If anyone had asked me before I became a writer, I would have immediately marked myself as an introvert. I liked my quiet time, being alone, and going inside my own head.
I still do, for the record. I am definitely have an introverted streak and I like to refer to myself as “running out of people minutes” or having “peopled too much” when I’m ready to go off somewhere for a little peace and quiet.
Then I started writing in restaurants, learned that the best stories come from listening and talking to other people, and now I feel bad if I don’t socialize at least a bit every day.
Humans are a social species. We are not built for complete isolation. Enjoying being alone is one thing… but no human is meant to be lonely.
When faced with the struggle of others, doing nothing can be the best- and hardest- thing to do.
The willingness and desire to help others is one of the most beautiful things I see in people. It doesn’t get a lot of (the right kind of) press, but our capacity for empathy truly is one of our strengths as a species. When it comes to helping others though, it’s hard to keep your desire to help from overriding whether or not you are helping.
I got a very object lesson in that in the last few weeks, and a dear friend of mine has reinforced it.
“I’m not a mapmaker. I’m a traveller, making this trip just like and alongside you.”– Brene Brown
The last few weeks have been more than a little frustrating and chaotic at the pie shop, and I’m having a little trouble “getting comfortable being uncomfortable.” Over the past two weeks and the one coming, just because of timing, I will simultaneously be:
1. Preparing the kitchen for me to not be there for a week while Emily and I finally enjoy a honeymoon in Ireland.
2. Filling wholesale orders- including brand new contracts- for the coming weeks,
3. Making sure catering orders are in a state that my team can manage them in my absence,
4. Retooling our entire production system to be geared toward retail and catering and away from large wholesale contracts as we look toward warmer weather and possibly returning to farmers markets.
It’s all more than a little overwhelming, and as someone who starts to get static in front of their eyes when they stare too long at a crowded spreadsheet, one of my more toxic coping mechanisms starts creeping out: “DO ALL THE THINGS.” As late as last week, my boss essentially had to collar me and drag me out of the kitchen saying “No, Matt- you CAN’T do all the things. We are going to sit down and plan and work this all out.”
All the same, old thought patterns are hard to break. Intellectually, I know that I am just one person. I am not a machine, I am a squishy human that has limitations and gets tired. Regardless, my thought patterns start to run in circles like this:
“Ok, I can do this. I always figure it out. I always get the job done. I’m the only one who can do it. I need to do it. If I don’t, everything is ruined. If I don’t, people will think I’m unreliable and a flake. I won’t belong in the kitchen anymore. I’ll be worthless. I need to be the strong one. I need to get the job done. I need to show I can handle it. I need to show I can hack it- that I still belong here.”
“I am so tired, but I can’t rest yet. I need to get this all done. I’ll rest when I’m done. ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’ Hahahahaha…”
Did any of that sound relatable? If so, I am so sorry… and we both need to admit when we need breaks and that not everything is going to, or NEEDS to, get done.
If you want to know how strong a person is, see how they handle feeling weak.
Last week was a long and miserable one, not least because when I woke up on Monday morning it felt like the color had drained from the world. Nothing tasted good, I had no energy or will to do anything, but all the guilt of doing nothing. As I dragged myself around the house in the early morning, half-coasted my bike to the shop and turned on the ovens, I knew that I was in a depressive episode.
I reached out to others- not for help, or even for pity, but connection. Lots of people responded, and I was grateful for that- but not everyone knows why or how to be helpful in those situations.
How do you help someone manage depression? You just be there.
It’s another of the best worst bits of advice you can give someone. It means well, it’s true, but it’s also false and ignoring it can lead to ruination, pain, and injury.
”There are no limits.”
”The only limit to what you can do is what you put on yourself.”
You see them all the time on motivational posts and calendars- and the annoying thing is that it’s true! In a lot of cases, the only thing holding us back from what we want most is just a couple decisions that we make for ourselves, with no gatekeepers other than ourselves. As soon as you realize that, you are a monumental step closer to living the kind of life you want.
In some cases, though, pretending there are no limits to what you can do can lead to serious, painful problems. Let’s be real here: winners quit all the time, and successful people know when to take (and give!) “No” as an answer. They know their limits. They may test them, even stretch them, but they respect them- because they know that failing to do so can lead to self-destruction.