Where is the line between being gentle with myself and not trying hard enough? I have never been able to reliably locate that border. At all. When I wrote about a difficult yoga practice one, and the realization that what I want in this life might be summed up in one word – ease – someone commented that maybe a gritted-teeth practice might not lead me where I want to go.
And of course, of course, that’s true. But on the other hand, doesn’t the road to transcendence wind through a jungle of sometimes-scary hard work? That’s what I always thought. I’m prone to give up before something gets truly hard – this is especially germane in the physical realm. People have always told me I’m disciplined, and I’m complimented when I hear that, but inside my head a little voice says: oh if only you knew. All I can hear is a loud la-la-la and litany of all the times I haven’t done as much or gone as far as I think I should have.
Is this just another version of imposter syndrome?
The truth is I don’t know. When I was a child I used to be fascinated by the idea of relative pain. For example, when I have a crushing headache, would that be something another person would brush off, or something that would send them to the ER? I did not know, and I still don’t. Of course what I do know now is it doesn’t matter, because all we have is our own experience to calibrate (and, for the record, I now relate everything to the pain of my 38 hour unmedicated labor with a posterior baby, which functions as a pretty unshakeable 10 on the 0-10 pain scale).
The question of being kind vs. giving up is like this, I think. It’s so personal, so subjective, the only relevant data we have is our own. It feels like letting myself off the hook to not want to hold bridge for the extra 5 seconds, and I’m often disappointed in myself when I come down. Or when I go to sleep rather than writing another page. How do I figure out if this is the precise gentleness I need in a moment or if I should have pushed myself further? I genuinely don’t know the answer.
How do I ascertain when I need to go and when I need to stop? When to push and when to ease up? What it is to be softer with myself?