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January 11, 2023

Wake up, show up, wind down

Tatyana Grechina

Wake up, show up, wind down

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had a great idea, got really into it with a dedicated Google drive, and abandoned it somewhere between conception and overwhelm. Sometimes it feels like I have a fridge packed with ingredients but no cookware, utensils or recipes. Just all this shopping frenzy and no feast.

It feels like a hot air balloon getting gassed up with helium, big bold bright and colorful only to slowly seep out a tiny hole, pheeeeeeeew.

I was talking to my therapist the other day about why it can feel like I’ve done so much in a day, worked from sunrise to far past sundown, yet at the end of it I’ve only got, like, one thing to show for it? One measly completed task. Or I’ve only really done one main activity — only work or only painting. Only groceries.

She said, “Ideas take up a lot of space.”

This shook me. Technically, I knew this —  I felt it every day as things literally moved through my body. You know how we experience feelings in different parts of our bodies? Like how our hearts drop, our stomachs tie in knots, or we get butterflies? For me, those somatic responses are like, on steroids.

Sometimes, when I think about art, or my community, my heart can feel like it’s about to explode and the feeling goes quickly from sparkly fairy clouds and shooting rainbows to a literal tightness in my ribs and shoulders I find myself combating.

So in practice I knew ideas took up a lot of space, but I never considered it in theory.

Thinking is exhausting; ideas are the stew of an unformed reality, either a rumination on a past, present or future reality you get hooked on, or – my preferred sort – the building and creation of something new. Like our brain is playing with 5D Legos in the metaverse, tapping away on its computer and spewing rolls and rolls of receipt paper that details the plan in code to send back to reality.

For anyone still with me, does that not sound like a lot? I’m exhausted just thinking about it. It’s like how a really intense — even if it’s completely productive and positive — meeting can leave you feeling fried. Who’s been there?

We try to do a lot each day, work on all parts of ourselves, stay balanced. Sometimes, one thing prevails. Try as I might to structure a well-balanced day for myself, sometimes I put in seven hours on the laptop and none on the canvas. Or I completely forget to work in any movement. If you’re a perfectionist, this can leave you feeling slightly enraged and too glum to appreciate all the awesome things you did do. Bummer, right?

One thing we need to remember – we have all kinds of goals, metrics. There’s daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, the list goes on. Even if you only hit one thing on a big list, you may have hit nearly everything on your daily list!

Breaking it down

A lot of our daily goals are small rituals or baby steps. They make up a larger whole; they’re not a one-day accomplishment. These are things like our skin care routine, meditation, movement, Duolingo, eating, cleaning up, checking emails. Then we have our weekly goals like laundry, grocery shopping, mailing things out and hitting appointments. The largest goals, those which take the most amount of time, will likely only have a small bit of progress on the daily; these are the ideas. Our dreams and visions and deliciously unformed smoothies of brain goo that will one day exist if we just keep believing.

These ideas are beautiful and worthy and they will come to fruition, but not if you give up on them. So often, we give up early because we feel like we already failed so we don’t see why to keep going. Maybe that’s because we stopped believing in the idea. Not all ideas need to get fulfilled, a lot are probably crappy anyways, just stepping stones to better ones, but some are keepers. Never let yourself give up on a good one just because you’re not perfect every single day.

Wake up, show up, and wind down. Let yourself enter the day with humility, do what you can, and give yourself the grace to gently lower the volume. Even if the end of your day means screaming kids and more work, cut yourself some slack on anything else you think you should be doing in that moment; put the Ideas in the backseat. Allow yourself to exist just as you are, where ever you are.

Big ideas and projects can feel overwhelming; they dominate our thoughts and days and desks — we feel the crushing pressure of their existence even if we can do nothing about it. Recognizing the mental space this takes up can feel so liberating — even if we have to train ourselves to remember it.

The beauty is they’re big ideas for a reason. They’re not something we can fire off the to-do list and that’s why we’re so drawn to them. They mean much bigger, more magical things.

So here’s the advice no one asked for but I’m compelled to give: keep doing things because you love them, not because you should. Give yourself grace daily and acknowledge the daily routines that keep you sane. You don’t have to do everything in one day, tomorrow’s a whole day too, and many more after.

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