Dear Elaina, September 22, 2014
And so it begins. Don’t even start with something trite, like “this is the year everything is going to change”. You’ve tried that, and while outwardly it seems like things have changed, inside they haven’t. Let’s begin by being honest. Cut through the crap, the excuses, and start digging in so you can forge something new. Start realistically. Change one thing at a time. This idea that everything will be different is setting yourself up for failure. You can’t do it all at once. Change one thing at a time. Master that change, and then add another.
Elaina, you often live as two entities, your heart and your mind, and it is this separation which causes your angst. Your head sits over your heart and judges; picking out every flaw, every mistake, and every weakness. You need to stop doing this and accept yourself for who you are, warts and all. Acknowledge what needs to be changed, start a list, but don’t judge it. You are a composite of all of your experiences. Many of the things you do have helped you make your way. Now some of these things are no longer helping, but hindering. It’s time to face them, face their origin, and find a way to carve a new path.
Last night you stood at the kitchen counter when you should have been in bed. Laptop open, you pored over your work wanting to add more, but exhaustion stole your ability to concentrate. Yet you stood there, expecting more from yourself, until your legs spasmed and your lower back muscles tightened. You felt coiled, like those cans of sardines you used to eat as a kid. You’d put the key into the latch and slowly crank it, pulling the lid back, exposing the insides.
Why does going to bed feel like admitting failure? Every day ends. Night always falls. People relax; it’s not a sin. You didn’t waste the day and I can guarantee, you accomplished enough. Your tanks need replenishing. Sleep is a basic need. You cannot expect to accomplish change and fulfill your dreams if you’re not taking care of yourself on the most basic level. Nothing good can happen from burning the candle at both ends.
This week, you’re going to start with a small change. Every night, at 9:00, stop working. Shut down your laptop and do something you enjoy. Read a book, find a show to watch, play cribbage with your husband. Whatever it is you choose to do, make sure it’s fun and relaxing. The laundry can wait, so can the dishes. Allow yourself some time to exist without expectation, without agenda, and most importantly, without judgment.
I hear your mind working overtime wondering how this will help you meet your goals. Maybe nothing; maybe everything, but we won’t know until we try. It’s time to shut off your mind and listen to me, your heart. You need a break. When was the last time you slept seven hours? When was the last time you woke up feeling rested? This week your goal is to shut off your laptop by 9:00 and be asleep by 10:30. Keep a log. What did you do? How did you feel? How did you feel in the morning? Remember, these are just observations. They aren’t good or bad, they just are. If you want to change, you need to have the energy and the mental clarity to do it.
I know you wanted to start this week and these letters with some great challenge or some amazing insight, but you’re exhausted. According to Maslow’s theory, self-actualization, reaching one’s potential, cannot be achieved if our basic needs are not met. Sleep is a basic need, so this week, Elaina, your goal is to start at the basics.
Don’t judge. Don’t expect. Just be.