The Pressure stole my Joy (Pressure part 1)
*in my Martin Luther King Jr voice* I have a dream...That one day I will tap into my inner Blade and slay these vampires we call bills. I have a dream...That my time will not be swallowed by the black hole that is Adulting. I have a dream...That I will not wait until I retire to find joy in my life. I have a dream...That no matter how much money is or isn't in my bank account, every day I am going to find a way to do something, no matter how small, to put a smile on my own face. I have a dream that everyday I will fight for my joy. I have a dream! And when I turned 25 last year, I put that dream into action!
I use to think I had to wait until I came into a lot of money to enjoy my life. I was prepared to wait for that perfect moment until the last four years of hell taught me that I can't sit around waiting for joy to come to me. I have to be proactive about inviting in. There began my journey to discover where it is I find joy. Since I'm still learning to survive the pandemic of Adulting and these preposterously unholy things we call bills, I had to start my investigation in the smaller areas of my life.
I started paying closer attention to my day to day life, studying what I found myself laughing at or enjoying. It didn't take me long to realize how much time I spend entertaining myself with the simple things. The normal part of my personality does find peace in going for long walks outside or sitting by the pool doing nothing as I listen to music and enjoy the sun. It's the goofy side of my personality that brings in the entertainment. I will crack my own self up doing just about anything throughout the day: Stubbing my toe, fighting a bug like it's World War 3 or going all the way to the store for one thing, just to come all the way home and realize there was eight other things I needed.
As a grown, 26 year old woman, I am prone to make funny faces in the mirror while I'm brushing my teeth or washing my hands. My hallway is narrow. So you can cool believe that I power walk down the hallway like a model. Stop. Pose. Double take. Turn and switch the hips I don't have back down my hallway. I am not ashamed of breaking out into the Pokemon theme song with a straight face or using dramatic hand gestures like I'm singing on broadway. Actually, if I'm honest, I will break out into just about any song, real or fake, on or off key. And you can coooool believe I will be my own backup singer, dancer and drummer. Then on the calmer days of my life, I will go back to the normal stuff, like taking myself on dates and enjoying a show on Netflix while I sit and enjoy the food. That food could be Chipotle and it'll still be a perfect moment for me. Imagine how much fun I would have if I had more of a social life.
Either way, I've found several ways to steal back some of my joy from the pandemic of Adulting. Recently, I've rediscovered my love of reading books. In Middle School, I was liable to walk out with five books everytime I left the library and I spent more classes than I should've reading in High School. By the time I'd gotten to college, the insanity we call homework got in the way of my reading and I stopped reading for a few years. Well since I'm fully committed to improving as a storyteller, I've recommitted to reading books.
One of the things I struggle with the most is consistency. To be sure I stayed committed to my reading, I came up with the goal to read 24 books this year, two books per month. I put myself on a strict, daily reading regiment with a certain number of pages to read each day. The first month was great! My inner overachiever showed up in a full force. I found that I didn't need an entire month to read two books. I could simultaneously read two books within two weeks, leading me to change my schedule from two books a month to four books a month. When I say I was on a roll, I mean I was reading so much I eventually escalated to three books simultaneously...And then the rudeness of life's downsides started happening and my triumph over consistency began to crumble under the weight of my workload. As my workload increased, my energy to read at the end of the night decreased. Still, I would force myself to read just to maintain my consistency.
It didn't take long for my source of joy to turn into another source of stress. If I missed a day I would beat myself up over it and then stress myself out trying to make up the pages before my deadline. Mind you, I am the one who came up with this ridiculous schedule of four books a month. This was self-induced stress, but I didn't see it that way. As far as I was concerned, the schedule was to keep me disciplined away from inconsistency. Yes, I was tired and yes, the natural downsides to life were eating up more of my energy than before, but that was no excuse for me to not complete my reading. Life just needed to move itself out of my way so I could get my work done. Yeah. Well. Life has never been one to consider anybody else's schedule before it decides to happen. So of course, things got worse. In addition to my work, some of the turmoil embedded in a few of my relationships also ate away at my energy, which only made it harder for me to want to read. Still, I didn't adjust my reading schedule and make room for the new wave of events happening in my life. I was determined to stick to this schedule, no matter how exhausted I was.
Eventually my leisurely reading, meant to help me unwind from the day, mutated into a chore that frustrated me away from wanting to read at all. When I realized the thought of reading at the end of the day antagonized me, I had to stop and have a come to Jesus moment. I wanted to know why it was suddenly so hard for me to get to or even want to read, after I was so excited and making so much progress in the first couple of months. The answer was the pressure. The definition of leisurely is "acting or done at leisure; unhurried or relaxed". Emphasis on the words unhurried and relaxed. By putting a deadline on my reading and creating a strict reading regiment, I'd turned my reading into the exact opposite of what it was essentially meant to be. Reading was meant to help me unwind from the day. It was meant to be fun. Instead, I'd turned it into a chore of obligation in my attempts to exercise out my inconsistency problem. So instead of ending my day with something calming, I was essentially trying to end my day with more work.
Not only that, the reading regiment I created was created during a time where there wasn't much going on in my life. I hadn't budgeted any room for my daily workload to increase nor did I budget for the other parts of life to happen. So as soon as life began to pile on, I should have adjusted accordingly. Instead I began to punish myself for not being able to handle my ridiculous reading regiment and the increase of life.
If the increase of pressure was the problem, that meant decreasing the pressure would be the solution. I was reluctant to have to do it, but I made myself reduce my workload from four books a month to the original goal of two books of month. I tried to maintain the same reading regiment of 25-40 pages per day, but I quickly saw I still couldn't maintain that schedule in peace. So again, I decreased my regiment from two books a month to one book a month. Then I did the outrageous and decreased the number of pages from 25-40 pages a day to simply 15 pages a day. 15 was a ridiculously low number, but I picked it because I knew no matter what happened that day I would have no problems reading a mere 15 pages of one book everyday. Yal. I kid you not. Within one day of this reduced workload, I saw ironic results.
The very next day I read more than 25-30 pages without even meaning too. For some reason, setting the bar to easily achievable relaxed the pressure so much it reset my original willpower and desire to read back to my natural reading pattern of 25-30 pages. Day after day, I fell back in love with reading for the sake of reading because I was no longer contending with the pressure of such a heavy workload. I'd given myself the month to finish each book, but because I was reading much more than the goal, I ended up finishing my books ahead of schedule. Not only that, because I naturally read more than necessary, it left room for me to miss a few days throughout the month should the day end up being heavier than usual.
The real irony of the story is what happened with my consistency. The whole reason I put myself on a strict reading regiment was because I wanted to ensure that I remained consistent with my reading. I'd taken it upon myself to try and rectify a flaw that not even God himself was bothered enough to correct. If he was concerned, he would've approached me about the issue and then it would've turned into a therapy session to understand it. Instead, my inner self-control freak took it upon herself to be God and fix herself. The results? I ended up becoming the very thing I was trying to avoid. The strict schedule is the reason I became inconsistent. As soon as I took myself off the schedule I saw that the desire to read was so strong that I was naturally consistent with my reading. Sure, I missed a few days here and there, but that was okay. Life happens and it's okay to take a breather and adjust for those moments. It's not as if life itself will end if I miss a few days and I can prove it. My adjusted goal was to read 12 books by the end of 2020. As of Dec 1st, I've now read 14 and I'm almost done with 15.
What I took away from this situation originally, was a new understanding of my psychology. I am the type of person who needs more room to complete a task, not less. For reasons I plan on exploring in the future, added pressure to something, I was originally doing out of desire, completely cuts off my desire and willpower to do it. Discovering this simple psychological principle gave me a baseline and a framework for how to approach both my work and my leisurely activities in the future. However, as I'm nearing the end of this article, another principle is jumping out at me.
So often we, people, identify a flaw within ourselves and then take it upon ourselves to try and correct it, instead of letting God help us fix the issue. We don't realize that we actually need God to be the one to help us fix the issue because, one, he, from a bird's eye view has a better assessment of whether or not the flaw is a flaw of detriment. Two, he knows, better than we ever could, the best way to exercise out that flaw. To clarify, I was the one who thought my inconsistency was a problem and would ruin my commitment to my books. While I do have a problem with inconsistency sometimes, God knew it was not going to be an issue here because he knew my desire to read would override my inconsistency. Even if he had decided to deal with my inconsistency, he would've employed a different strategy to work me through it because clearly my reading regiment was not it. If I had let God dictate what in me needed to be worked on, I could've avoided stressing myself out altogether.
To give you another example of this principle, I'd like to present my diet. I am skinty (no typo). My weight and body shape don't fluxate much at all, except when I go to the gym. It's only then that the tone of my body will return, as does my little speed bump in the back. *insert victorious grin here* It typically doesn't matter what I eat, my body doesn't change but I'm still hyper aware that just because you look good on the outside, doesn't mean you look good on the inside. (That's a word for somebody.) So I had a tendency to worry about my sugar intake, mainly as it pertains to my cookie eating. Eventually I got tired of stressing about it and it occured to me that God hadn't actually said anything about my eating habits. So one day I decided to run an experiment, based on what happened with my books, to see how many cookies I eat without a self-given boundary.
Are you ready for the devastating answer???...Two. I typically only eat two cookies a day. Not only that, I don't even want more than two cookies in a day. As soon as I get to that second cookie, I'm satisfied and the desire for a snack goes away. In addition to that, I don't even want more than one snack a day. Which means, I did all that stressing about my sugar consumption just to realize that my natural, baseline desire is pretty minimal. Not at all a threat to my overall health. The one time I was about to go overboard with my cookie consumption, God let me know it would've been a gluttonous move and I sat my happy hips back down.
The bottom line is, I've learned, between the books and my cookies, that it is not my job to try and regulate or correct what God himself is not trying to regulate or correct. And even if he does decide one of my flaws needs to be corrected, He is the only one that can create the perfect scenario for that flaw to be exercised out. He is the type to put you in a scenario that exposes the flaw and once you see it, he'll talk you through it. After you get to the root of the issue, he'll heal it and give you a game plan for how to handle that issue in the future. It is not your job to save yourself. It is not possible for you to save yourself. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit which means you need the spirit to achieve that self-control through healing. Not by force. Let the Strategy king of the universe be the one to help you through your flaws.
Now all this sounds beautiful doesn't it? Oh the joys of self-discovery. You would think I would've learned my lesson through this simple task of reading. Nope! This simple task just revealed the surface level issue of putting too much pressure on myself. It wasn't until I tried to launch I am Philosophy did I run into the root of why I tend to put so much pressure on myself to begin with, which is fear of consequences. Next week, I'll share how the process of launching this blog helped me uncover my fear of consequences, how that fear seeped into my everyday thinking and how God is slowly uprooting that fear
Let's talk!! What are some issues that you've been struggling with for awhile but can't seem to get a handle of?