Life keeps going faster, doesn't it?
We're expected to think, act, and move through our lives with ever-increasing efficiency. We book flights in minutes. We read and digest difficult news in mere seconds. We grieve for people suffering on the other side of the world then remember we need paper towels. We jump from connection to personal survival in a moment.
What is this doing to us? This nonstop speed. The world whirling around us demanding that we go faster, faster, faster...
I believe we're losing touch. I know I am.
When the pandemic started, I moved into a survival mode I hadn't known in a long time:
Functioning while Over-Functioning
Growing up, there was more activity in my home than I could manage. It wasn't just the busy-ness of a family of six. And we were busy. We were coming and going all the time, but the busy-ness of my family of origin wasn't just logistical. It wasn't just sports practices, rehearsals, meetings, homework, performances, and family obligations...
It was mental, emotional.
I was constantly navigating the layers of emotional complexity in my home. Mood swings, tempers, anger, alliances, attention seeking behaviors, and guilt trips. The mind games were the Mental Olympics. I had to jump through hoops of conditional love, crawl under sensitive ego traps, dodge accusations, and shield against lies.
I lived in a constant state of functioning while over-functioning.
I functioned. I woke up, went to school, socialized, learned, participated in after school activities, learned whatever I could hold in one day, ate dinner, and fell asleep. That's what the world saw. A rather normal, intellectually curious young girl who was functioning at average and sometimes even above average levels.
I over-functioned. The constant reading of egos, assessing the risk of speaking up, shutting down in hurt, making amends through people-pleasing, complying to avoid punishment, sacrificing myself to avoid guilt trips, discerning truth through lies, feeling crushed, rallying myself to get through another day, telling myself that better things were just ahead, suppressing emotion and being punished when it came out the wrong way.
I had to do both at the same time: function and over-function. I got really good at it.
When the first lockdowns came, I felt an immense rush of fear enter my body and bury itself. I think we all did. We didn't know how serious it was, how long it would last, how many would die. I entered that familiar state again, one I thought I'd left far behind me: functioning while over-functioning. Go to work, listen, counsel, read, learn, apply, try and stay active with everything shut down, all the while feeling fear, worrying about the future, trying to make sense of conflicting news reports, balancing opposing views among friends and family members, and feeling totally overwhelmed.
Both layers again. The inner turmoil; the outer role.
Lately I've been asking myself: how do I unify myself again?
Because I don't like this feeling.
I miss the simplicity of a unified self.
I miss the sense of alignment I felt before the world, once again, forced me to operate on too many levels at the same time. I liked the focus I had before I had to hold my fear in my hands every day while doing simple tasks.
How do I unify myself? The only way I know to do this is to stop.
See, the quicker the world moves, and the more quickly we move in it, the more we become convinced that we have to live life that way. We acclimate and adapt. We normalize over-functioning.
Now over-functioning is just functioning.
We come to believe, "This is the way it is."
But it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to live like this - functioning while over-functioning. We can go back to a different way of living, but we have to get ready for the anxiety that will inevitably pass through us while we slow down and attempt to remind ourselves, and possibly even convince ourselves, that life lived at such a divided, frantic pace is not a life at all. We have to remember that we're not gaining time by rushing through life; we're just filling it with more stuff. More busy-ness. We need to give our bodies a chance to feel life at a slower pace again. We need to be undivided.
All I know to do is stop. STOP. Stop everything I possibly can. Take all the busy-ness off my plate and out of my life. Give myself a chance to let my feelings reconnect with my mind. When I'm over-functioning, they're buried deep and my brain is full speed ahead. But if I stop, I can feel, think, and act together.
I stop and breathe. And keep breathing (and do nothing else) until I remember that I'm a human being, and this is a beautiful world. And it's meant to be savored.
I need to let my body remember what it feels like to be human again. And live at the pace of my breath.