We lived in Germany when I was in elementary school and each year for the holidays we would visit extended family “back home” in South Africa.
I’d always be just a little more grown up.
Hugging and welcoming us, family would turn to me saying with glowing, love and pride, saying: “Oh my, look how big you’ve gotten! You are such a big girl now… ”
This must have stuck with me in a deep way, because I distinctly remember contemplating this process of growing up (getting bigger), and asking myself, “How will I know when I am big? What does it mean to be a grown up?”
So, I developed a list.
When my feet would touch the ground when I am sitting on a chair, then I will be big.
When I can sit in the back seat and see out of the window easily, then I will be big.
When I can drive a car, then I will know I am big.
When I have a boyfriend, I will be really big.
When I get married, then for sure I will be big.
By all counts, I should be all grown-up by now. I have checked off my list.
And yet… my child self missed a few important maturity markers that I would definitely add today.
For example, the ability to include more perspectives and live from a bigger internal place.
Recently, I decided it would be good for me to add scheduled time for both writing and exercising every day.
My Body Tensed Up At This Idea.
There was a familiar tightness in my stomach, as if my body was bracing itself against the very idea of adding an hour of writing and an hour of movement to my daily routine.
Where are those two additional hours going to come from? How will I squeeze that in?
All my life, I’ve had a habit of overriding those cues and relying on my limited will power. (And then eventually failing at the task and judging myself for it.)
However, these days, when my body tenses up, it’s a cue that some part of me in not in agreement with myself and I listen up.
Instead of overriding the inner conflict I have learned to get curious and to ask more about the part of me that is stressed out by my plans. I no longer want to force myself to enter into agreements when some part of me is still under duress.
Slowing down, and really feeling into my needs, I realized that while I valued structure (making a schedule), health (commitment to exercising), and creativity (a regular writing practice), that I also valued rest and spaciousness to be flexible and responsive in my daily schedule.
I didn’t want to get to the end of my days exhausted, burned out and over scheduled.
How could I honor the parts of me that valued health, enjoyed movement, enjoyed writing and creativity, worked well with a structure and yet also wanted a mix of choice, spaciousness and flexibility in my days?
Sitting with this wider range of needs, new ideas emerged.
I imagined carving out a regular part of my day for either meditation, exercise or writing, depending upon my inspiration that day…
What if I allowed myself to choose and respond to what my body was needing each day?
What if I trusted that over the course of a week or a month, I would likely make choices that kept these needs in balance?
My body relaxed and felt energized by this idea. It offered the right mix of support, choice and structure.
All this took was slowing down to listen to myself, instead of barreling over familiar tensions because I used to habitually override my feelings.
So, for me today, being “big” also means being able to include more parts of myself in my awareness and my care.
You may ask yourself …
Am I big enough to feel my emotions without turning away too quickly?
Am I big enough to hold more than a narrow set of needs at one time?
Am I big enough to sit with the tension of opposites within me and to find emergent, integrative structures that leave no part of me behind?
Let’s make 2018 a year of not forcing ourselves to do things that some part of us is objecting to and to getting curious about the parts we’ve habitually left behind.
I hope you’ll join me in renewing our commitment to wholeness, to kindness and to being tender with ourselves and others.