Today I asked my boss if I could take a sun day for gardening. In winter we take powder days for skiing, seems only logical! My boss thought that was a good idea. My boss isn’t perfect, she’s overly judgmental of herself and good at “shoulding(1)” herself; she always tries to do more than is realistically possible; and isn’t great at having the hard conversations that affect her, even though she can listen to others hard conversations all day! But, I like her. She works hard, always working on improving her abilities and she really cares about me and others.[Just in case anyone doesn’t know – my boss is me.]
Today, as I was gardening, and actively working on letting go of the guilt of not sitting at my desk, I flashed back to a turning point in my life, a conversation I’ll always remember. One day when I was running a Distance Education department at a community college and getting my PhD, I sat down to tell my boss that I had to finish writing this dissertation and I wouldn’t be staying past 5 PM until I had finished, I had to make it a priority. I assured him I’d still get my work done. I remember clearly the look he gave me filled with kindness and caring, and there was no irony in his voice as he quietly said to me, “I never asked you to stay past 5PM Christine.” I just took that in. My husband used to always joke that I expected more of myself than anyone else could possibly expect of me, but this quiet comment from the best mentor and boss I’d ever had struck deep.
This memory made me think about the knowledge I’ve gained about Mindfulness of thought and mind. There’s a reason I call my mind a trouble maker. It doesn’t often seem to be on my side, although I know it’s just trying to watch out for me and make sure I don’t forget anything. And this memory has me contemplating who my boss is these days? Do I: A) Let my mind run things without paying much attention to it; or B) Does someone else make my decisions for me; or C) Do I mindfully act and react to each moment thoughtfully? To be honest, some combination of A and C, but there is more C than there used to be!
These thoughts make me wonder how many of you are in that same boat that I was, creating habits of judging and “shoulding” yourself? I hope not many. I’d love to be the only one! Do you expect more of yourself than you expect of others? Is your mind always busy reminding you what you “should” be doing or what you aren’t doing well enough?
Does anyone really care if I choose to pull weeds all day in the sun when I don’t have meetings today and I’m not missing anything? No, and yet there’s guilt to work through, to acknowledge. In Mindfulness we just keep trying to be aware and curious about each moment. Paying attention to our mind, and noticing without judgment, what the mind is doing. After spending so much of my life creating these patterns, I don’t expect them to magically disappear, but it’s nice to recognize them sooner rather than later, to laugh at myself or at the least give myself that little internal smile, and follow the exhale, letting go of the tension and returning my attention to whatever I’m choosing to do in that moment. And, sometimes I have to return and do that over and over again, before it takes hold, but it’s better than beating myself up for a whole day and not even realizing I’m doing it!
I invite you to think about this. What are the areas of your life where you forget to notice the joy, or where you forget to realize the next moment is your decision? Are you pushing harder and faster for yourself, or someone else, without taking in your accomplishments and the days around you? Of course I know that many really do have a boss, but taking this thought in, is your own internal boss harder on you than your work boss ever could be?
I invite you to continuously ask yourself, “What’s happening now?” My answer this morning, “Ah, judging myself instead of finding joy in this miraculous, sunny day without trainings or meetings. Good to know!”
(1) – Definition: Shoulding, (verb) To continuously tell yourself that you should be doing something else, something more.