When Life Throws You STOP Signs

A couple of days ago I got my weekly horoscope in my email inbox, and this jumped out at me: “You really need to tell your stories. It’s not just a good idea; it’s downright urgent. There’s a backlog of unexpressed narratives clogging up your depths. It’s like you have become too big of a secret to the world.”

It’s funny that this advice is in the air because, as you may know, I’ve been away from my blog and Oasis for a few months, and I was thinking I needed to share some things this month about why I’ve been absent from your inbox.

This spring and summer several things have conspired to slow me down, if not stop me in my tracks outright, and it’s been a humbling experience to let myself “go with the flow of the non-flow” as it were. In mid-to-late April my website got hacked, a first for me. I felt vulnerable and disheartened seeing all my hard work seemingly vanish, and couldn’t attend to my other online work, like Oasis.

A do-it-yourself-er, I thought I could just follow some directions online and fix it though my saved backups. But as days of inaction stretched into weeks, I eventually accepted that this was too big and too unfamiliar a task for me, and I had to let my trusted web developer handle it.

When he told me that it took him 10 hours to put my site back together with all his know-how, I knew I’d done the right thing, but it was a wake-up call that (a) I can’t do everything myself, and (b) I’ll ask for help sooner next time.

All of us have probably tussled with this question of when to get help vs. doing it yourself. We can’t always keep pushing ourselves through old or new boundaries. Sometimes we have to heed our own “growing edge” and accept that we aren’t limitless vessels of learning and productivity. I feel like this is the lesson I am learning throughout this whole year, actually.

Around the same time as the website problems began, I got my first-ever speeding ticket (a first I was proud to put off as long as possible!) as I was rushing home to my newly adopted shelter dog after a long weekend away. Because of trying to save minutes that day, I’ve actually spent about 15 hours and a few tanks worth of gas this summer going to traffic court and taking the remedial steps to reduce the ticket. The whole experience has humbled me all over again and literally forced me to slow down. In retrospect, it was a sign of what was yet to come.

To top it off, in June I began to suffer daily bouts of fatigue, and got sick with what felt like a tick-borne illness (I’ve gotten over 100 tick bites since April). It seems living in the woods and walking my dog daily has proven to be a danger to my health, and this situation continues to be a source of frustration and risk as I am now on antibiotics to prevent a probable case of Lyme disease.

What all these things have had in common is the power to take me off of the playing field and onto the bench, where I can’t do much but allow, rest, and learn. Allow others to help me do what I don’t know how to do. Rest from doing too much or going too fast when I’m sick or tired. Learn to heed the signals that life seems to be sending me, to accept that I am not Wonder Woman and that the world will be okay even if I am not going 80 mph trying to keep up with it or save it.

The funny thing is, a client just told me this week, “You’ve helped me to see I don’t have to get to the finish line right away. I don’t have to go 0 to 60 in five seconds.” It seems I’ve been great at helping others to see this; now it’s time for me to learn it too, on a deeper level.

Trust the Mirrors to Guide You to the Best Tomato Available

It hasn’t always been easy to watch from the sidelines and do less, to shift my body and my car into a lower gear, but it has been a great opportunity to start trusting the inner “mirrors” (like the illness) and outer mirrors (like the hacking and speeding ticket) to teach me that it’s okay to let go of the nagging voice that says go faster, do more, produce more.

But it can be scary to pull away and slow down from the running herd that seems to know where it’s going. Why? Is it because we’re hard-wired to act out the theory of the survival of the fittest? Does our capitalist system have us all competing for position? Maybe we’ve just never grown out of an adolescent drive to gobble up life as fast as we can and do what all the other kids are doing.

Whatever it is, our knee-jerk reaction is often that “more” and “faster” equal better, that quantity trumps quality. But I’d rather have one gorgeous, juicy red tomato from the farmers’ market than 10 lifeless pink ones from the store. Wouldn’t you? There has to be a balance somewhere in between, a “best-available” option.

The problem is that when we aren’t in balance or in tune with the messages from our mirrors, most of us can’t turn the power switch to “low” or “off” when we want to, let alone when we have to. Aside from the imperative to make money, most of us constantly “do stuff” to feel valued, important, and sometimes, to distract ourselves from our problems. More holistic motivations might include “doing” for the love of it, or from a deep calling to serve or make a difference.

The Blessing of the Wrench

This is why it’s humbling but can be a blessing when life interrupts our flow (or frenzy) to throw a wrench in the works with a computer hack, a speeding ticket, an illness. The wrenches remind us that we’re neither immortal nor indispensable, that the lulls are a vital part of life’s rhythms, and that the sun will rise and set all by itself.

Of course, the examples I’ve listed pale in comparison to a diagnosis of serious injury, life-threatening illness, or loss of a job, though I’ve dealt with some of those too. It’s just that now there seem to be many more of us coping with being stopped (due to the recession) at the same time as we need to learn how to stop ourselves due to stress.

What have been your experiences with being “pulled over” by life circumstances? How did you cope? What did it teach you? I invite you to post a comment below, and consider the words of my personal mantra and cell-phone power-up message these days: nothing is perfect, and all is well.

One Response to When Life Throws You STOP Signs
  1. Marge
    July 22, 2011 | 3:48 pm

    I got your message just at the right time! It has me yearning to slow down without the wrenches – or maybe the 100+ degrees outside can be my wrench? I need to add my thoughts for a quick recovery, Jenny. But not back to full speed. ;)