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Relax: Nothing is Under Control


Relax: Nothing is Under Control

Urban Campfire Speech


I want to start tonight with a quick check in… (I’m doing this right now and it’s pretty challenging for me, so I’m going to ask you to support me by doing it with me.) Let’s just check in with our bodies. Bring into your awareness any sensations in your  body that are uncomfortable.. Anywhere you are feeling tension you can let go of, a tightness you can release just a little, just softening and coming into our bodies fully.

Great. Thanks for indulging me there.

So tonight I want to talk to you about why I’m so busy – why I think you might be so busy – and how to deal with all those people who kindly suggest you relax and take less on – because let’s be honest, if we don’t do it, who will?

“Don’t Worship Busy.” That’s the advice my coach, Brooke Castillo, gives. And I like it, right? Who wants to attend the Church of Too Much To Do?

But somehow knowing this, hasn’t stopped me from over-committing, power life-juggling, and racing with exhaustion from one thing to the next – for years. I mean busy isn’t what I do it’s WHO I AM.

So I just want to check in with the room here – how many people are in my congregation? Does this sound like you?

Okay so if you are like me you get advice about doing “too much” all the time – especially when you are stressed out, the caterer is late, the drummer didn’t show up, there’s a line of people waiting to check in, your kid is texting to see if he can go to the movies on a school night and 6 or 7 other plates are spinning.

“Just relax.” “Take a deep breath.” “Count to 4 as you inhale, and 8 as you exhale.” I’ve heard all the self-care advice and I am sure you have too. I get it, but come on, let’s be real. There are fires to be put out, who has time for deep breathing?

I’m the type of organized person who schedules my relaxation. I’m not going to relax in the middle of a deadline. So this past weekend I signed up for a “Breathing into Life” Retreat. It sounded like just the sort of thing someone who is relaxed would attend.

I didn’t really WANT to go. But kinda like going to the gym, I liked the idea of having gone.

So off I trotted to a great retreat center in Hagerstown. (Which, btw, if you are holding an event for 10-20 this place is great. Come see me if you want the referral.)

I want to tell you how I learned to stop worshipping busy and learned to relax from the lessons I learned in this event, but first I have to explain a few things.

You see, in one session I was rattling off all the things I was busy being stressed about and the facilitator asked me to take a breath and connect with how I felt. A little like we did at the beginning of this talk.

She didn’t try to fix the feelings. She wanted me to sit there. Uncomfortable. And just FEEL them. And breathe.

My heart rate slowed down and I came into my body – kinda crash landing style. Being present, in the moment, with my feelings… that’s not something I have a lot of experience with. Why? Well because I’m busy of course! Think about it. How often does being busy help you cover up or at least not have to deal with how you are feeling. After all, you’re busy!

That’s when I got a deeper understanding of what Brooke Castillo means by “don’t worship busy.”

I realized that each of the things I do – for my business, hobbies, friends, family, strangers on the street – I do them to feel good. To feel loved. Respected. Important even. And all this doing, it’s helped me create an amazing life filled with love and fun and success and all the THINGS we seem to want.

I’m really proud of my “doing” abilities, of being a “type a” “quick-start.”

I wasn’t trying to avoid breathing, or relaxing, or “sitting with my feelings” I was just busy trying to get all this yummy stuff in my life – Love. Money. Party. as my girl Miley Cyrus might say.

And so at this point the facilitator looks at me and says – “do you think you have to do something to deserve love and fun and success?”

And I’m thinking… “um, yeah? How else does it work?”

She wants me to sit with this too – to breathe into the idea that if I only deserve love because of actions I take I’m probably going to be very tired and I’m thinking “girl, you have no idea.”

But I do, in that moment, believe that love comes from achieving, from success, from hard work, from creativity, from effort.

She asks me how old I was when I got this idea and I answer her without hesitation.

“I was 4.”

And she says – “that makes me sad for you.

“Do you think a 4 year old should have to work in order to be loved?”

I have a son and of course I think he deserves oceanliners of love just for existing. I certainly wasn’t withholding love from him based on his behavior at 4.

“Just sit with that… breath.

“Can you see that you are lovable without having to do anything?”

So I “sit.” And I force myself not to  jump to answer. I felt every sensation in my body even though what I really wanted to do was run far away from this sitting and breathing bullshit. And I waited for the answer to come up – without effort or force….

“Can you see that? You are lovable.”

She asked again.

And I soooooo wanted to give her the “Good Facilitator Gold Star” – I wanted to give her this breakthrough and show her she was good at her job – so then I’d be worthy of her love because I helped her get this nice thing. Maybe I could be her favorite client of the weekend… or like – of EVER!


I said quietly.

“I want to, but I can’t.”

“And that’s okay,” she said, “just stay with that for now.”

As I drove home from the retreat, I started to see how “worshipping busy” had served me and why the idea of relaxing was so uncomfortable to me. Worshipping busy has allowed me to achieve business success, travel the world, and have countless adventures. It’s been a great church to attend in a lot of ways. But worshipping busy has also been a way that I’ve robbed myself of my own self worth and I’ve stolen from my friends and family – and clients for that matter – the ability to love me just for being me, not because I put on a show or earn their favor with my generosity or a well-written blog post.

Worshipping Busy has given me a sense of control and a justification for frustration and indignance when things don’t go the way I think they should based on the amount and creativity of my effort.

The truth is … NOTHING is under control. Being busy can has given me ways of thinking I have things under control, but so many factors are out of my hands. Being busy has robbed me of being in the moment and of experiencing what’s happening right now.

Yes – we are amazing women – everyone in this room has accomplished so much and achieved so much and being busy may have been a part of that for you as it has been for me – we live in DC after-all. But for me, being busy was never a choice – it was the only way to get my needs met and I got good at it (funny what 37 years of experience will get you) except my skill came with a lot of loss.

So I don’t know what comes next. I don’t know how to feel worthy of love without earning it with my intelligence or creativity, or time; but I do know this is my moment to find out and I’m pretty excited about my search.

When I think about Being Busy or Relaxing, it’s kind of like a continuum, right?

So you got Relaxed over here and you have Busy over here running across this X axis. And then there are your needs – you know, the whole Love. Money. Party. thing (btw I totally thing Miley Cyrus trumps Maslow when it comes to talking about the hierarchy of needs.)

So your needs are on the Y axis… from not met at all to fully met.

In my experience, it seemed like these two data points were correlated in some way… if I put in effort more I will have my needs met more… And you know, I think in some ways that’s true… but it’s not the whole truth. So what I’m doing… and what I’m asking you to do… is to play with the idea your busyness does not have as much influence as you think it does over your needs getting met.

When you think of it this way, you might as well Relax, nothing is under control…

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