The Definition of Productivity

This is Max. He is an 11-year-old Yorkshire terrier. And sometimes he's wiser than I am. Max has a very sensitive stomach. Every couple of weeks or so, he wakes up not feeling so hot. Instead of going about his day, he chooses to sleep in, stays closer to me, asks for a little more cuddles and skips breakfast for the morning. Usually, by about 2 or 3 PM his stomach feels better and he's his normal energetic and happy self. He's always smart enough to give his body and himself time to rest so that he feels better.

Often times, I'm not quite as wise. If I get up not feeling well, I look at my to-do list and schedule for the day, then slowly push forward trying to figure out how to fit little moments of self-care in between classes, meetings and phone calls. Rarely do I take a sick day or ever cancel anything. Even if it's the weekend and I don't have any plans I still feel like I have to be productive.

But yesterday I took a page from the Book of Max. Knowing my own body rhythms, the fact that I've been burning the candle at both ends and that my back injury was acting up, I knew I was only setting myself up for further suffering.

So I took a self-care day. A day to only do exactly what I wanted for only the length of time that I wanted to do it. The moment I wasn't enjoying it anymore or it didn't feel right I stopped. This didn't mean that I indulged in chocolate chip cookies and wine (although sometimes that's necessary too). But I did stay in my pajamas all day, do some gentle exercises for my back, take a nap, meditate and feed myself food that nurtured both my belly and my soul.

As night fell, I realized that in between all that I still managed to get a few things done, but I wasn't feeling overwhelmed or tired or drained. Most importantly I was happy. And happiness is productive.

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Fear of Falling

A few weeks ago I wiped out on the sidewalk. There was no ice. It wasn’t even snowing or raining. I hit an uneven spot of pavement, got stuck, went flying and skidded when I landed. Even before this I’d been having a particularly rough weekend. I was feeling a little down and having a pity party for myself.

At the moment I started to trip, I realized I was going to fall and that I had two choices: I could either fight it and try to stay upright or I could just go down. In that moment I made the decision to go down.

At first I thought I was giving up and judged myself for being weak and feeling sorry for myself. But later I realized that I was tired of fighting and decided it would be better to flow with it and accept what was coming.

I knew I would be ok and I just wanted to get it over with so that I could get back up and brush myself off and keep going (after all, I had a party to get to!). And that’s exactly what I did. I thought, “Well that sucked,” but I got back up and took a few more steps towards the train. I was impressed by the human strength and power to continually get back up, keep hoping and trying one more time when life knocks us around.

But as our minds tend to do, I quickly followed that loving thought with a negative one. I began to feel the physical pain. I looked at my hands. Both of my palms were scraped and bleeding. There was a hole in my pants and my knee was bleeding and throbbing. I immediately began berating myself for not fighting harder to stay upright.

Like all emergencies, it caused me to have to focus on what was really important in that moment: taking care of myself.

I went to a nearby restaurant and asked for help. Throughout the course of the night I was repeatedly humbled by the kindness of family, friends and even strangers as I slightly hobbled along and tried to figure out how to function without the full use of my hands. It was as though the fall not only physically jolted me, but mentally jolted me into a better place.

I stopped having my own pity party and suddenly felt extremely blessed and loved. I realized that despite ending up more hurt than I had anticipated, falling hadn’t really been that bad. In the end, it had actually been a GOOD thing.

I thought about just giving up and calling it a night and I decided that I wasn’t going to let New York City win I made it to my party with some dinner for myself and a bottle of wine for the hostess. Allison: 1 NYC: 0.

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Lessons from Nature: Learning to Trust Your Inner Strength

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A tree doesn't weep every fall,

when its leaves whither and drop away. 

Leaving it barren. 

Instead it stands tall in its strength. 

Allowing its branches to weather the storm. 

Relying on its roots to carry it through. 

Knowing that soon again,

it will blossom and flourish.

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