Yesterday I was driving on I-10 heading west toward Santa Monica, where I live, when it struck me that I had no idea what the speed limit was. I was going the speed of traffic as usual (which in Los Angeles seems to be either zero or 75). I’ve lived here for two years, taking I-10 several times a week, and yet I always just go the speed everyone else is without a thought to what was legal or safe.
I wish that I could tell you that driving I-10 is the only time I go the speed of traffic without a second thought, but I can’t. At work, I’ve tried to keep pace with the biggest of overachievers, and be just as responsive as the quickest email responder. At yoga, I move from asana to asana because the teacher tells me to, not always paying attention to what’s best for my body. And with myself, I race to get to “success” because everyone else is, even though I have no idea what success looks like for me.
The point, here, is that until recently, I didn’t have my own personal speed limit. I was traveling through life at a speed set by external factors, modern life. And as a result, I crashed. Not literally, but emotionally and mentally. The routine maintenance of life became overwhelming: having a job, the dry cleaning, the grocery shopping, having friends, being a part of a family, keeping my nails manicured, exercising, yoga, cooking, walking the dog, finances— everything. When I was finally free from work, I had no mental or physical energy to feed my soul, to feel alive and present. I was spent. I just wanted to go to sleep. And I’d wake up the next morning and do it all again. I was exhausted. Everything felt like just another “to-do.” I was a little ball of negative energy.
But the good thing about crashing is that it offers a chance to reevaluate–in this case, my speed. By crashing, I realized that what works for other people doesn’t always work for me. I need space. Space to breathe, space to think, space around each thing that I do, space to take care of myself, space to rest, space to be me.
To create this necessary space in my life, I need to set and live my own speed limit. To do so, I’m letting some things go. Things like always being “on” for work. Or being the best daughter/sister/daughter-in-law/wife/friend ever. Or having a house that’s always in perfect order. Or getting everything done before I get to the fun stuff—there will always be more to do.
I’m embracing some things, too: An on/off work schedule. Being intentional with each task that I do and not rushing from one thing to the next. Establishing a routine that reserves time and energy for creativity – for feeding my soul – so that it’s never an afterthought. Taking short breaks throughout day to go for a walk or to sit outside and eat lunch.
I’m quickly finding out, though, that setting your speed limit and obeying it are two different beasts. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the rush of everything else, as I did this past week. But by just knowing my own speed limit, I’ve become more aware of when I’m speeding. My challenge is to put on the breaks before I crash, again.