On identity, unoccupied time, and what's left of us when we are doing nothing at all.

Morning, friends!

This past week I took a vacation where I made the executive decision to leave behind an object I didn't think I could part with: my laptop.

Sure, I've left it behind on a couple international travels—like when I knew I'd be snorkeling or hiking the entire time—and when I didn't want it to become a liability while staying in shared accommodations. But this was different. This was a week at a lake house with dear friends, and I knew there'd be a good deal of time spent just...lazing about. In fact, our pre-trip homework was to BYO Float. Here's mine:
I wanted to avoid work for the week, so I squared everything away before I left and honestly, I was so blissfully content with that plan that I forgot the most basic of office etiquette: setting an out-of-office reminder. Whoops. By all standards of measurement, my plan worked. I didn't do any work all week (unless you count writing this newsletter, which clearly I phoned in, as a result - har har).

And regardless of being free to meander magical glens and wine-taste under blue skies surrounded by picturesque lakes, do you want to know how I felt?

~ Anxious! ~

I felt anxious. WHY. Why is it still so easy to fall into patterns of anxiety even when you've set yourself up to feel anything but that?
Here's my hypothesis: when I'm in normal life mode, it's easy to compartmentalize work-related stressors. When kept in balance, these stressors are very normal, healthy and probably necessary. In yoga they call it tapas, a bit of friction or challenge that keeps you on your toes—when the lazy part in you doesn't want to do something but you do it anyway. The problem I have found is that when I'm in what I will call "fallow time" mode (to steal from the word used in this great New York Times piece), I find myself wondering, "Well, where exactly do I put this drive to DO stuff?" Because that drive, when not applied toward something that feels as though it is productive — starts to manifest as anxiety.

And it doesn't have to be my job-job, it could be working on my book, or taking a training, or researching a workshop/class/training I could take, or updating my budget, and on and on. (While in the flow of writing this newsletter I had the chance to earn max compensation last-minute subbing a yoga class and it killed me inside, but I passed on it...because I'm trying to make a point to myself here).

What it boils down to is that old familiar notion: Who am I, if I'm not what I do?

Last week, my friends and I floated blissfully without devices on Seneca Lake. Perhaps we could've thought, "This is what we do now. This is how we make our living: as Floaters, who float."

But of course floating is not an occupation (and if it is please hit me up, because I am qualified and well-practiced). And when I spend too long not doing the things that I associate with "my identity," I start to feel like my identity doesn't matter, and by extension that *I* don't matter. I start to feel...disposable, honestly. And that's terrifying, right? No one wants to feel disposable.

So, we're in the car driving to this beautiful spot in New York called Watkins Glen (10/10 recommend) when I get hit by a wave of anxiety. If I were to describe my ideal, perfect day—it would be this day. Yet my stomach is in knots. Then I feel guilty for feeling anxious when I should be having fun. I have no choice but to put a name to it, so I say to my friends: "I don't know why, but I feel anxious." It was a release to say it out loud, but it wasn't until a few more hours of the day passed that the "knots" loosened up a bit. By the last day of the trip, they had evaporated.

And maybe...just's because I was being reminded of all the parts of my identity that are not at all what I do...but are who I am. Like if the paychecks stopped tomorrow, and the Internet permanently broke, I would still be a friend. I would be someone who loves nature, a person who gets completely swept up in their thoughts, the one holding up the rear because I've stopped to look at something too long. I would have flat feet and bad ankles but a strong need to walk ev-ery-where. I'd still have trouble making eye contact in a room of acquaintances, but be completely at ease for hours in a one-on-one conversation with a stranger. I'd still write poems in my head while I'm on the toilet and forget them before I wash my hands. I'd still run when the urge hit, even though I'm horribly slow, pausing to look at flowers as an excuse to catch my breath.

I know this is not some ground-breaking stuff. The whole human being vs. human doing thing—it's been written about by millions upon billions of people before, give or take. But that doesn't mean it's not worth continuing to consider, right? Especially if, like me, you often find it more stressful to take a vacation than to not take a vacation.

If it becomes my entire life's work - oh boy, work! - to become comfortable with knowing that my identity doesn't start and end at [the thing that pays the bills], so be it. Perhaps that will have been the most worthwhile job after all.

So, we have about 11 more weeks of summer (unless you're in the southern hemisphere, then winter). Perhaps you have lots of cute plans and that's great. But what I'd love to know is not what you're doing—but who are you being?

Reply back and let me know.

Until then, stay you.


Journaling Prompt ✍

Place all parameters like money, time, education aside. If you could wake up tomorrow and be the most successful, absolute top of your field in any line of work, doing anything at all — what would you choose?

After you're done, reflect a bit: What is it about that area that intrigues you? Is it similar to what you're doing currently? Are there any overlaps? Is there something about that job that you could do right now, but just for the enjoyment of it?

Worth a read 📚

I love the idea of an "aural cleanse" - just in time for the workshop I'm holding on July 28th all about setting up a soothing evening routine. I'll be sharing techniques both for preparing for sleep, getting back to sleep, and designing your day to avoid sleep disruptors way before you're thinking about sleeping. You can sign up here. // Very intrigued by a study finding showing a difference between the brains' amygdala sizes of vets and active-duty military suffering from combat-related PTSD and mild brain injuries vs. those not. Also: "...Veterans who practiced mindfulness developed stronger connections between specific brain networks, which resulted in an easing of their symptoms."

Retreat into your Intuition

Spots are filling up but we are still recruiting for a few more lovely souls to join our upcoming yoga retreat in the beauty of Shenandoah, Virginia from September 27-29. As an Om Weekly reader you'll get 15% off the listed rates. Honestly? This retreat can't happen without you. 💕Deets are here. Let me know any questions.

Tunes 🎶

I hope you're floating with ease through your summer. Bring someone along for the ride by forwarding this email. <3

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