Well I’m back, after an unexpected hiatus. I was going to talk about how I took Labor Day (Labor Week) off to recharge myself, but that’s not the truth of the situation. In actuality, I tried to write my two blogs per week, but I ran into some obstacles. Rather than focusing on the particulars of the obstacles themselves, I’d rather talk about my reactions to them.
Essentially, I was having trouble coming up with good topics to write about, and I began writing something I wasn’t as happy with. I had put myself on a deadline to finish it, but as that deadline loomed closer, the anxiety started to rise. It became a vicious circle where I was agitated for not finishing what I started, which then made it even more difficult to complete. About the time the feelings of self-loathing started coming in, I decided to call it a day. I could have tried to push through and make something happen, but I’m not sure that would have been fruitful, and I’m sure it wouldn’t have made me feel good.
There’s a balance that needs to be maintained between pushing yourself to the edge of your abilities and knowing your own limitations. I find this distinction especially clear in the practice of yoga. A good yoga teacher will motivate you to try to work past the imaginary chalk marking of what you were able to accomplish previously. A great teacher will be able to do so while respecting your physical and emotional limits. It’s a really tricky tightrope to walk. After all, if you’re only stretching as far as you did the previous day, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish. If you push too far, though, it’s easy to feel demoralized by what you could not accomplish, not to mention to hurt yourself in the process.
I definitely err on the side of kindness to myself, though I often wonder if that may be something that holds me back. I worry that if I can’t completely commit to a project, to the point that either it’s going to break or I’m going to break, then perhaps my heart is not fully in it. After all, Olympic athletes throw put themselves through grueling paces to be the best they can. World-class musicians spend hours and hours in the practice room honing their skills until they are razor sharp. One could argue that without that blinding drive to be the very best and to overcome all obstacles, humans would not have accomplished all that we have.
On the other hand, that mindset sounds far from healthy. If we strive to push ourselves no matter what, we may make great strides, but we miss the nuances of life along the way. In running that marathon in record time with our blinders on and eyes on the prize, we run right past that cliff that looks out over the valley in which a small hamlet is nestled, a resident of which makes the most finely crafted grilled cheese sandwiches, and whose daughter has inviting chocolatey eyes and likes to stay up all night talking about Magic the Gathering and making cookies.
I’ve come to a point in my life where the maintenance of my sense of well-being is the highest priority to me, and I structure my obligations so that I don’t put it in jeopardy. When I do stretch it to its limits, I may accomplish more, but I feel less pride in those accomplishments because of the strain it puts on me. It’s like the joke, “For Lent I gave up my self-esteem, but then I realized I wasn’t really worth saving anyway.”
So I will continue to test the boundaries of what I am capable of doing, but I will do so with a kindness towards myself in the process. There will be weeks in which I bite off too much, and I have to ease up on some of my goals. There will also be weeks in which I release a new CD, write an inspiring new blog post, and create an innovative podcast.
And speaking of new podcasts, I’m very excited to announce that I am releasing the first episode of Sound Decisions today. It’s a podcast in which I sit down with an artist to discuss one of their songs with them in-depth. It’s a great opportunity to hear some music you may not have heard before, to analyze the lyrics of the songs you love, and to indulge in music theory geekiness. For my inaugural episode, I sat down with my good friend and fantastic singer/songwriter/pianist Anna Dagmar to discuss her song “Satellite.” If you love to learn the secrets behind how your favorite songs are made, this is the podcast for you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to gently coax myself to try the dreaded half-moon pose once again.