when your body says no

This has been a long day in a long week in a long month in a long year, it turns out. I have about 8 half-written essays I could finish to send out into the world tonight. But I’m weary. Given that “mind over matter” might as well be the mantra of the first half of my life, my weariness should be irrelevant to the task I have decided to complete. This is unchartered territory for me.

Here’s the problem: my left eye is twitching uncontrollably. So much so that writing feels impossible in my current state. I have never been one to be thwarted by, or even to recognize, obstacles. My father gave me that. Believe in your work ethic and desire more than you believe anyone who tells you no. If you give up, you fail. In the words of Dory (but with the drive and inflection of a cheerful drill sergeant), “Just keep swimming.” Combined with my mom’s relentless belief in the power of what she calls, “Positive Self Talk,” I am hardwired to not stop. Hell or high water, I’m finishing the thing I said I would do, and it will be pretty fabulous.

But my eye is twitching.

How do we determine our limits? How do we know when we need to stop? For some, stopping is easy, it is the getting started that provides the difficulty. For others, finding a pace that is stable and possible to maintain over the long haul is instinctive. For a person with my drive and determination, however, saying no presents the challenge. It is easy to overlook the toll such an approach to life has on relationships, on rest, on balance. This twitching eye, though, is impossible to overlook.

When the body says no, we are left with a few options:

1) We can surrender, crawl in bed, and cease all activity until restoration comes. If this is the path taken, this pattern is likely to repeat itself. Not wise.

2) We can ignore the body’s signs, and charge on, mind-over-matter-mantra in tact. We can refuse to slow, to rest, to quit. In the words of Bono, we can “ready for the crash.” Not wise.

3) We can observe our body’s flares, and then widen our gaze. Observe the pace, the multitasking, the energy spent, the energy regained. Look for the rhythm, explore the moments of rest. interrogate the drive, perceive the fallout.

Twitching eye and all, I believe the wise course before me is to hit pause while I observe the living that brought me to this life. For tonight, I am leaving a thing undone. It feels like good practice. (The parents who raised me to always lean in now speak to me of self-care, of avoiding burnout…perhaps there is wisdom in the eye that twitches in order to slow us down).

I offer this essay half-written as an artifact of my pausing and observing. I send it out with a prayer that you will know more easily than me when it is time to close the laptop and let the deadline go.