Are you Restraining Yourself?
Last week while traveling, I noticed that my morning was off. I felt burdened with life, work and the expectations of others but the feeling didn’t last long.
I did an inventory of what I had done differently; I needed to quickly discern what had put me in such a foul mood. As I did a scan of my emotions from head to toe (because the mind lives in every cell of your being,) I knew what the problem was.
I went into the airport bathroom, removed the pantyhose I had put on for warmth to travel up North and all was right with the world.
I shared the story with my friend Bryn and she laughed and then said something that made us both sit up straight. “How often do we restrain our own selves?”
All weekend long, I thought about the schedules and deadlines I impose upon myself and then “kill” myself to adhere to. I often feel like I did when I got frost bite back in graduate school.
I lived in Kent, Ohio where I learned the real meaning of wind-chill. There had been a weather advisory, but because I had no TV and no time for the radio, I worked hard to complete a chapter of my dissertation and then went out to turn it in.
As soon as I stepped outside, I felt my heart race. My breathing was erratic, but I thought it was because I had been up all night working.
When I started my short walk to campus, a salt truck driver pulled over and yelled at me.
“Get in,” he said through the small slit in his window. “You can die out here.”
I tried to tell him that I would die if I got in his truck, but I couldn’t speak. He yelled that there was a weather advisory and that no one should be out.
It finally hit me why I felt as I did and I went back into my apartment. I had only been in the cold for a few moments but my arms and toes had already suffered from frost bite.
I completed my doctoral degree at the age of 26. No one said I had to; I did it because I needed to.
I’m grateful for my achievements and for my ability to work hard past the point of tired, but there is a price that we all must pay for burning the candle at both ends.
I still see patches of burned skin whenever I’m in freezing weather and I still have difficulty with feeling the need to meet the crazy timelines and demands of others.
But I’m also learning this; a self-imposed exile is still exile.
Time is a man-made construct; still, we can’t control it.
Always do your very best, but do it when it’s the best time for you to do it. You’ll get a lot more done and the work will be much better.
Be you, be well, be unfettered.
Bertice Berry, PhD.