After navigating some unexpected hurdles this past week, I now find myself contending with a stronger than usual urge to “catch up” – on writing, on reading, on correspondence, on exercising, on movies – simply, on days seemingly lost. The urge is a familiar one that has grown more prominent as our traditional sense of time and boundaries has largely evaporated over the past several months.
This morning I caught myself rushing through a walk with my dog, nudging her along as she examined each patch of grass and square of sidewalk with the precision and attention to detail of a prominent detective. I had to gently remind myself that there wasn’t anything pressing that I was speeding home to. I let her linger, and in turn, loosened my grip on the minutes as they passed by. I realized that the restrictions I was imposing on our time outdoors together weren’t tied to any external variables but were rather the manifestations of an anxious mind.
There’s been a tremendous sense of urgency lately toward maintaining detailed timetables, perfecting morning rituals, juggling work, household, and parenting responsibilities, and maximizing our efficiency. While it’s important to create a sense of structure and predictability in the absence of our normal routines, it can be detrimental when we simultaneously hold ourselves to unrealistic standards or are harsh on ourselves and others when things don’t go according to our meticulously sketched plans.
It’s easy to hold our present lives under a magnifying glass and believe that we’re falling short. But in doing so, we fail to account for the immense disruption and sense of imbalance this time has brought about. Perhaps you’re not experiencing largescale shifts and life as you know it hasn’t been dramatically altered. Even if you’re appreciating some of the novel changes, the cumulative stress and strain of the bygone weeks is hard to deny.
As you move through the emerging unknowns and find comfort in the familiar, I want to remind you that you are a work in progress. You are not the you of yesterday nor the you of tomorrow. If you’ve set out to master a new skill, let yourself derive a sense of accomplishment from your ambition and desire to grow. If you have a stack of books on your nightstand that’s been collecting dust, remove your expectation to finish them and simply enjoy the experience of getting lost in compelling plotlines and falling in love with relatable characters. If you face a dozen interruptions one day and fail to get anything done from your to-do list, be grateful for your ability to work well under pressure and remind yourself that you can’t always control the days’ outcomes. If you find you’re still in your pajamas at noon and can’t muster up the energy for your usual afternoon run, give yourself a break – you’re human after all, imperfect and deserving of your own care and understanding.
Success doesn’t always look like catching up and keeping up. You are a work in progress, today and every day. This is a gift. It means that you can fall and rise again. It means that you can create a masterpiece and then another. It means that you are always growing, even when it feels like you’ve failed. It means you needn’t worry about writing an ending for a story that is continuously unfolding.