I’m a ridiculously tense person.

Without chiropractic intervention, my shoulders would nest in my ears.

Meanwhile, it’s summertime, I’m young, have lots of friends and am in good health… and I’m still tense. My stomach is mildly knotted, my jaw slightly clenched. Unemployment looms large over my head as I wonder, “Who will hire me after four jobs in two years?”

The reality is, I am smart, do good work, am loyal and dedicated. These things don’t pay off as they once did but I can say that my integrity and the work I’ve produced speaks for itself. Not that this rationalization settles my nerves. Nope, only a paycheck seems to do that.

So how am I supposed to stay sane when there isn’t one?

In a fit of frustration yesterday, a friend said, “This drive you have is good but maybe it’s getting in the way. Maybe you need to relax and have some patience with yourself.

He went on to suggest that maybe  I have been operating in one gear for too long and it’s time to run a new one. He’s probably right. I really like working hard. I gnash my teeth and foam at the mouth when presented with a complicated project, if only for the pleasure of making it all work while others can view the process as effortless. Narcissistic? Perhaps, but it feels oh so good. Why?

As he spoke, I thought about all my goals. I became hyper-disciplined in an attempt to offset the fact that – after my divorce – I sort of let things fall apart. It was hard to justify ‘giving a crap’ when all of my ‘giving a crap’ was wrapped up in a now-absent man. I had to develop new motivations and habits and it took a long time, a lot of dirty looks, a lot of humility and at least a thousand to-do lists.

The truth is: I am scared to relax because I am scared to go back to being disorganized.

The last two weeks, with my head turned away to worry about bills and my reputation, a bunch of creative opportunities and partnerships crept in a side door. Seriously. I wasn’t even looking. People came to me because I put the energy out there that I was willing to help but that I am no longer willing to do it for free. I guess I don’t need to look at work like a hungry lion stalking a carefree gazelle.

Yes, I need to stay active, work hard and ‘kick up dust’ to find the next paycheck but that panicked, ‘need to rush’ mentality has nothing to do with actual world-clock time. It stems from fear and desperation. I’m neither. So… why the rush?

All this tension is getting in the way of living. I think I’m going to relax.  I will keep working hard and find a way to separate adrenaline from drive and forgive myself having to put off certain goals for yet another year. I am going to organize my day around deep breaths and smiles and stop beating myself up for ‘wasting time.’ There is plenty to spare… even if I die tomorrow I can’t know it today so what is the point in rushing around like a maniac and missing out on what is?

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
Chinese Proverb

3 comments on “Tension
  1. Marc Quinn says:

    Amen to that darlin’, amen! Lovely post… :)

  2. Jared says:

    The foundation for developing relaxation comes from finding the fine line between aggressiveness and assertiveness. Pick and choose the battles.

    England sounds like a good battle, if feasible.

    In the meantime, get back to work on my presentation lol

  3. Markus says:

    This is a wonderful post! Tension can be difficult, but difficult doesn’t mean it is necessarily “bad”. Although being tense all the time I imagine is counter productive. I really love the Chinese proverb at the end of your post. It rings true….