I’ve been feeling off-kilter lately. And whoa… I’ve never typed the word kilter. I had to google it to make sure the very obvious phonetic spelling was in fact very obvious. Way easier than typing the word restaurant though. Which takes me 2 attempts every time and then a sad sigh of defeat when I yet again have to google it. That word should be changed to resteront.
Ok… I think I’m done with that tangent.
So what do I mean when I say feeling off-kilter? For me, that means stretching myself too thin. Saying yes to everyone else except myself. Letting my daily routines slip. A general sense of not being in the flow with my own life… not feeling like my true self.
During these times of feeling off, it’s easy to look around and get the sense that other people lack the same frequency of off-kilteredness in their life. As though they have a sturdier foundation than you. A home base they are able to occupy naturally versus having to actively return back to after constantly getting lost at sea. I think this home based, this centered state, is something most of us develop naturally as we get older, but I also think there are some of us (dare I say more of us?) that have to work at it.
So where does this foundation, this home base other people have -- that we too have, yet struggle to stay connected to -- come from?
My theory is that it comes from knowing:
1) who we are
2) how to structure our lives around who we are
When we’re missing either part of that equation, that’s when we have to expend more energy discovering and returning back to our centered state. Our home base.
Return being the keyword here. Returning back to, over and over again. That means we already have this foundation within us, a very helpful thing to know. It means we don’t need to become some new, ideal person, but rather, just give ourselves permission to be whoever we naturally are. So all we’re tasked to do is discover what already exists within us -- discover who we already are.
The question then becomes, how do we figure out who we are? What our home base looks like? Well, lots of ways. Way too many ways that could be discussed in a single blog post. Even a blog post written by someone who has no qualms about rambling on to an almost obnoxious degree.
So I’m going to propose a writing assignment to help you sort out who you are so you know what you need to stay centered and what things you should return back to. It’s called “Always, Occasionally, and Just, No.”
After describing the assignment, I’ll give you a few personal examples in case you feel confused on how to start.
Always True: List the things that when you engage in them, they are always beneficial for you. Doesn’t mean they are always fun or easy to make yourself do, but that you truly know they align with the things that matter to you -- the things that fuel you -- the things that keep you feeling balanced.
Occasionally True: List the things that fulfill you and are certainly part of your identity, but that can’t show up all the time because they might be too taxing. The always true list has a restorative quality. This list has an indulgent quality, a healthy indulgence that positively impacts you but is best sprinkled in on an occasional basis.
Just, No: List the things that you know don’t fit with who you are. The things that always make you feel unstable, unfulfilled, or drained. Don’t be alarmed if you find some of the things on this list to be really easy to engage in and thus indulge frequently. The point is to recognize which items provide nothing beneficial for you, without judging how good of a job you’re doing right now abstaining from them.
A really important thing to remember about this list you make is that it’s about only what’s true for you. Let go of any desire to make your list pretty or proper. You’re not showing it to anyone else, so there’s no need to pretend like meditation is an “always” if you actually don’t give a crap about it. This list is about who you actually are, not about who you’re not but pretend you are. Because we all know that jarring feeling of trying to be something we’re not. It just doesn’t work. Honoring how we uniquely operate is what will keep you feeling centered.
Here’s a list of my examples, in case all you can come up with for your lists are petting your dog, drinking mimosas, and avoiding mean people.
Always True: nature, sports, animals (but like, not cats. Unless it’s a lion.), 60% of my time spent alone, stand-up comedy, maintaining a tidy home, spending time with my BFF, meal planning, expressing gratitude towards the people in my life, being around people that respect how my brain works without judging and pathologizing its rapid, stream-of-consciousness style.
Occasionally True: having a wild night out, deep talks with deep people; time with family (yes, we’re allowed to put that as “occasional” without feeling like a shitty child or sibling), reading, writing, sleeping in.
Just, No: pretentious people, one-upping interactions, when I behave in attention-seeking ways, eating fast food, spending money I don’t have, hanging out with people I feel like I have to explain myself to, drinking alcohol more than twice a month, staying up late on weekdays, FOMO, comparing myself to others.
K. Enough about me. Time to make your own list.
Alright. So you’ve made your list!
(Or, you’ve read the whole post first and then told yourself “I should make that list” and then a week later you try to remember to do it.)
Alright. So it’s been a week and you’ve made your list!
Take a look at your list. Circle or underline the things from each list that are showing up in your life currently. Notice if you’re doing any -- or a lot of -- Just, No’s right now, or if your Occasionals have become too frequent. Where do you want to cut back, and which of your Always’ do you need to increase?
The better a grasp you have on who you are, what matters to you, what brings you joy, what fuels you... the easier it is to know what to return back to in those moments when you’re feeling off-kilter and out of sorts.
So go forth and conquer. Go be the person you actually want to be. Go do the things you want to do, see the people you want to see, go the places you want to go, pet the dogs you want to pet. Everyone else out there is trying to do what’s best for them, so it’s up to you to do what’s best for you. Because no one except you can be the one to tell you what you’re most needing.
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