There are some things I’ve learned over the last three years or so that are just now feeling “integrated”, like they’re trickling down from my brainmeats down into the place where deep knowing resides.
One of them is that a lot of how I’ve been managing my life (and business) is reactive and not responsive. I have no plan. I do everything by the seat of my pants (and the skin of my teeth). I am in a constant state of “putting out fires”. I keep myself too busy to think. I have always been instantly available to anyone who needed me any time of day. If someone I care about is in any kind of trouble, I’m there – with money, time, space – whatever is needed.
And for the most part, I ask for nothing.
There was a time when I wouldn’t even let my friends pay their share for lunch.
This, my loves, was a trauma response.
I used to pride myself on being a “low maintenance friend”. I would wait until something was an absolute emergency before I’d even *think* about reaching out. I’ve done the same with regards to my health. I’ve done the same with regards to any of my bodily needs. I’ve always waited until I’m sick with hunger before I eat. I don’t recognize that I’m thirsty until I’m *gasping* for water. I used to stay up until I was practically passing out. I never scheduled vacations or any kind of time off. If an email came in at 11 p.m., I’d answer it. I’d be in bed, y’all. I’d be watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I’d be getting ready for sleep. But I’d answer that email.
And lately, I’ve been downshifting. Like so:
In my case “downshifting” looks like asking myself if I can actually be of service without self-harm. Can I really afford to help this person with this financial crisis? Can I actually spare the energy or time to show up as my best for this person? Should I schedule all of this work? Should I say yes to this collaborative? Should I answer this email at 11 p.m. at night (or when I’m in the middle of filming or dealing with something interpersonal)? Should I respond to this message right now, this instant when I am already emotionally exhausted?
It also looks like *not* pushing myself beyond my own limits when I am burned out or overwhelmed. It looks like *risking disappointing someone* in order to take care of myself.
And it is risky. Because disappointing people causes me an enormous amount of pain – more pain than is warranted, to be honest. It triggers my rejection sensitivity dysphoria and abandonment trauma. It makes me miserable.
I am human and I’ve been operating at an inhumane pace for over ten years now. Through loss and death and grief and sorrow and depression and anxiety and *actual abuse* and *actual abandonment* and actual personal disasters that *anyone* would find incredibly challenging to move through. And then there was a pandemic. And then there was Jan 6th. And then there was the Russian invasion. And now there are wildfires and floods here in my country threatening the people I love.
It’s been a lot. A lot a lot.
And I just kept on pushing through it all. Churning out (really good) content. Showing up. Saying yes.
When I got my membership at the pottery and I started going in *alone* with my phone turned off for those blissful three hours of doing nothing but exactly what I wanted to be doing, something shifted.
I started to hear myself think.
I would think things like “Effy, you forgot to eat today and now you’re hangry. Go get some foods.”
“Effy, you haven’t had any water in days. Coffee is not hydration. Go chug some water.”
“Effy, stop working in the nest. It’s bad for your mental health. Work in the studio *only*.”
“Effy, no more devices in the nest. Leave the phone in the studio at night. The bed should be for sleeping.”
“Effy, you’re being really hard on yourself about this thing you’re having trouble doing. Please be gentler with yourself.”
“Effy, you *can’t* keep pushing through right now. Please take a day off.”
“Effy, you haven’t seen the sun in days. Go sit out front with a book. Leave your phone in the studio.”
“Effy, love yourself as well as you love everybody else, please, before you have a nervous breakdown.”
And I’m listening.
And some people aren’t going to be okay with that, because my lack of boundaries and self-care served *them* well.
But MOST of my people are going to be delighted. They’re going to cheer me on. They’re going to send me messages reminding me that I *never* take time off and maybe I should schedule that in instead of waiting until there’s an emergency. They’re going to email me to tell me that they appreciate the way I’m modelling self-care right now. They’re going to *celebrate* my healing.
Because I matter to them.
And I love this for me. And that’s where I’m going to focus. That’s where my attention is going to go. Who applauds my downshifting because they *know* it’s good for me? Who respects my time and energy? Who encourages me to put myself high on my list of priorities?
Downshifting might mean that I am less available in terms of the QUANTITY of the content/time/attention you get from me, but I guarantee you that I will be more PRESENT, and there will be an exponential increase in the QUALITY of the content/time/attention you get from me.
I have been delivering from a place of emptiness, isolation and fear for a long, long time now. Since 2011, if I’m being honest.
I learned to serve because I believed I needed to do so in order to earn my right to exist and be treated humanely.
That is a trauma response, and its one I’m ready to downshift my way out of.
I want to serve because I love serving, not because I’m afraid of losing you/being harmed by you.
So that’s where we’re at on this fine Monday, July 24th, 2023. I am not going live today. I’m puttering around and letting my nervous system regulate after a weekend of worrying about a dear friend who ended up in the hospital. I’m going to get some sun on my skin if the weather cooperates. I’m going to shove a Reuben Wrap I make myself into my face hole. I’m going to listen to songs that make me happy and paint something just for me. I’m going to chug some water. I’m going to love myself as though I matter.
And that’s progress, so I’ll take it.
And you? Are you noticing yourself downshifting? Are you noticing that you have less to give because you’re tapped out? Are you giving yourself time and space to heal from the things that drained you and left you feeling empty and isolated?
Link pinkies with me. Let’s do this.