There are weeks, sometimes months, where a million things happen, but it feels like nothing gets done.
A full day of running from place to place to place. But what can you point to accomplishing after a day like that? It feels like it’s not much.
Demands and requests, from your co-workers, family, friends, sometimes random strangers, and the dust rag (I swear, mine calls my name) hound us. Energy just rolls right out the door and there’s not much left for anyone, let alone yourself.
‘Depletion’ would describe it perfectly.
It’s almost as if life were a merry-go-round. Only, something is out of whack and the ride has suddenly started moving a little too fast. The colors blur together. The music is too loud. The gentle ups-and-downs feel more like serious plunges and crests.
The ride isn’t what we bargained for. But we can’t seem to find a way to slow down or get off.
Going Faster As A Way to Slow Down
Sometimes, in an effort to slow down the merry-go-round of life, we try to do more. We might try to get through the To Do list completely, every day. If we can just Get It All Done, then we’ll be able to relax and spend a little time resting in peace and quiet.
This solution often doesn’t work well, though, because it leads to more depletion.
Imagine what it would look like to see a woman, on a merry-go-round, trying to move faster and faster to get off the ride. Bumping into horses and people, grabbing onto poles and straps.
You can just see it’s not going to help in the end. The merry-go-round will still run. And she’ll still be on it.
The “Fix All That Out There” Option
When I’m on the merry-go-round, I’ve tried to make it feel more reasonable by controlling others. I heavily suggest to my kids and partner which horse they should ride (i.e. how they should do things). I tell them that smiling a certain way will make better pictures. And I get everything around us Just So.
I do all of this as a way of making the crazy merry-go-round easier to ride. If everyone else is taken care of, then I can finally sit down (on the floor, as all the horses are taken) and have a minute to get back to myself.
Shall I tell you how successful this has been for me?
Because who likes to be controlled? And it takes all my time to get everybody else ‘fixed.’ There’s still no time left for me to breathe and figure out what to do next.
What To Do Instead
It’s an old saw that the very definition of ‘crazy’ is to try applying the same solution over and over and expect different results. So, when life feels like the crazy merry-go-round, and the solutions we have tried are not working, it’s time to try something else.
It’s time to get off the merry-go-round.
Slowing Down and Stepping Off
Admittedly, getting off the merry-go-round can feel scary in itself. We sometimes fear that life as we know it will fall apart. Let me assure you- it will not. It will still be there when you come back.
What will happen when you get off the crazy ride is this:
You’ll feel a little vertigo but immediately move into feeling grounded in your body again.
You’ll disconnect from the relationships and roles that are most frustrating.
You’ll find deeper connection and love for the roles and relationships you cherish.
The merry-go-round itself will come into clearer view and you’ll know how to handle it better when you choose to get back on.
Pathways Off the Merry-Go-Round
There are many pathways off the merry-go-round that life sometimes turns into. These are three, sure-fire options that have helped me.
1. Awareness. Just remembering that I’m on the merry-go-round is helpful because it pulls my attention just up and out enough that I can focus on something else. Sometimes I can’t get my body off the ride, but I can help my mind get away and find respite by being aware.
2. Mini-retreats. There’s a sign at my drycleaners that says, “Do your laundry in 4 minutes: 2 minutes to drop off, 2 minutes to pick up.” Two minutes away from the merry-go-round can make a huge difference.
You might schedule two minutes to settle yourself before you go into the office, and two minutes after you leave. You might daydream for two minutes at lunch, or spend an extra two minutes on bathroom break, breathing. You might sit on the bench at the park for two minutes while the kids play and check in with your heart.
Just like awareness, mini-breaks help us get body and mind off the merry-go-round.
3. Full retreat. Getting away- really, physically getting away- for an hour, a half-day, a weekend, or a week can make a really big difference in dealing with the merry-go-round phases of life.
When you take a break for that long, you get all the benefits I mentioned above- but in a way that is deeper and more sustainable. I take a retreat every year, and I come back with enough energy, rest, and connection to myself to last for the next year.
Unless you’re the Dalai Lama, I don’t really know of a way to get off the merry-go-round completely (honestly, I suspect the Dalai Lama has his own merry-go-round moments, they’re just more enlightened than mine). Life happens, stressful phases come and go.
It’s in the moments when we realize we’re on the ride, and that it’s getting overwhelming, that we can take action. By taking steps- small or large- to see where we’re at on the ride, we give ourselves a necessary break and then we can reconnect with ourselves.
I offer women’s self-care retreats twice each year. The next one is October 26-28, 2012. If a retreat would help you make the space to step off the merry-go-round of life, please join us. My co-facilitator, Kathy Black, and I help women to create and implement a routine of self-care that helps each woman feel nourished and energized so she can meet her life with joy and fulfillment.
(If you’d like to see a video of Kathy and I in action, click here for our YouTube video from a previous retreat.)