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 gatekeepersother 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.
Do other people get prescribed time in a rocking chair with a blanket and a cup of tea, or is it just me?
Not too long ago, as the holiday season was winding down and we were getting ready to shut down the bakery for a week, my therapist asked what I intended to do with my time off. I rattled off several writing projects, new daily exercise goals, travel to see my family… and my therapist asked “Ok, but are you going to rest?“ “Um… yeah? I mean, I intend to but there’s plenty I’ve been putting off because of the holidays and…” “Matt, are you familiar with hygge?” “Yeah, that’s something like ‘coziness’ right?” “Yes, but intentionally. Find time to deliberately make yourself as comfortable as possible and be okay with doing nothing.”
Good evening, all! Thank you for your patience during my… extended blog silence. Between finishing up the holiday season at the pie shop, shutting down the bakery for a week of vacation, and then all the madness/travel/actual rest involved in said vacation, I found that I needed to take writing off my plate too. You’d think I’d be excited to be stuck in a plane for 3 hours at a stretch with nothing to do BUT write, but an audiobook and the need for sleep had other ideas.
The good news is that I’m rested, refreshed, and slowly getting back into the good habits that I let fall by the wayside in the last few months.
Like most people, though, time with family is not always renewing and refreshing despite love and all the best intentions. My parents can be neurotic and benevolently overbearing sometimes (characteristics which, nebach, my wife says I come by honestly.) They are getting older and learning to deal not just with our world as it is- challenging enough for any age group- but coming to grips with the world as it was. That includes recognizing the good and the bad that we carry forward with us, however unwittingly.
The rain is dripping off my coat as I fumble finding the right key in the dim early-morning light outside the bakery. House key, house key, bike lock key, multi-tool, office key… got it. A little finagling and I’m in out of the rain. At least there’s that. Autumn in Portland heralds the rainy season. “Isn’t every month in Portland the ‘rainy season’ though?” Yes. Haha, you’re very funny.
Quickly locking the door behind me and switching off the alarm, I put the water kettle on to boil then turn on the lights in the kitchen. There’s some slight detritus from the last shift, but overall my team keeps things clean and tidy. I see the small pile of recipes at my station that apparently don’t scale correctly or need to be re-written, along with the daily production checklist I made for my team. I’ll deal with those later- there’s a bigger fish to dry waiting in the office.
Opening the office door, I drop my bag on the desk and switch on the light. Sitting in front of me in my boss’s spreadsheet outlining our Thanksgiving orders and their due dates. We have over 2000 pies due between now and Christmas, and private orders are still coming in. This was always going to be the biggest challenge of the year, and of this job. I knew it. I figured I’d be prepared. I’d done some banquet organizing and logistics work before, after all. How much more different could this be?
Staring down at the spreadsheet, I can already feel the television static fuzzing my vision. I’ve got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it.
CW: Talk about suicide, suicidal ideation, and depression.
Eight months ago, alone at work with a heavy to-do list and late in the afternoon, I wanted to end my life.
I was beyond exhausted and frustrated. It was shortly after Passover and I felt lonely, lost, and hopeless. I felt like my career was at a dead end, and I was burning myself out in an increasingly thankless, stressful, and miserable job for no gain. I was drinking too much. I was taking too much caffeine. My relationships with my family were suffering. I felt resentful of everything and everyone.
All my coping mechanisms that had carried me through so much- meditation, exercise, reading, even writing- were failing me. I was sore and exhausted and bored with exercise. My meditation was rote routine and fruitless. Reading was still good, but I had lost the ability to calm down enough to read a paperback. Audiobooks were just entertaining noise in my ears. I was always stressed about the next shift, the next week, the next month, and what new nightmares would be coming down the chute that I would- inevitably- have to handle.
I never had a plan for how I would off myself, but I did debate how to take care of Emily beforehand. How could I quietly empty my bank account into hers to cover as many expenses as possible? How could I redirect bills? Farther and farther, deeper and deeper as I stared into an abyss of tart shells and almond paste.
Then I thought “What the actual fuck am I doing? This is fucked up. I need to pull out of this fast. I need to put something else in my brain.” Fortunately, I had just finished downloading a new Raymond Chandler mystery novel on Libby. I plugged in headphones and finished my shift to the sound of Phillip Marlowe getting his ass kicked by Los Angeles mobsters.
The nadir of my mental health at that point took about ten minutes. I have been an EMT. I have been in car accidents, lost patients, been actively threatened and assaulted by patients, tended to grotesquely injured people, some of whom didn’t survive.
This was the most scared I have ever been in my professional life… and it was because my mind, body, and heart just couldn’t take it anymore.