Embrace Imbalance

The words write personal blog has been carried over weekly on my To-do list ever since lockdown has started. Week after week I find myself being very stern telling myself “Why do you not write about the experiences in life, like you want to?”

I have tried so many things; Make notes on my phone. Make notes on a notepad next to my bed. Just sit down and start writing. Voice record your thoughts and transcribe them later…

However, week after week I find myself doing something else or just staring at a white Word-page with a flickering cursor before I shut my laptop. Once again discouraged with the whole situation and me being a failure. Or at least feeling a sense of failure.

I have recently thought about this a lot. Why is it so damn hard? Why can’t we just do what we really want to do or what we dream of doing? I mean, the things we dream about are the things that excite us and sounds amazing. Yet, when we finally decide to attempt them, we are left empty and feeling worse thereafter.

Rewind…

Let’s track back a bit to just before the Covid-19 lockdown. I think most people used this time to really reflect on their lives. I mean we have all seen the countless of inspirational messages. Going on about how the world is giving us the time to slow down, the time to do what we want, the time to breath and reflect. All the encouraging messages tried to convey that we should invest in ourselves, invest in our hobbies and take the time to really chase after the good in life and banish the bad.

There I was, I made a list of things I really want to do during this time that has been bestowed on us. But, still with the list of my dreams and ambitions I still always found that there is always something on Netflix, a walk to be taken, Amazon specials and endless scrolling on social media.

I then would reach a point where I would reflect and earnestly told myself to start actively working on this list the next day. I would wake up and then allow myself to do whatever I find distracting and then thought I would later work on my aspiring ambitions.

Side thought: Is it actually possible to scroll through all your Instagram stories or finish everything on Netflix?

This method was clearly not working!

Active planning  

Then the point came where recalled an amazing app that I used a few years ago, called Fabulous. The app helps you learn positive habits. It is designed beautifully and each step and piece of advice they give is backed by research from Duke University. All the habits start out small, explaining how it is important to get the smaller bricks of the foundation of good habits set first, and not try having too many at once. This made so much sense since we tend to try to change the world in one day rather than taking small steps.

I was off to a good start. I started drinking water as soon as I woke up for three days in a row, followed by eating a healthy breakfast and meditating. Within a few weeks my morning and evening routines were filled with learning Italian on Duolingo, working through the Bible on the ReadScripture, meditating with Headspace and journaling using MindJournal. All these being great apps and tools aiding me in my quest to have a stable routine. Hopefully not just during lockdown but also after (whenever that might be).

Things were looking up! I now had my routine in place – another tip suggested by people during lockdown. I also disabled social media on my phone in the morning and evenings. Things were going great and I really felt good! Each morning I would get up and follow my routine religiously. Now, it was just a matter of tending to my to-do list after the routine has been completed. And I did manage to do some things but after the routine was complete, I really felt like I have been busy for a while.

The tumble (VERB: to fall helplessly down, end over end, as by losing one’s footing, support)

Some days were better than other. I found weekends harder than weekdays. Also, some days were more productive with work than others.  After several weeks of sticking to the routine I found myself one morning feeling discouraged. It just felt like a huge mountain. There were so many things in this routine I had to do before I could actually start my day.

“Okay, just do everything in your routine through out the day. As long as you just do them” I said to myself.

In theory this seemed like a good idea and I think I managed to do this for a few days but there were more days that I only did some of them. I celebrated this and kept doing some of my habits. But then I dropped Headspace and I felt that feeling of failure.

I re-evaluated and tried to cut out things from my morning routine that took too much time. I moved some things to another time in the day. This also did not work. Journaling was the next to go. Things were falling apart day by day.

Within a few months I came a full circle where I dropped more and more things from my routine. I canceled my Fabulous subscription. I only kept three things. The three I kept, drinking water, jogging and Duolingo, was the only things that I kept on doing. Clinging on to them for dear life out of fear of being a failure.

So here we are now. Still so much of my to-do list unchecked.

Holding on

A week ago, I had another chat with myself. I wrote down what I want to do and how I want to do it with regards to my routine. Yet again I only wrote two journal entries, meditated once and only went to the gym once. An on going eb and flow. A three way tango between success, failure and me.

Last night after being tired of doing absolutely nothing all day, I remembered I still have to do my Duolingo lesson for the day. Otherwise I will lose my 120-day streak. (#HumbleBrag)

“Ugh! I am not in the mood” said a part of me. But another part begged me to keep this habit. The two parts started an argument.

You see at some point in this Lockdown journey, I was in the top ten of the leader board of Duolingo. I progressed to a next league weekly. Now I have been stuck on the Pearl league for weeks. Why do I cling to this streak if I am not really even making any progress at all?

This then derailed into more questions I presented myself focusing on the overall morning routine and to-do list: Why do I have to start this routine again? Why, if having a routine makes me feel so good, do I keep on struggling to keep it alive?

You see, in my mind I have this stupid thought: If the progress is not noteworthy it is not worthy doing it at all.

You must be in the top 10 of the Duolingo league.

You must run at a faster pace next week.

You must write an excellent piece for your blog.

You must have the best equipment for your podcast.

And so I can go on and on.

The epiphany (or the aha moment)

Today I glanced at the to-do list again. Rolling my eyes at the things I have carried over week after week! Why the hell do I not do these things if I really want to. They are supposed to be fun and creative. All the things I have been craving to do!

I paged back in my planner to see when these things have been riding along and then something caught my eye.

Besides the things I have not done, I also saw all of the checked things that I have actually done.

I mean I have read so many books, I have my Duolingo streak, I started running, I started a podcast, I managed to churn out a PhD-proposal, I went for walks, I explored the town I live in, I had coffees, I cooked, I applied for my UK drivers licence, I saved money, I spent money, I am participating in a step challenge for diabetes research and I had a good routine for a very long time! And the list goes on.

Why am I being so damn hard on myself? Why am I not celebrating? We leave no time for celebration since we must start with the next thing immediately to feel that sense accomplishment. We deliberately choose quantity over quality.  Is this really the way we are living – even though we know this is wrong? Why is it so hard to balance things in our lives? Things that are supposed to be good?

In an interview with Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein from the TV show The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Alex gets asked: How do you find balance in your life? Alex then gives an answer that lingers:

“I FIND THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING. I THINK IT’S A MYTH. YOU CAN’T BALANCE ANYTHING. THERE IS ALWAYS AN IMBALANCE, AND SOMETHING IS ALWAYS LOSING.”

The obvious conclusion

So, I came to a conclusion. And I know the conclusion is not new. I am not gonna write a best seller out of this. But it is well worth reminding ourselves again and again. Over and over.

Stop trying to always be the best in everything we do. You are already doing an amazing job. Keep doing the things you enjoy. Start doing things you want to do without fear. If you miss a few days, forget about it. If it bombs, it bombs.

That just means other things required your attention and enjoyment in that moment. Don’t feel like you are starting from the scratch each time you missed a few days. You just took a pause. Just press play again. Just pick-up where you left off.

It is not the end of the world. Stop putting yourself in the failure seat. Excel but at your own pace and at your own time.

We only have the now.

That is why I will do my Duolingo lesson tonight and reach my 121-day streak. I am pretty sure I will not be in the top 10 this week. But there will be a time where I will be again. I will also go running again tomorrow and my pace will be 5:30 per kilometre and it might still be that for several weeks. Or I might do a 5k in twenty minutes (Who am I kidding!).

It is also why I am finally writing this blog post. It has been on my to-do list to start but I dream up so many reservations in my head.

What do you want to say? What if it is not good? What if nobody reads it? What if people laugh at you? What if it is bad? What if you can’t keep up to produce one weekly?

What if… What if… What if…

But what if I can check this off and be better today or tomorrow, or in a year or even in ten years? Progress is progress. And even if it is not, just stand still and be there for a while and embrace the imbalance of it all.