The Art and Follies of Recentering

If you know me, you know I love self care and personal development. In fact, I’m kind of obsessed with it. My years with depression in my late teens taught me to cherish joy and happiness in a way that I don’t believe I would have developed otherwise, and my journey to building greater emotional health and resilience has given me essential self care tools that I will always draw on. As for the personal development side of things, I can’t really account for my obsession with always learning and growing, it’s just there. When I’m without it and feeling uninspired, I’m always deeply aware that there’s something off, that some vital part of me is just beyond reach.

Unfortunately, in all of this, I have incredible knack for planning rather than doing. I can make myself a schedule like you wouldn’t believe. Implementing it? Well, tonight I’m feeling tired and a little miserable, and would probably be better served by a rewatch of Pride and Prejudice or Harry Potter. Or worse, lying in bed and scrolling through different social media feeds in an endless loop. (At least the former can be decent self care, rather than the totally indulgent and useless nature of the latter.) And on bigger projects, I’m a chronic procrastinator. Despite knowing that I would dearly miss writing after finishing my degree, I let this blog languish for a year and a half before a certain someone got my butt in gear.

The folly of constant recentering is as simple as it is ridiculous – there is something in me that, every time I can’t quite execute a plan perfectly, wants to stop, reevaluate and start over. To give myself another chance of ‘getting it right’ – or rather, ‘getting it absolutely perfect’. And accepting that there is no ‘getting it absolutely perfect’ in life, even for something as seemingly simple as nailing down a routine, is a little frustrating. Don’t even get me started on the implications of inevitable non-perfection beyond the day to day. I live in denial of this fact. I was the child who always used the undo button in solitaire to hunt for the optimal path. I can’t help but tear our the pages of old notebooks to start over for a new purpose, no matter the destruction it causes. Despite the impossibility of it all, I would much rather just be perfect from the outset. As silly as it sounds I am not wired for accepting the messiness of growing into something imperfectly.

But in some ways, despite its foolishness, there is a small gift here. The gift of being able to pause and reevaluate – where am I going? what do I want? how am I going to get there? Of finding this process satisfying and fascinating rather than boring or irritating. That feeling of renewal and steadiness that comes when you’re planning and structuring is something that is intrinsic to my ability to be at peace with the world. And I know that becoming the person that I want to be relies on that consistent working towards my goals, even if the progress is small from week to week, even if my efforts are marked with stops and starts, even if there are some dismal failures every once in a while.

So, out of this confession, now have a promise. That I will work through my procrastination and perfectionism. That I will not dismiss even a day because I wasn’t perfect the day before. The week is not lost, and each day is a new gift that we can only cherish all on its own as an opportunity to live and to grow.

in the midst of harder days

Oh, hey there WordPress.

I know, it’s been a few weeks. Actually, I had something planned for you week before last – a more personal post than usual, but it fell apart a bit.

You see, I wanted to write a little about navigating that tricky space between looking after yourself and wanting to grow. (And you’ll get that post, eventually.) But then Tuesday turned to Wednesday, Wednesday turned to Thursday, and I realised I was in a bit of slump. Not a writing slump but, by Wednesday night, a ‘ugh, I can’t even bring myself to watch TV instead of just lying in bed’ slump.

A ‘I cannot even think about that shit right now’ slump.

A ‘oh, I think this is one of those weeks where my depressive symptoms are coming back a bit’ slump.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face this year – a few years on from when I would say that I stopped continuously cycling in and out of depression – is coming to terms with what it looks like for me to be sad, as opposed to actually experiencing depressive symptoms. I feel like I’m only just starting to be able to identify my red flags for when it’s making its little rebellious comebacks. When I started getting better, I assumed that my emotional infrastructure was just fundamentally broken due to my past. For a long time that belief hid the fact that some of the symptoms I was experiencing weren’t ‘normal’ for me, were not feelings and thoughts that could coexist with my-mind-not-on-depression.

The last week, thankfully, has been a lot better. (Just incredibly busy, but when does life let up?) And for the most part, thankfully, this isn’t something I have to deal with a lot. But instead of pushing myself to try and get straight back into the thick of things and putting all sorts of expectations on myself, I’m trying to create space for myself to be at rest. To breathe. To ground myself in a peaceful but firm center. To slowly ease back into what I love, what matters to me, without allowing static goals or unyielding expectations to undermine the process of becoming exactly who I want to be.

Because for me, my goals and planning are a way forward, to cultivating and nurturing myself to grow into someone who can meaningfully live out my values and hopes for the world. Some of that is more ambitious – to work towards positive social change on the issues I deeply care about – and sometimes it looks more modest – to be joyful and at ease in my day to day life.

Although they’re pretty different, in a funny way I think that this post has inadvertently become a kinder, gentler version of the one sitting in my drafts. A few thoughts about how to love ourselves dearly and care for ourselves in the midst of harder days.