Tuesday, 28 April 2015

On knowing when not to push

As I type this I have four small pieces of unfinished work waiting to be completed in order for them to be hung as part of an exhibition at the end of this week. The reasons they are unfinished are myriad and typical. Due to some major deadlines looming at work work (as opposed to home work) I won't be able to take any time away from the day job to complete them. Just one of the many joys of trying to run two careers simultaneously.

So the situation asks the following of me: do I pull a few all-nighters and get the work complete or do I bow down to circumstance and concede defeat in this case?

A complicated enough question to be sure but have I mentioned that I am a high functioning, controlling perfectionist?

I feel like I have been here many times before. It's the queasy feeling of being at the bottom of a steep hill and knowing that, before you can relax, there is a hike in front of you. I have this feeling when I wake up on a Monday and realise that alongside the day job, there are three classes to teach, two social engagements and an extra evening to work at the gallery for a preview. It's the feeling of being in a sorry mess entirely of my own making because I have said yes to too many things. And I say yes from the best possible hopeful excited place. A place that wants to cherish my friends, exhibit my work, support other artists and generally just have a lovely time. The thing is, these days there is always a hill and there is always a hike. I don't think it should be like that.

So, how am I supposed to intuitively know when to push and when to let go?

Because to me letting go feels like failing. It feels like flaking out. It feels like sorry and I'm not good enough. It feels like letting someone down. It feels like letting me down.

I think the answer to this might be in how I've phrased the first question- maybe it's not about bowing down to circumstances and conceding defeat. Maybe it's about committing to taking care of your self in spite of everything life throws at you and the stuff you throw at yourself.

What if instead letting go felt like the most glorious white space of nothing? What if it felt like honouring the body and its shouty protests and resting? What if I don't need to complete four new pieces of work because, hang on! I have plenty of work I can hang instead?! It doesn't have to be shiny, new and brilliant all the time.

What if instead it feels like Rach, it's okay because this isn't your only chance.

Because here is the thing: in the past, every time I pushed to achieve something it's because I believed that the opportunity to do so wouldn't come around again. And that maybe it had been a mistake for me to get even this opportunity in the first place so I had better grab it and make it count before they find out.

I believed that I was on some kind of trajectory and that if I paused, even for a second, I would simply drop out of orbit and find myself back to where I was five years ago. On my sofa, two stone heavier, pizza in one hand, wine in the other.

Todays' exercise in rewriting my (skewed, neurotic, scarcity complex addled) belief system is one of the first steps in learning to trust myself. To trust that I have my back and I can rely on my own internal HR department to let me know when I need to ease up and book some holiday. And getting to the weekend with a gigantic caffeine hangover because I pushed myself to finish some paintings is the quickest way to undermine that and prove otherwise.

So I am going to throw a little white space in to my week. Eat something delicious for dinner. Hang out at my desk and see if I can maybe complete one painting whilst watching Harry Potter. Wrap some old work ready to dispatch and have an early night, simply because I'm tired and I feel like it. And I trust myself.

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