No one ever wants to be a quitter: quitting, especially in our culture, means giving up, giving in, and, worst of all, failing. I was chatting with a dear friend the other day who has decided to make some major changes at work. Even though her work life has caused her depression, anxiety, and even put her in the hospital, her main worry was the same one I would have had: that people would perceive her as a failure. Even worse, that she would perceive herself as a failure.
For the most part, the desire to "keep going" is a good one. As I tell you a lot, we always "keep trying," and we learn from the trying. But what if the trying is just not working for us? What if the solution, the way we can gain control in our lives, is to just stop? I was reading an article on the internet, and the author writes this:
Letting go of something puts you in control. If a project or relationship isn’t bringing you value and isn’t working the way you want, quit it.
How can letting go put you in control? Doesn't it mean that you have let go, that you've stopped trying, that you have failed? I thought about this some more, though, and it does make perfect sense.
I feel like my life is a game of jenga: you know, the pieces that you build into a tower, hoping it doesn't fall apart?
On any given day, I will get up at 5:45, make you breakfast, get you dressed for school, walk you to school, try to get some work done but also run at least five miles (if I don't run, I get anxious), pick you up early from school, take you to at least two therapies, all 1/2 hour away from our house, go home and entertain you, make dinner, do the bedtime routine, and, if it's during the semester, then grade and prep all night.
So the minute my semester ended, I thought I "had some extra time" and decided to do a yoga challenge. 26 classes in 28 days. "I can do that," I thought. "I can do anything I put my mind to." But I didn't want to give up running, and I can't give up anything else, so I just squeezed it in, put it on the pile. It was working (sort-of) until you got sick last week and were sent home two days. Once you started to feel better, I got pink eye, which is a really infectious eye infection. So I'm here, my eye itching like crazy, thinking about not going to the doctor because I "have to" attend a lecture at school, go to a dentist appointment, take Puck to the vet, and keynote a lecture on Thursday. And, of course, take at least one yoga class every day.
If the point of yoga is to be mindful, to connect with your body, I finally (with the help of your daddy) had to realize that this "challenge" was causing me anxiety, causing the jenga tower to fall. In fact, I gave up on the lecture and the dentist appointment and am now home, catching up on work and resting so that I can do this lecture.
Tomorrow I have to take Puck to the vet, Thursday I do my lecture, and Friday we are headed to NYC, so I will not complete the yoga challenge.
Do I feel like a failure? Yes...but I keep thinking about that jenga tower. Is it better to keep stacking until the entire thing falls down? Or is it better to quit when you are ahead? When do we quit, and when do we keep pushing? This is such a difficult life lesson, and I'm still learning it, but I want you to know that, if you start feeling like trying is making you miserable, like trying at something is hurting your mental health, then it's okay to quit. It's your body telling you that it's time to listen to yourself, to take control. Whether it's a job, a dissertation, a relationship, or just a yoga challenge, it can be hard to "quit," but it might be the bravest decision you make.