Have You Updated Your OS Lately?

Have You Updated Your OS Lately?

Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Tips + Tools

“I think I’m an Apple person. Yep, I’ve decided it. I’m switching out everything.”

This was my husband, about a month ago.

My PC-using, iPhone-carrying husband, tired of multiple brands and multiple systems, decided that he would no longer be using anything that was more than one degree away from Steve Jobs. Everything needed to “match.” He sounded like a close relative of Justin Long in those commercials from the early 2000s.

 

Also my husband about a month ago:

“I’m think I’m a PC person. Yep, I’ve decided it. No Apple for me”

No, that’s not a typo. After going all-in on the Apple ecosystem, my MacBook-using, iPhone-carrying husband decided he was tired of learning new keyboard functions and computer basics after a lifetime of PC use. But, of course, everything needed to “match.”

Goodbye iPhone, hello Pixel.

Goodbye Justin Long, hello PC Man.

Confusing, I know (less so if you know he’s a Gemini, but that’s a whole other conversation). And, admittedly, a very privileged back-and-forth to even be having — one we definitely wouldn’t have been having years ago when we both worked for larger corporations and didn’t rely SO heavily on our own devices. We’re both pretty conservative with our spending, and cringe whenever we see the price tag on a new computer or phone (even the refurbished ones). Some people have to pay rent on office space to run their company, some people have to buy school supplies or specific outfits. Tech is our main business investment, and an investment worth making — especially now that so much of the work we used to do in-person is now virtual.

Jeremy is a brand + business strategist, which means he spends his days growing businesses by hland on who they are, what they stand for, and how that manifests out there in the world. This is both an asset and a roadblock. While it makes him hyper self-aware and inquisitive by nature, it can also lead him down roads he might not have traveled otherwise.

“What’s your favorite movie?” isn’t just a small-talk ice breaker — it’s a way to tell someone else exactly who you are and what you value.

“How do you want your hair cut?” isn’t just about what flatters your face shape or what feels practical/on-trend/whatever you’re going for — it’s about what you want to say before you even open your mouth.

In his quest to “streamline” his technology, Jeremy — my insightful, inquisitive Gemini husband — wasn’t just deciding on a computer or phone.

He was deciding on an identity.

(Or so he thought.)


The whole “your phone/computer/headphones/tablet/whatever is your identity” thing is the exact narrative those early Mac vs. PC Guy were capitalizing on. According to the commercials, if you were a Mac person, you were cool, laid back, young. PC Guy? All business. No fun. Awkward. (cue the dramatic music) Outdated.

Of course, this isn’t true at all. Or rather, the truth of it depends on YOU, the consumer, and your experience. But the idea of a defined and streamlined narrative is so alluring…so aspirational…a lot of us will go to great lengths to make it happen. So muchso, that we’ll even trade in what we love for the promise of a vague “better.”

~

Self-help culture has us obsessed with the big shifts and life overhauls. Do a quick internet search or bookstore browse of mainstream self-help hits and you’ll see phrases like find your calling, unlock your true purpose, and change your life.

All of which imply that you’ve got to leave one thing behind in order to access the other.

The better, brighter, other.

Is that sometimes true? Sure. Sometimes you do need to quit the job, leave the relationship, pack up the house, delete your social media.

But what about all of those other times? The times you actually love your job, are all-in on your relationship, feel so very at home, enjoy “Liking” your friends’ posts…and still, you feel like something is just off?

What about then?

Are you supposed to assume you can’t trust your contentment?

Should you assume that leaving, quitting, packing, deleting are the inevitable answers?

~

The answer, of course, is no. Just like Jeremy eventually realized, who you are isn’t just about what you do, it’s about how you do it.

He didn’t need the phone in his hand to be a full-on personality trait.

What he DID need, though, was an update to his OS: his operating systems.


The phone-person metaphors are aplenty.
I think one of the reasons we’re intrigued by personal computers and cell phones is that they hold so many of our memories. And not just the photos we took at lunch with the fam. We literally use them to help us remember stuff. I know that the second I find out a friend’s birthday, I program it into my calendar. Got an interesting recommendation for a book? Write it in the Notes app or on a desktop “Sticky.” Back everything up to “the cloud” and you’re good to go. If you’re reading this, you’re reading it on a device of some kind — which means that you too have what’s akin to a second brain.

It’s pretty amazing, and yet sometimes I’ve found myself longing for the days of the physical Day Planners and oversized desk calendars. I’ve tried both, multiple times, and while I got a sweet hit of nostalgia as I penciled in my appointments, I ultimately got overwhelmed and had to scrap the analog methods. At first, I left my digital ways behind — but then I realized I still needed to keep my digital calendar up-to-date, so I started to do both. In my quest to simplify, I ended up over-complicating things for myself. So muchso, in fact, that I ironically ended up forgetting things. For me, trying to be a “Day Planner” person actually hurt more than it helped.

 

Even though something new and shiny (or retro and nostalgic) might seem like the easy swap, it might not be the right decision for you.

What might be right, however, is to do an audit of your lifestyle and habits in the same way you’d look at a phone or computer.

 

Think of your own personal operating systems (OS). What’s automated? Do you benefit from those automations? Is your “cloud” backup — the mental and emotional resources you can pull from regularly — up-to-date? Do you find yourself crashing every time you perform a certain activity a certain way or at a certain time?

Inspired by Jeremy’s tech saga and a-ha, I’m currently in the middle of my own OS audit. For me, an “OS Update” primarily involves looking at the role “motivation” and “inspiration” play in my day-to-day decisions. I’ll often use these two things as reasons to do or not do certain tasks and activities, so I’ll spend an unnecessary amount of time trying to drum up inspiration. Not only is it inefficient, it’s actually super exhausting. And while I do love the feeling of motivation and inspiration, I’ve found that I love them most when there’s no larger agenda attached (go figure, that’s when all my best ideas come to me anyway). My OS Update involves building the habit of whatever I’d like to do — write, exercise, cook, read — and not waiting for the go-ahead from “motivation.”

I’ve also realized that when it comes to work, I automatically answer questions with responses I would’ve given a year or two ago. Whether it’s stating my rate or responding to a request, I’ve found myself perfunctorily saying things that don’t apply anymore.

I’ve changed. It’s time for my OS to change with me.

Life is like a computer or cell phone. Things break and glitch. Sometimes, you need something completely new. But sometimes, you just need to upgrade your operating system. Click To Tweet

So, to come back around to Jeremy: he eventually ended up how he began. A Microsoft computer, an Apple phone, and some kind of copycat brand of AirPod-lookalikes as headphones. (Thank goodness for return policies and trade-in programs.) After a record number of backs and forths, Jeremy got everything set up and synced, and now has it all running on the latest version of software — software he wasn’t using before. It all looks the same as it did at the start, but there’s actually a world of a difference.

Turns out, he just really, really needed everything to work as efficiently as possible.

He didn’t need to choose a whole new identity. He wasn’t Justin Long. He wasn’t PC Guy.

His identity was, and always has been, “efficiency guy.”

~

It’s easy to assume that if things aren’t working, then you need to scrap everything and start fresh. Whether it’s the movies you love, the way you cut your hair, the coffee you drink, or the phone you carry, there’s a whole world out there that would love for you to define yourself by your associations. It’s easy…too easy…to assume that if you change what’s on the outside, you’ll change, period.

But life doesn’t work like that.

Things break and glitch.

Sometimes, you need something completely new.

But sometimes, you just need to update your operating system.

 


WANT YOURSELF:

What might an “OS Update” look like for you? Are there areas in your life where you could use a system refresh/reboot? Share in the comments and let us know — or join us over in The WANT Community to discuss this and more on a weekly basis!


 

Giving Selective F***s.

Giving Selective F***s.

Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Tips + Tools

**Heads up: this post about people-pleasing, being defensive, and setting boundaries contains mature language, specifically, f***, a lot. I know we don’t censor our language on the WANTcast and WANT site, so you’re probably used to it, but I feel like the amount today is more than usual, so wanted to give you a heads up should you have eyes reading over your shoulder that you don’t want to see it :)**

 

Let me just tell you what happened in the elevator.

First, let’s set the stage. It’s hot. It’s humid. The air in NYC today feels like it’s about 96% humidity and that humidity is made up of sticky orange juice or something. All I want to do is get upstairs, turn on the AC, sit on my couch with my dog, and write this to you.

I’m also feeling fired up from a business meeting I had with myself over AM coffee, and am feeling way more focused and streamlined than I have in a while.

I walk into the elevator and there’s a man already in there who’s heading upstairs. Another man walks in.

I immediately feel a vibe from the first man — I can’t tell if it’s an “I’m starved for small talk after a pandemic” vibe or an “I’m gonna try and flirt with you” vibe, but either way, I don’t like it at all (sans a few neighbors over the years who have become extremely close friends, the second I walk into my home, I am a VERY private person. I don’t want to small talk — let alone be hit on).

“How is it out there?” the first man asks.
So hot. Like, 9 million percent humidity. I make the mistake of answering.

I can see him looking at my torso and I feel uncomfortable. The second man gets out of the elevator and I contemplate going with him. I wait too long and the door closes, me and Man #1 alone together. I realize he’s not looking at my torso — he’s looking at my WANT tote bag.

“Women Against Negative Talk,” he reads out loud.
Then he starts laughing.
“Is that a joke?”

🤨

Thank goodness I was still wearing my sunglasses, because I have zero game face and I’m pretty positive my eyes were shooting daggers.

No. It’s my business.

(If you could’ve seen his face drop. Lemme tell you, if he’d had any intention of hitting on me, his plans were definitely foiled.)

What happened next surprised me a little, though.

“What does that mean? ‘Negative talk’?” I could sense he was genuinely asking.
Negative talk like negative SELF-talk.
“What’s ‘negative self-talk’?”

Now, as someone who obsesses about our internal narrative and self-told story 24/7/365, it always blows.my.mind. when I realize not everyone knows what self-talk is. I mean, they DO know what it is — we all experience it — they just don’t know it has a name.

And so I explained it to him.

Self-talk is your internal narrative. Negative self-talk is the stuff you say disparagingly about yourself. It can be along the lines of self-doubt, fear, shame, whatever. For example, “I’m not good enough.”

He nodded a little. “Oh — I thought it meant talking negatively about others.”

Still unclear as to what the joke would’ve been…

(Side note: it’s always interesting to me when someone’s first association with “negative talk” is others-focused — gossip or bad-mouthing others — vs. self-focused.)

Anyway. I give an obligatory laugh and “Oh, that too!” which I immediately regret for its fakeness but then realize it’s just what I’m doing to help myself feel safe again, so I cut myself a break.

He goes to get out of the elevator, chuckling. “Good luck with your business!”

The door closes. Scene ends. And my face probably looked something like:

So, this is important:

His exit laugh was most likely reflexive — a laugh out of embarrassment, or trying to lighten the situation.

But it could’ve very well been because he thought it was a stupid concept, or a stupid name for a business, or that he didn’t take me seriously.

 

But I’m not sharing this story because his words affected me.
I’m sharing them because they DIDN’T.

 

Story after story exists of people who didn’t take The Greats seriously. Teachers who thought Einstein wouldn’t get anywhere. Producers who doubted Oprah could “make it” on TV. From athletics to academics, there’s a story of “Look who’s laughing now!” from superstars in every field.

A lot of times, the takeaway is: You need to not care. Don’t give a fuck what anyone has to say.

And I think this is actually really dangerous.

~

I, personally, don’t subscribe to a “No Fucks Given” attitude — even as a highly sensitive person and recovering people-pleaser. You’d think that it would’ve been my way out, right? My go-to catchphrase to shield me from Other People’s Opinions and make me Other People-Proof — right?

But the thing is, that never felt right to me.

 

Because not giving any fucks isn’t about setting a boundary.
It’s about building up walls.

 

Life isn’t meant to be lived on the defensive. I’m not a sports person, but I can’t think of ANY sport that’s solely about playing defense (and yes, I know I’m now mixing my metaphors). If you’re constantly shielding yourself from whatever comes your way, how can you score a goal? If you’re constantly playing defense, what happens to the people on your team who want to help you out?

As someone who doesn’t only care what other people think, but cares EXTREMELY deeply, building up walls and playing constant defense feels like a fight against my truest nature: the part of me that desires connection, collaboration, and community. I don’t want to build up such tall walls that I block out important perspectives.

And so I reject not-caring.

Instead, I get clear on what matters to me, who matters to me, and why the ones that matter to me, matter to me.

I know I will not be for everyone, and I know that everyone will not always agree with me. They might think I’m too enthusiastic, or complex, or “a joke,” like the guy in the elevator. But those are probably not the people who matter most to me, anyway.

So if you’re like me, listen up. This recovering people-pleaser, highly-sensitive introvert emotional sponge is here to tell you:

I give a fuck.
I most certainly give a fuck.
I just give selective fucks.

 

Because living life on the defensive is no way to live. Like Glennon Doyle says, “No woman on earth doesn’t give a fuck—no woman is that cool—she’s just hidden her fire. Likely, it’s burning her up.”

 

 

Transitions, Tests, and Upgrades: How To Move Forward Fearlessly When It’s Tempting *NOT* To.

Transitions, Tests, and Upgrades: How To Move Forward Fearlessly When It’s Tempting *NOT* To.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Work

Welp, the NYC streets are packed again, the smells are back with a vengeance, and there are lines around the block for the new Harry Potter Store on 5th Avenue.

Yep. NYC is back in action. And all the signs are pointing to one thing:

IT’S TIME. The transitional moment is HERE.

Pivot or back-pedal.
Reimagine or regress.
Evolve or escape.

If you’re feeling particularly…um…tested lately (by people, by work, by life being life), welcome to the club.

*Because you, along with pretty much everyone else, are in the middle of a transition.*

*And transitions bring tests.*

Tests, in this context, are conversations, instances, or occurrences that give us opportunities to cement our choices in stone.

If you’ve ever put in your two weeks’ notice at a lackluster job and then all the sudden had a pretty great two weeks at work – congrats, you’ve experienced a “test.” 

How much DO you want it, really?
How committed ARE you, really?

Important side note here. Not *everything* is a “test.”

(Side note to the side note, I feel like I want to add this “not everything, because nuance and individuality” caveat to every other thing I write/say, because the internet seems to like to take one thing and make it true for eVeRyOnE. But hopefully, I don’t have to Side-Note my way around conversations with you, and you know this side note to be true.)

BUT, if you have something you’ve said you’re working toward… something you want badly… something you’ve committed to… or just something you know you don’t want in your life anymore, I’ll bet you’ve experienced something that’s made you wonder if you should just stay put and NOT make the thing — whatever it is — happen.

For me, tests have looked like:

  • Multiple work or social invites on the same day: I’ve said I don’t want to go back to overscheduling and overextending myself, so my test is that I’m gonna get multiple chances to overschedule and overextend myself. Do you care more about your mental health or fitting everyone else in? (mental health.)
  • More “meh” workouts than “yeah!!” ones: I’ve said I don’t want to define my badassery by my workouts, so my test is that those workouts that in the past have made me feel super badass are NOT happening. Do you care more about how you feel or about what you do? (how I feel.)
  • More delightful and/or urgent social media content, less “followers”: Ok, this is one I think I’ve written and rewritten about 8xs. I’ve said I want to only create content that lights us BOTH up — meaning, only creating content that either delights me/you AND OR content that lights a vital fire under me/you. After the massive year that was 2020, I got really discouraged by seeing so many people go back to old harmful habits, old negative self-talk loops, or just old un-joyful patterns that they SWORE they’d never visit again. Like, REALLY discouraged.And so I vowed to myself I would only post what brings joy or moves us forward (or both). This has been a non-negotiable for me, and my test has been that my “follower” count has gone down instead of up (and as someone working on a book, I’m also hyper aware of the relationship between publishers and platform numbers). So the question has been: Do you care more about the impact you make, or the numbers you see? (impact I make. every damn time.)

 

There have been more. I’ve been tested quite a lot 😂

Because I’m becoming a NEW version of myself.

Just How It Is and Just How I Am are no longer the same as they once were, and I don’t want them to be.

When it comes to moving forward when it’s easy NOT to, I’m actually HIGHLY motivated by regret.

Not in a fear-based way. But rather, a fired-up way.

Whenever I face a test, I stop to get perspective:

If today was the last day of your life, would you regret how you did things?

Is this a decision I’ll look back on one day as a “fork-in-the-road” moment…and regret not ever experiencing the fork-prong-not-traveled?

Or will I look back and be glad that, at the very least, I TRIED to go down the path I chose?

I bet you’ve been tested at least once this year, too.

AND THIS IS THE THING:

Your life will be a constant reevaluation.

It’s gonna change. You will change. It’s inevitable. Remember to constantly reevaluate.

Reevaluate what and who inspires you. Reevaluate your passions, your missions, the person you are out in the world. Reevaluate what truly matters most. It’s a tragedy to live life as an outdated version of yourself, hitting TEST after TEST after TEST and choosing not to move forward, all the while convincing yourself it’s “Just How It Is” and “Just How You Are.”

But Just How You Are can change whenever you want it to.

This is YOUR life. You get to decide where you go and what you do. Any choice can be the “right” choice, really, as long is it’s a choice you can wholeheartedly stand behind when you ask yourself:

If today was the last day of my life, would I regret how I did things?

You do not owe anyone a past version of yourself because that version is familiar.

Allow yourself the upgrade.

Reminder: Create A Normal That’s Actually New.

Reminder: Create A Normal That’s Actually New.

Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration

“Monday morning, indoor group fitness opens back up in NYC!”

I saw the news headlines plastered all over my friends’ social media timelines, celebratory emojis abound. Not soon thereafter, the emails started rolling in.

As a group fitness instructor for the last almost-14 years, I’ve become intimate and familiar with the so-called “hustle.” The early morning, the late nights, the laughable pay (I once taught at a studio where one person showed up, and I got paid per head, so I made a whole $3 for that class), the long commutes. Teaching through sickness, through injury, through life crisis because you can’t find a sub. 

Not to say that’s all it’s been. Far from it. There are many reason why I’ve prioritized it over the years, and why I’ve stuck with it even when I wasn’t making enough to cover a gallon of gas: the community, the people, the way you’re able to make massive shift happen within a span of 45 minutes that lasts long after your heart rate has settled down.

Pre-2021, I probably would have been thrilled by all the emails rolling in talking about reopening. But this time, this year, in 2021, that was not the case. Anxiety hit. Hard.

I knew. And when I finally did get on that bike for my very first class back, my suspicions were confirmed.

I am not the same person as when I last got up on that bike.

~

This isn’t a post about group fitness at all, and it’s not about the safety logistics of “opening up.” This is about going Back To Normal. 

My experience teaching spin classes over the last two weeks since reopening has been great. Supportive managers, grateful class members, intimate classes of no more than 6. 

And. I am not the same. I can already tell that I lead differently. I facilitate a different experience. I imagine that when I go back to IRL speaking engagements, I’ll have a similar reaction. How ironic that it took the absence of pressure from weekly “stage time” — whether on a conference stage giving a keynote or a spin podium coaching through a breathless push — to feel as if I’ve finally found my voice all over again.

My experience has been one of a multitude of examples thus far in which I feel as if I’m going back in time and seeing my life through a sliding-doors lens, being given an opportunity to take one path instead of the other.

Maybe you feel it, too. Going places you haven’t been for a year and realizing you’ve changed but they haven’t. Being asked questions you would have answered with an emphatic YES or hard NO before, now bringing you hesitation and pause.

A transition has been brewing over the last year+ and can now FEEL everything starting to bubble to the surface. It’s incredible and terrifying at the same time. Because now, right now, in this moment, we get to choose our true New Normal.

Restrictions are lifting in more areas, vaccines are being rolled out in more places, and for some, life is beginning to look more “normal” than it has in 12 months.

My fear is that people will be so eager to “get back” to how things “once were” that they’ll forget all those moments over the last year that made them realize that “how-things-once-were” was, in a multitude of ways, NOT working.

I do not want to buy into the so-called “hustle.” I want to define my own success.
I do not want to say YES when I mean NO. I want to say YES when it means YES and NO when it means NO.
I do not want to distract myself into perpetuity anymore. I want to always be paying close attention.
I do not want trust without truth. I want truth, then trust.
I do not want an existence made of checked boxes. I want a life lived outside the lines that we’re told give it shape.
I want rest.
I want contemplation.
I want deeper conversations and holding someone to their word.
I want racial and gender equity.

I want evolution.
I want forward motion.

This past year has presented us with so many lessons to learn and unlearn. So many systems to dismantle and truths to face about our world, and about ourselves.

And here’s the kicker: they’re not new.

These aren’t new lessons and systems and truths. The difference is that this time, weren’t “too busy” or “too distracted.” We were sitting down and paying attention.

And I worry about our collective attention span dwindling and going back to the way things were.

Don’t let it happen.

Journal about it all (What’s Your Story? by Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond is a great place to start. I truly will never ever stop recommending this book). Keep talking about what you’re learning. Keep evaluating and re-evaluating the systems and structures in your life.

Keep reading. Keep getting involved. Keep setting boundaries. Keep speaking up.

Identify the kind of life you want to live and the kind of person you want to be and make it happen.

Do not forget.
Do not stop doing the work.

Don’t go back to normal.
Create an entirely new one.
One that serves us all.

How To Be Fearless. (plus…we’re on CNN!)

How To Be Fearless. (plus…we’re on CNN!)

Body Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Tips + Tools

FEARLESS = FEAR < FAITH (or, “Fearless” is when the fear is less than the faith) was an equation I stood behind long, long before this past year.

But March 2020-March 2021 made me realize how vital it truly is to maintaining a sense of self-assuredness WITHOUT abandoning your very real responses to very real crises.

That’s why when CNN asked me “What’s a lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic that could help women in the year ahead?” my answer was a no-brainer.

True fearlessness is when the fear you have of a situation is less than the faith you have in YOURSELF.

I’d never advise anyone to write over their fear. That’s not how to be fearless. Whenever I hear people say things like “I choose not to live in fear,” I take a deep breath. Not only is that phrase one of my biggest spiritual bypassing/self-gaslighting pet peeves, it makes me so sad to think that somewhere down the line, whoever is saying that phrase has been made to believe that fear is not only a choice, but a “wrong” choice that must be locked away.

Lowering your fear is super hard for a reason. Fear is like an inner security guard: it just wants to keep you safe.

But upping your faith in yourself? That’s a different story.

Fear and faith can/should coexist. It’s what can help do everything from take the next smallest proactive step forward, to not giving up on yourself, to just getting out of bed in the morning.

I have faith that…

…I can brush my teeth.
…I can cook myself a meal.
…I can write something that means something.
…I can think and feel deeply.
…I can gift myself a good night’s sleep.

These are the types of things that have gotten me through my darkest days over the last year. Seriously.

Every tiny thing you have faith in – notice it. It counts. List out the reasons you already have to have faith in who you are. And slowly, the fear-to-faith scales start to tip from the fear over to the faith. That’s what can actually make a difference in the long run, and make you believe there’s more out there for you than just fear alone.

WATCH IT HERE.

BIG BIG gratitude to CNN for including me in this campaign alongside some of my role models, like Padma Lahkshmi, Malala Yousafzai, Lori Gottlieb, and more. 

Also grateful for what’s an important thought-starter for us all:

What are some lessons you’ve learned over the last year that could help others – or future YOU – navigate the year ahead?

 

On Beating Overwhelm – Or, A Formal Apology To The Time Known As “Dawn”

On Beating Overwhelm – Or, A Formal Apology To The Time Known As “Dawn”

Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration

It all just feels so much more complicated now than it has in the past, doesn’t it?

Or maybe it’s always felt this complicated, we’ve just been too distracted to notice…

The dictionary definition overwhelm – “to overpower in thought or feeling” – doesn’t hold a candle to Overwhelm In The Roaring (20)20s. I’ve written about what to do when it all feels like too much, I’ve written about being overwhelmed by the good things, I’ve written about Ghost Worries. But the nuances of overwhelm in what I’ve been calling the “For-Now Normal” are really something else.

This is an illuminating time we’re in. We’re learning new things and mourning new losses and reaching new milestones and sometimes all three at the same time, and we have very few places to go to recalibrate our system.

Maybe you’re one of the people privileged enough to own a spin bike so you can ride to nowhere, or maybe you have a large backyard or a multi-story house, or maybe you’re in a studio apartment. Maybe you live with other humans (and/or pets) to talk to in person, mask-free. Maybe you’ve moved in with family, or family’s moved in with you, or are Air BNB-ing it long-term for the time being.

But no matter what your situation, you’re being forced to make do with whatever’s in your immediate surroundings, repurposing them to create escapes and releases and comfort and coping mechanisms when all they’d usually be are the norm.

~

To be overwhelmed, I’ve learned, isn’t necessarily a numbers game. It’s not to feel as if there are too many things going on or too many boxes to check off your to-do list. My to-do lists have varied over the last year from page-turners to one simple box to check next to the words “make lunch.” If overwhelm was merely about the numbers, I promise you, I’d be spending way less of my days overwhelmed than I currently am.

No; overwhelm right now is maybe what overwhelm has actually been all along: when your thoughts and feelings not only *feel* overpowering, but they morph and shape-shift so often that you lose sight of where you end and your surroundings begin.

Overwhelm is the place you go when you feel like the world is playing a game of tug-of-war and your arms are the rope. Pull, pull, pull, back, forth, back, forth. It’s not the tug-of-war itself that’s the issue; it’s the way your head and heart are trying to compute what the hell is going on. Internal alarms and ticker-tape thoughts and flickering lights and total blackouts from an over-processed processing machine.

~

I’m up at 5am this morning writing this, every so often glancing over my right shoulder and out my window to see the silver-blue light of morning rising. I look down at the streets, snowy and snow-plowed; someone walks by maybe every five minutes, maybe. Because, pandemic and 5am and bone-ass cold.

I’m up at 5 because I was up at 4:30, because every single human I admire claims to wake up early for whatever reason they deem important. Writing, meditating, moving. But whatever they do, they all claim this is the time they feel they KNOW. The time the doubt and fears fade and they just do what they do.

In many cultures, 4-5am is the time “at which the boundaries that separate the physical realm from the spiritual realm are at their weakest” (quote from this article). “Witching Hour” is usually considered in the 3am or 4am hour, a time that folklore once associated with supernatural happenings. Many articles I read about this time have to do with some sort of spiritual awakening – literally, your spirit waking up – and talk about how many artists, writer, and poets abide by an early waking time.

I always thought it was because it’s the time they’re able to do what they do without being interrupted by the world – work, kids, tasks, partners, friends, colleagues, pets, traffic, the list goes on.

But maybe it’s because it’s the time they’re able to do what they do without being interrupted by themselves.

~

After listening to a few podcasts a few weeks back interviewing my favorite writers – all who said they were early-morning-people – I announced to my husband, Jeremy, that I was going to wake up at 4:30am the following morning.

He asked me why.

“Because I want to. That’s when the writers wake up, and I want to write when the writers write.” It had never occured to me that I could just make a choice like that and go with it.

It’s been a few weeks now. The first week, I stuck to every morning – now, it’s morphed into about 3 times a week, which is a rhythm I can get behind. The main thing I notice that at this time, at this moment, is that my brain just can’t. It won’t access the overwhelm that plagues most of my days – maybe because it’s tired, or maybe because it hasn’t “warmed up” yet. It’s New York City, for freakin’ crying out loud, a city not only built on overwhelm but thriving on the bet it will make you feel all the things at all the times. It’s 5am but I’m still in the middle of the human-made chaos. Still looking over the same avenue.

And yet…and YET. In this moment, all I feel is the silver-blue light and the soft inhale of the morning and I just KNOW.

To the time known as “dawn,” I apologize for judging and ignoring you. I’ve been so resistant to waking up at 4:30 or 5am unless absolutely necessary, like to catch a plane or teach an early class or finish a project by its deadline. Never did I think “because I want to” was “absolutely necessary.”

I wonder how many other things I don’t do because of what I’ve deemed them, or not – or deemed myself, or not.

I wonder how much knowing I’m missing out on because thinking gets to me first.

~

So the lesson here is: sometimes you don’t need to “muster up the courage” or “stop overthinking things.” Sometimes you just need to wake up so early that your brain doesn’t yet have the capacity for self-doubt.

And I wonder if that’s been the trick to overwhelm – good, bad, in-between – this whole time. Whether you wake up early or not.

Find a moment.

Just a pocket.

Sit in silence.

Stare out the window.

Make time to be.

Overwhelm yourself with knowing, before life overwhelms you with thinking, and beat it at its own game.

 

overwhelm waking up early

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