I need to stop doing

tiredwhitelionRemember that phrase, “Physician, heal thy self.” I need that prescription – and in writing, please. And may I have a good six refills? I am in need of some serious recovery.

Hi, I’m Adele, and I need to stop doing. There, I said it. It’s a little scary to put those words out there for everyone to hear. Good God, will you now think of me as a slacker? Or are you secretly just as tired and worn out as I am?

It’s funny, I can now say the words and not feel like such a failure that I couldn’t manage it all and still get enough rest, stay perky, floss regularly and get to bed before the late-late show.

With my stunning announcement, I notice that the world hasn’t stopped rotating on its axis. The sun is still shining, and there continues to be a line at Starbucks looking for caffeinated jump-starts.

Ok, I am feeling frisky here. I am going to say it again, but before I do, are you old enough to remember Dick Clark and his “American Bandstand” television show? He used to play a song a second time and say something like, “Let’s do this once more with feeling.”

So, here goes, once more with feeling, “I NEED TO STOP DOING.”

Wow. I can feel the truth of those words, and it reverberates in my being. Both my body and soul take a huge, collective sigh of relief. It has been a long time coming, and I have finally gotten the message: it is time to take a break.

You see, I am a chronic doer. I am a whirling dervish of activity. I can go, go, go. I have for years – and my perpetually tired eyes tell the tale.

This epiphany happened last week. There I was cross-checking my “to do” lists (yes, lists plural). I had a myriad of details dancing in my head. I was busily plotting and planning, happy as can be, when I was struck by a wild, uninvited thought, a bit like St. Paul when he was propelled from his horse. This thought was not on my radar screen; it felt like it came from a universe far, far away. I almost expected the hand of God to come down and tug on my ear lobe, just to make sure I heard the message loud and clear.

My hand, holding my note-taking pen, dangled in mid-air. My head was lifted; my ear was cocked. I was unable to move. God really grabbed my attention. I was, as the saying goes, momentarily struck dumb, but in this case, I was struck smart.

This was my conversion experience.

My first thought was to pull out my trusty clipboard and create a stop-doing strategy. I would break it down into manageable tasks. It’s like that African proverb, “You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.” I am good at figuring out those bite-sized actions and what better way to initiate a new way of non-doing than to have a plan.

Then it dawns on me that creating an action plan to stop doing was a bit, shall we say, antithetical to the whole notion of inaction.

If am a non-doer, then how do I get anything done? Will my life be taken over with piles of disorganized detritus? Will my laundry dance around my apartment doing the stinky slide? Will the tax collector, electric company, and mail carrier secretly mark my front door as one who has stopped doing?

The prospect of not doing, ironically, gives me pause. What does this non-doing look like? Clearly, I need to run my life, but how? I know there is a twist in here.

And the twist, I have come to realize, starts with how I think. I do not have to do everything. I can say no; there’s a novel concept. I can, as the saying goes, stop being a human doing, and become a human being. I can cease the mad dash through life and can stop to smell that coffee … no wait, the coffee would get me all hyped again. I can stop and smell the flowers.

Years ago, I heard the story of a woman who was so exhausted that she chose to take a few months off and go live in the woods. She realized that she had been running all of her life, at the beck and call of family, friends and employer. In the midst of that busyness she had lost herself. She was too tired to think about what she needed; she was very good at reacting, anticipating and planning.

One day, she felt the serious call to stop doing; she knew she was in danger of risking her health, so off she paraded into the woods with all of her carefully purchased supplies and beautifully annotated contingencies in place.

And do you know what happened? She slept for three weeks, pretty much non-stop. She stopped. Her body went clunk; it refused to take another step further. She could only rest and sleep and eat mouthfuls of trail mix.

This woman was not simply over tired; she was engulfed in what is known as the Profound Fatigue that hits you smack in your personal battery pack when you have been running, running, running for way too long. At the end of three weeks, she got up, stretched and decided to do life a little differently.

I’m with the lady in the woods; I am ready to do my life a little differently. I have slowly ungripped my iron grasp on my planner. I have walked away from my color-coded and cross-referenced lists. I have chosen to be daring: I am going to stop, to heal and to listen.

My body needs to recalibrate its biorhythms and find a sleep schedule that does not include getting up as well as going to bed in the morning hours; too many AM’s here. I need to remember how eat a meal in more human and less wolf-like way; three gulps and a swallow over the kitchen sink does not make for fine dining, and a dinner of popcorn misses some of the basic food groups.

I have discovered that with all that busyness and mental chatter, it’s hard to listen. And I want to listen to what the gods have to tell me. I am in that place in my life where I need to listen; the gods hold my next agenda. Tricky, aren’t they? I can’t get the next agenda until I slow down, stop and listen. And, in order to do that, I need to submerge my self in what cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, calls the sweet territory of silence.

So, that’s where you will find me, at the corner of Quiet and Still. I will be the one with the oversized sunglasses and the big, goofy grin who appears to be listening to some inaudible song as I sit peacefully and take in the view.

Care to join me? There’s room on the bench.

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15 Responses to I need to stop doing

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell May 12, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    Colleen, of course, we are mind melding again! Much love to you, dear one. Talk soon.

  2. Adele Ryan McDowell May 12, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Ohh, thank you, Violet on the Farm. The crazy goat sounds fun. You sound wise.

  3. Adele Ryan McDowell May 12, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    Thank you, dear Diana, my wise friend. Thanks for your ever-present love and support. Much love to your loving-life-self

  4. Adele Ryan McDowell May 12, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    I know you know this very well. Yes, Jacquie, come join me. You have been going non-stop for years. Sending you a blast of peace as you work through your latest. Much love

  5. Adele Ryan McDowell May 12, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    YES!!!! Do come and sit and be, you, the most uber-efficient, super-productive and deeply caring person I know. We can share goofy grins as the world goes by. That’ll be fun. I’m saving you a seat, Na’ama.

  6. Adele Ryan McDowell May 12, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    You make me laugh. Come on over. The view is great and the air virutally sparkles. Much love to you.

  7. Adele Ryan McDowell May 12, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Elizabeth, what a blessing you would be….and you’re well practiced in silence. Happy to share space with your wonderful self. Much love

  8. Elizabeth Gricus May 10, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    Right on, Adele! Move over.. I’m with you!

    Blessings, E. 🙂

  9. stephanie blank May 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    I would love to join you! I understand the lady in the woods story and wish that it didn’t come to that degree of exhaustion but like you said- if we could take time each day to be quiet and still and maybe even go for a walk in the woods or the beach and get ourselves in nature- that would be so rejuvenating- if only for a short time. I’ve been dreaming of taking a trip somewhere where its very quiet and calm! That place always looks like a tropical beach to me…

    Sending Love

  10. Na'ama Yehuda May 10, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    I’m coming to sit with ya on that bench … and work on not feeling lazy for it.
    Yeah, I hear you laughing.
    You told me more than once that lazy is not something that you think of in relation to me. Others did, as well. And yet, isn’t it exactly us, the doers, the constant goers, the on-task, on-time, on-schedule people, who are most susceptible to thinking that we’re lazy just because we (gasp!) take a stop?
    It’s been getting easier, actually. I’ve been working on realizing that stopping, resting, napping, having empty-schedule days is good. Am actually getting better at it (sure helped that the world did not stop twirling on its axis and the paparazzi did not line the street in front of my walk-up to tell the tale of ‘lazybones slowing the world’ or ‘tardy woman retards world-growth’ …) 😉
    Isn’t it lovely to know that we can rest, and the world still works just fine–maybe even better–for it?
    So yeah, I’m coming to sit by ya. Smell the flower (note to self–there are lotta them out there right NOW, best time to do so!) Love, Na’ama

  11. jacquie May 10, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    Would love to join you on the bench– especially you 🙂
    . . . know this well, the lists, the inability to actually make the list due to exhaustion…am right there, just need the bench…thank you Adele

  12. Diana Deregnier May 10, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Dear, Dear Adele, Those of us who know you have known and tried gently to suggest you “just be” from time to time. So glad you have received the message. Of course, we recognize it in you because we tend to run similar miles.
    I broke the pattern a while back and find that the world, though perhaps not in great shape, does go on without my forcefulness. I also have found, to my shock, that my life is improving beyond my wildest expectations and have decided I may be of better service in the future when I am filled with joy, comfort and frivolity. I am simply playing and learning to live in a passionate and lively love relationship (at 66 years young!) and healing my body, mind and spirit. In spare times, I am working with a translator and the illustrator of “Mortimer …” to release the story in Russian.
    I highly recommend frequent large doses of fun, relaxation and soul-searching for positive recognition and appreciation. I also recommend practicing “receiving” in many forms of pleasure and healing!!!
    Much love and appreciation for all you have given this world and its society! Few have given as much. It is time you play! ~ Diana

  13. Violet May 10, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    Dear Adele,

    I ran to the woods four years ago and have never regretted the decision. The friends I have now are chickens, roosters, cats and a crazy goat.

    They have taught me much.

    From the Farm,

  14. Violet May 10, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Dear Adele,

    I ran to the woods four years ago and have never regretted the decision. The friends I have now are chickens, rooster, cats and a crazy goat.

    They have taught me much.

    From the Farm,

  15. Colleen May 10, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    You sneaking into my mind again???