My problem with ease

I love my word of the year, ease.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  I make it my intention in yoga classes, I think about it before I go to bed at night.  And every time the word crosses my mind, I have an uncomfortable realization that I have a problem with the word.  Don’t get me wrong: it’s still my word, and it’s still my goal, and it’s still fundamentally what I want in life.  But it also brings up some complicated associations for me.

Perhaps because of my Puritan roots – which are both deep and irrefutable – I have long believed in my marrow that only things that are hard are meaningful.  Or maybe not only, but certainly that something being difficult makes it more likely to be valuable.  A tough climb makes the view more beautiful and all of that.

The other truth which is hard for me to admit is that I’ve always thought that a lot of people weren’t really trying hard enough.  The flip side of that is my deep faith that all problems could be overcome by just putting our mind to things and working hard.  This is part of why the deep postpartum depression I experienced after Grace’s birth was so disorienting for me: it was literally the first time in my life when gritting my teeth and just trying harder didn’t make something better.

That was a big, and hard, lesson for me to learn.  I’m still grappling with my basic belief that if things are easy they aren’t worth anything.  And with the notion that if I feel ease – if things flow – that means that I’m letting myself off the hook somehow.

I suspect part of why this word chose me this year is the creeping sense I have that the correlation between effort and meaning – a central tenet of my life up until now, as uncomfortable as admitting that makes me – doesn’t capture the whole picture.  I know that my goal isn’t a struggle- and difficulty-free life; in fact, maybe that’s part of my hesitation with this line of thinking.  I will never stop celebrating hard work, and I don’t want to.  But I do think that the automatic assignment of value to something hard – and, maybe more importantly, the refusal to grant importance to something that comes easily – is flawed.

Some of the time, things will flow.  Some of the time, I’ll have to put my nose to the grindstone and really work at something.  Both scenarios can be full of meaning, and value.  I just want to welcome both of those scenarios.  To invite both into my life.  With ease.

16 thoughts on “My problem with ease”

  1. It is interesting how the way we are wired affects so many details in our life. I recently realized that I am very judgmental person, both with myself and, I’m kind of ashamed to admit, with others. I compare everything and everyone, and based on the outcome of this comparison assign value. It is hard for me to value something outside of any context, just for its simple existence. And yet I know that this approach is flawed. I’m trying to extend myself beyond that automatic reflex, hoping it will get me to lighten up and to appreciate myself and experiences for what they are. While this is slightly different from your effort/ease experience, it feels kind of similar at the core.
    Wishing ease to you, both as a result of the conscious effort to allow it into your life, and also unbidden, unasked for, just like that.

  2. I love this post – partly because I believe that the words/concepts we choose (or that choose us) aren’t always easy. I’m struggling with mine, too, in some ways.

    I also have deep Puritan roots and it can be hard to let myself off the hook for anything. These words are so honest and wise. Thanks, Lindsey.

  3. I totally relate with that struggle. I chose “Lighten up” this year because for a long time I thought fun things were worthless because, you know, serious equals meaningful equals worthy. I believe these assumptions are wired into you during childhood and are very difficult to change. Please let us know what step you’re taking to change that, because I too am looking for ways. Being aware of it, it the first step, indeed. What’s next?

  4. Wow. I just read your piece on PPD for the first time, and it resonated with me deeply; so much of your experience as you described it was so very similar to my own experience with early motherhood. I suppose all I can express is a huge amount of GRATITUDE to you for sharing your experience so openly. There are many, many of us out there who had difficult and/or unexpected starts to motherhood. Your brave words are a reminder that we are not alone. Thank you!

  5. Thank you Lindsey. This piece really resonated with me. I recently realized that I’ve spent much of my life working on overcoming my weaknesses instead of relishing my strengths. I took my strengths for granted, because they were easy for me and I assumed they were easy for everyone. Recognizing this dogged focus on being “better” was a turning point–because suddenly I realized, particularly professionally, that I had gotten really good at things I didn’t like. I’m now turning toward the ease, toward my strengths and it’s giving me an energy and flow previously foreign to me. I applaud you in you journey–pursuing ease is not what we are taught to do. I hope you continue to find moments of gratitude in those easy moments.

  6. Such a thoughtful post. I was so intrigued by your word choice as I say this word every night as part of a variation of a Sharon Salzberg lovingkindness meditation that I use to fall asleep: ” “May you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be happy, may you feel loved and cared for, may you live with ease…”

  7. Oh Lindsey, I cannot tell you how much I struggle with this, both from the way I was raised but also my own values. Sure, I’ve noticed those people in life, the ones to whom nothing seems to stick, the ones who don’t worry and seem quite happy. For them, life is not a grind. That is not me. I have moments of that, lots of them, but I have to work very hard at simply enjoying my life, sinking into those moments and trusting the ease without some kind of guilt or angst. Usually, the voice that prevents graceful ease says something like, “you’re not being productive, not growing, not learning, what? you’re just going to, like, *enjoy* the day, well, that’s a waste.” LOL. On paper, that voice is really quite a bitch. 🙂 Thanks for posting, xoxo

  8. So grateful for your wise and honest words Lindsey, and to all you lovely women who responded. As someone who almost never regards myself as a “hard enough” worker, I’m only starting to see the futility of trying to measure “hard enough.” Especially with a tough inner critic, continually comparing my insides with everyone else’s (shiny, hardworking, successful) outsides, nothing is EVER enough.

    I think it’s non-judgment that can make effort seem “effortless,” (or full of ease) because you are able to tell yourself you have done enough, you are enough.

  9. Dang Puritans. Even when we know they’re messing us up, they can still mess us up.

    I think we must subconsciously choose words that contain things we need to grapple with. Or maybe it’s just those of us who feel there’s value in struggle? Wishing you well as you continue on your journey to/with ease.

  10. Oh, does this ring true for me. I’ve been trying to unlearn the whole “if it isn’t hard, you’re not doing it good enough”… A new thought I am turning over in my hands is my definition of a “productive” day. As in, what if I measured how “productive” a day is by how good/happy I felt through it, not by how much shit I got done. It’s helped me shift my perspective/lower the bar. Of course, my word “trust” helped with this so much as well – the idea of just giving into what is currently happening in the moment, of trusting that there is a plan bigger than my tiny human view can comprehend. And I know that “joy” will coupled up with “ease” this year – I so look forward to your writing about this…choosing a word that challenges our way of being. For me, joy rubs up against my whole “if I don’t take things seriously, then something will go horribly wrong.” Similar to that “ease” vibe, right? Where do we learn these tight-lipped, painful, and joyless ways of being? Can’t we be productive and joyous? Can’t we be successful without knuckling-down? xo

  11. I have been thinking about this since you posted it. Ease is always so elusive to me. As is effortlessness. Maybe ease is just getting comfortable with discomfort? I don’t know … but looking forward to hearing what you discover!

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