I peel my sweaty sports bra off and toss it towards the wicker laundry basket in my closet. It makes it a quarter of the way there, flopping lifelessly over the woven handle. I slip into the same sweater I slept in—which is coincidentally the same sweater I wore to the office the day before—and crawl under the covers. I check my phone: 7:22 a.m. I can get a solid hour in and still be at the office before 9:00 a.m. This is definitely a good decision, I think. Why haven’t I done this before?
Maybe it was exhaustion, the lingering adrenaline from class, or a combination of both, but as I crawled back into bed on Wednesday morning after teaching my 6 a.m. cycle class, I felt like the universe shifted. It seemed as if the bed rose a little higher from the earth to greet me and the orange glow of the sun shifted in the blind, so it fell sideways onto the rug rather than my pillow where it had landed just moments before. Everything seemed to align as if to say: you’re right, this is a good decision.
I can count the number of naps I’ve taken intentionally in my adult life on my two hands, and I don't even need all ten fingers. I say intentionally here because I don’t count sleeping in the car or on airplanes. That’s different. It's a defense mechanism and a tool to pass the time—and who can resist that hum of the engine?
The reason I hadn’t napped after an early morning class, or almost every really, before was because taking naps had long been off-limits in my life. Somewhere in my mind, I had convinced myself that taking naps, among other things, would mean I was weak. Stopping to rest in the middle of the day, laying down for an extended period of time, not using my time to work, workout, be social, or create something: all of this used to feel like a luxury I couldn’t afford. Scratch that. It felt like a luxury I didn’t deserve.
The feeling of being inadequate has followed me around like black cloud on a string, always looming and always threatening. It eggs me on even when I know it’s time to turn off. It casts a heavy shadow over everything I do. It is the lens that makes me first see what I did not create, rather than what I did. It is the voice that first bemoans what I lack, rather than praising what I have. Such is the plague of never enough. It is a heavy, sinking feeling; the one that comes with knowing you’ll never be done working for something you can’t attain. Like a beetle chirping beneath the floorboards, it's a feeling that is elusive but inescapable.
For much of my life I felt like Sandra Bullock in that heart-wrenching Practical Magic scene where she rips apart her hardwood floor plank by plank in search of that deathwatch beetle only to have it scurry away, out of reach. I was Sandra and feeling inadequate was the battle.I’d set rules and add on to-do’s to my list to try to catch it. I’d try anything that was supposed to help get me a little closer to finding it. I’d fight to perfect situations and to control my body and my surroundings as if that's where the problem had been hiding. Yet away the feeling would scurry, to a different, deeper part of my brain.
Until one day I decided to let the beetle be.
One day I decided rather than trying to pry up the floorboards of my existence, I’d learn to walk on them with the beetle still beneath.
I was never going to out-perfect the way I was feeling. I couldn’t out-run it either, no matter how many miles I racked up. Clearly I wasn’t going starve, eat or drink it away though I tried. I had to learn to live with it. I had to learn to drown out the chirping of “not good enough” with louder mantras of “always enough.” I had to start seeing fears of weakness as invitations for courage. I had to stop holding out for that feeling that might never come. I had to stop making life harder on myself for no other reason than I didn't know what else to do.
I had to start napping when I was tired.
I had to start eating when I was hungry.
I had to start asking for help when I was struggling.
I had to start saying no when my limits had been reached.
I had to stop perfecting when I am imperfect.
And so I did. Starting slow with things like therapy, meditations and mantras and eventually moving into things like comfort food and napping. I make a daily practice out of talking back to that voice in my head and of letting that beetle be. Sometimes that means drowning it out with things like music and laughter. Other days it means acknowledging its presence out loud, to a friend, or through journaling. Sometimes I even need to distance myself from the sounds through work, art, or activity. All of these things take strength and nourishment. Some of these things even requirea little extra sleep.