I’ve been sticking to my exercise routine and paleo diet and slowly creeping toward my fitness goals. The operative word being s-l-o-w. A steady SAD diet and high stress occupation over the last 30+ years has taken its toll and won’t be undone in a few months. I’m still fighting high cortisol levels from stress and poor sleep. I get it. I need to take it to the next level. I put together a list of things I need to do in order to keep myself on track.
1. Get off the hamster wheel. It can be exhilarating to flat-out sprint but I’m not really going anywhere and no longer enjoying it so I should STOP. But what about keeping the lights on? The wheel is attached to a generator and the generator powers all that “stuff” (including the lights) I think I need. It’s time to readjust my thinking.
2. Move towards right livelihood. It won’t happen right away but I can inch toward it. I need to be more marketable, technical, and temporally – geographically flexible so I can go for my Phd full-time. Yes, full-time. I compromised and worked full-time during graduate and law school. I couldn’t give 100% to my studies. I had to worry about being marketable immediately upon graduation. I don’t want to do that again. That is a tall order for a 50-year-old but I have some pluses in my corner: (1) no legal human dependents; (2) a good education/career foundation; and (3) awesome mentors.
3. Molt. To reach my goal, the physical transition has to be accompanied by a spiritual one. I have a big psychological hurdle to overcome. As a child I idolized my paternal grandfather. Let’s call him “Benevolent Provider” or BP for short. BP had to leave school after the 6th grade to support his mother and 5 siblings. His father was not a reliable fellow but BP loved him and took on the responsibility. BP worked in the coal mines, saved what he could, and eventually managed to buy a farm as a very young man – not a small accomplishment on a miner’s pay. He ran the farm and mined until he retired. He took care of his mother until she passed away. He loaned money to those in need – family and friends alike – often didn’t get repaid. He plowed gardens for most of his neighbors – those who didn’t have money didn’t pay.
BP was my hero. He cared for plenty of people and he never complained. I too provide. Unlike BP I am growing weary of the role and I think I know why. BP was more balanced. BP took the time (and the money) to do things he enjoyed. In his teens he bought a Harley Davidson. He and my grandmother rode it all the way from West Virginia to Cape May New Jersey for their honeymoon. He was also a life-long hunter and champion archer. He traveled all over the state for weekend matches.
I focused on BP’s sacrifice but ignored the importance of self-care. As a result, I’ve put myself in an untenable position. Could some of this be due to my being socialized as a female? I’ll never know. But I do know things have to change. I need to shed the idealized fiction of selfless provider and incorporate self-care. I worry about those that depend on me – it will be hard to get them used to standing on their own two feet. It will be painful. It may mean the end of some relationships.
Simplifying – materially and spiritually – are my near term goals. As my dearest friend and mentor recently reminded me, the Buddha often said life is both real and illusory – both full and empty at the same time. I think I’m beginning to understand.