come into middle ground, to get out of hard, to take care of yourself?

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23 Responses to “work hard, play hard”


  1. 1 Madeleine May 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Always here with a gentle push for you, and you for me. Beautiful. Your writing just gets better every day.

  2. 3 Ryan May 11, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Happy Day Spa is now in Natomas. IAY Rendevous?

  3. 8 Tami May 12, 2011 at 1:16 am

    i am saying no to some activities now because i’m really tired from all the sudden intensity. jeddy and i have also planned a sunday pajama day for this upcoming weekend. he’s not sure he can commit to a whole day, but i’m going to try to convince him.

  4. 10 Elizabeth May 12, 2011 at 2:04 am

    I scheduled a monthly lunch with all the girls in my group. People were always cancelling to work. I still meet them – people still cancel to work.

    I am trying to figure out how to work with the guilt. My days are lovely and full of many soft qualities; the only reason I am not enjoying them fully is because I feel guilty about them because I am worried about the far out future. I am considering giving myself the month of June as a month of permission to see what changes when I really live in the moment.

    • 11 blogasana May 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      e,
      thanks for sharing this. i love your idea of putting a container around it — for me that would feel safer. like an experiment. the ego knows you will go back to worry if that worked better. lots of love

  5. 12 Anna Guest-Jelley May 12, 2011 at 2:19 am

    Loved this so much, Michelle. You totally have my number on the difficulty of knowing–or acknowledging–the first stages of overwhelm. Thanks for this! xo

  6. 14 Diane May 12, 2011 at 4:06 am

    Visit my mom for 15 minutes instead of 30minutes….or say Oh well today I worked and missed my Yoga, but tomorrow I’ll snowshoe….and thank goodness I got my work stacked up for Friday or Saturday OR I won’t be able to pay my Visa!

    Always hard choices! with promises to go to the grandson’s piano recital and ball game OR help my sister with the wedding decorations. All of it happens only once and all of the above choices just happened in the last 2 hours.

    AH……retirement! and I almost missed a meeting at noon today when I thought it was at 4pm. And that one pays me.

    Will these choices ever end???

    • 15 blogasana May 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      i know!!!! such good stuff. that’s what makes it hard. but in the same way that you can’t go *everywhere* at the same time, you pick one destination for a trip. same here — we want to do it all but it’s impossible (at least without cost). how great to have so many wonderful choices… xoxo

  7. 16 Deborah May 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Growing older helps! You rediscover and honor priorities. You find what’s important and often that can be nothing more that sitting with the cat on your lap staring out the window. It’s a lot easier now to let go of trying to accomplish all those “must do’s” because age teaches you those “must do’s” are endless. It’s a bottomless pit.

    I rarely get revved up at work anymore, and my body simply slows me down when I try and push too hard. The mature body is a beautiful thing.

    • 17 blogasana May 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      DK – ah yes… how the body TELLS you! i can feel those changes even now. i love your phrase “mature body”… it’s a beautiful thing. thank you…

  8. 18 Rachelle Mee-Chapman May 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    I had a total sobbing breakdown with my business coach today. I had no idea I was so depleted until a sleepless night + a kind listening ear broke it all open. (And I’m a life coach! What’s that old saying? “You only preach the sermons you need to hear.” :-)

    May I post this link at Tara Sophia’s PlayBig Ning group? I think it would be a helpful guiding tool as the women there create a space that lets them Play Big and Stay Whole.

    • 19 blogasana May 12, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      rachelle – big hug to you. that’s a really tender place. i just love tara’s work (as well as yours) and would be honored for you to share the link. xoxo

  9. 20 Kelley M May 13, 2011 at 12:48 am

    I laugh and joke all the time. It’s so funny to be in a serious meeting at work and see all the stress on everyone’s face and then work to turn some frowns upside down with a little funny comment here, a joke there, a funny face…. Why do we all take ourselves so seriously? Fun work environments and fun times at any chore can get the same results (or better) as the sullen faces and stressed lives but why don’t we realize this “in the moment?” Now, when it’s me all stressed out it takes me a little longer to get help but a good look in the mirror does the trick. “Holy cow….that’s what I look like right now! Why the face (WTF)?” Then I know somethings not working and I have to find something that will bring a moment of rest. Chocolate, a walk, a great friend who tells funny dirty jokes, yoga, a nap, etc.

    Maybe we should help each other by telling one another things like-“hey, I think you’re overdoing it a bit.” A good clue from a close friend who’s looking in from the outside is helpful. I have one of those friends and I’m lucky.

  10. 21 Thais May 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Beautiful post!! And something that really resonates with me because i am ALWAYS too hard on myself. in fact, i dont really know HOW to be soft to myself. How do i be gentle? Its definitely something i have to train myself and its better now than never!! Metta meditation has helped definitely. Thank you for sharing <3

    • 22 Diane May 14, 2011 at 4:53 am

      I just wrote a friend who’s in a hard, hard, very hard place and said that I hoped he would find a little laughter or even lots of great big belly laughs to smooooooth this tough time. I know that I’ve always needed to be tickled by good friends when all gets too much and I’m so serious.

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