I was on the phone with a beloved client this week and she was doing that thing that ALL MY CLIENTS do.
“I’m just so exhausted.”
Goodness knows I believed her. I could hear it in the dull hollowness in her voice, and besides she had just told me about the heavy emotional lifting she’d been doing the past month both at work and at home. She’d basically been running a marathon, barefoot, in the snow, while carrying about a dozen people on her back and managing all their emotions along with her own. It was a worthy marathon, to be fair. She loved doing it. It was an enormous honor to do it. She’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. But lordy lord, of COURSE she was exhausted from that heroic and seemingly endless feat. I wanted to bring her cool cloths and draw her a warm bath and book her a massage and make her a banner that proclaimed, “I am a heroic badass!”
But before I could even express an iota of empathy, she jumped on herself:
“Not that I have any right to be exhausted. I’m so lucky to get to do what I do.”
How many times this past month have you done this?
How many times today?
“Things are so hard right now. …But I mean, they’re good, too.”
“Sometimes I just want to cry. ….Which is ridiculous, of course.”
“It just feels like so much. ….Privileged problems to have, right???”
Most women I know can hardly even voice the truth of their experience without feeling like they have to apologize for it. They can hardly sit in the immensity of their own lives without feeling like they have to berate themselves for not being better, stronger, more resilient, more grateful.
Now listen, my clients are magnificent humans with enormous hearts who live big, complicated, interesting lives. They express gratitude for these lives on a regular basis. They are not whiners. Not even a little tiny bit. So yes, you could make an argument that they’re simply keeping it all in perspective. They’re tempering their current frustrations or disappointments with a sage understanding that in the big picture of human experience, they are immensely lucky.
I heard the same theme from SO MANY kindred spirits in the past two weeks that it started to send up a red flag for me.
So I did a highly scientific poll on facebook. I asked how many of you felt pretty good, and how many of you were pretty exhausted. You will not be shocked by the results: 73% said– yep– you were exhausted. (Take that research to NASA! Whoah numbers! Who could argue with the methodology behind that data?! …I mean, you know, anyone, but hey it was good clean fun.)
So I want you to know that if everything feels EXCEPTIONALLY heavy right now, you’re not alone. Many of the intuitive, creative, empathic and sometimes secretly mystical kindred spirits I work with are feeling an intensity and an urgency to their feelings right now that is hard to put a name to.
Here’s one theory I have.
I think that thousands of us have been bracing ourselves for months and months now. The news has been so catastrophically bad, on so many fronts, for so long, that our muscles have grown rigid and stiff in the locked and upright position.
I think that part of what’s happening for people is that some of that braced-for-impact stance is beginning to release. And WHOAH is there a lot to release.
I don’t know about you, but I never EVER got sick during final exams in university. I’d pull ridiculous all-nighters writing papers and studying, grind through on a wild adrenaline high, and then the very MINUTE I’d get on the plane to go home, breathing a sigh of relief, my body would get epically, dramatically, pointedly sick, exacting its revenge for what I’d put it through.
In some way that I can’t quite put my finger on, things in the world and inside us are shifting. Maybe it’s astrological or cosmological or we’re at some collective tipping point or it’s global warming or who the hell knows, but things that have been locked in place are creaking with change.
For some of us, this is a welcome relief after a hard season. For others, it feels like everything is suddenly falling apart.
But I think that whatever is shifting out there is causing us to pause, to un-grit our teeth, whether in relief or shock, and now we’re feeling all the things we could not let ourselves feel before.
We’re afraid to admit what we’re actually feeling, sometimes.
We’re afraid that if we say out loud how truly tired we are, we might just collapse into a heap and never get up again. But it doesn’t work that way. In fact, we usually only collapse in a heap and stay there when we’ve pushed and pushed and pushed and refused to collapse until some key inner gear finally bends from the immense pressure.
When you collapse often, sooner, on purpose, and let those big feelings whoosh through you, it turns out you’re ready to get back up sooner, too.
I am all for resilience. When you get knocked down, I want you to get back up. I am all for reverence. If we do not kiss the sweet ground of our own lives every single day then we are not paying enough attention to the miraculous gift of it.
But you can dwell in gratitude and still need to weep a good weep.
You can love the gifts of your life and still be utterly overwhelmed.
You can choose to keep choosing the problems you get to solve for your work or your family and still feel so tired that your teeth ache.
You can keep facing toward your goal and refuse to give up and also roar with exhausted fury.
Remember, my definition of an epic fucking badass requires only two things of you:
1. Tell the truth.
2. Don’t quit.
So tell the truth about what’s going on with you. Tell a friend, tell me, tell your journal, tell your own heart.
Cry. Collapse. Sleep. Pound your fists. Dig in the dirt. Dance. Swim. Do whatever you need to do to let the intensity of your experience move through you.
Get back up again. Make a cup of tea. Make a compass. Stand tall. Put on a power outfit. Set some flowers on your table. And go be impossibly brave again.
Extraordinary lives require extraordinary support. Maybe you get it from your circle of friends, or a coach like me, or fierce and deep and beautiful self-care, or from the woods, or from your spiritual or creative practice. If you’re going to do extraordinary things in the world, you have to give yourself the extraordinary things that make you strong enough to do them. It’s perfectly logical, but we often try to turn it around and make ourselves do All The Hard Things Forever And Ever Amen With No Break And No Fuel.
You may worry that I’m being classist and elitist by talking about support and self-care. For sure, I have enormous privilege. And if you’re reading this, perhaps you do too. I think that our privilege carries responsibility. And I know that exhausted, ragged women usually feel too overwhelmed to stand up and fight for the important things that matter to them. There’s a huge benefit to the world to you making sure that you are your most powerful, fierce, compassionate, generous, formidable self. We need you in top form right now, dearheart. You are more useful to everyone when you’re filled up, energized, amused, and ready to kick ass and take names and take no shit. I know that you will use your extraordinary superpowers for good, to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves and bring more beauty and justice to this world.
So tell the truth about whatever is shifting inside of you. Witness it. Make room for it. Let it move through you.
Because it just might reveal new petals in you that you didn’t even realize were getting ready to bloom.