Sometimes my back pain makes it not fun to stand, and sometimes it makes it not fun to sit, and right now (let “right now” = the past couple weeks), sitting is the miserable one.
And so I pace, or find things I can do either standing or reclining that are enjoyable or that pass the time.
I found myself increasingly frustrated by the limitations of pain (a very legitimate frustration, and also the very definition of It Is What It Motherfucking Is), but lately I have been trying to focus on a different approach.
Let’s Do This Day In EASY MODE.
Like in a game
Like in a game.
Why am I doing things on any other mode? Who am I trying to impress?
Easy mode can look like:
- five minutes of low impact kitchen jogging instead of thirty
- knees to chest instead of yoga
- or: what does yoga look & feel like if I only do standing or reclining poses
- a meal that has three or fewer steps
- what can be done later?
- what is a symbolic way of doing this?
- what does 10% effort look or feel like?
As my dance teacher used to say, DO LESS TO GET MORE.
How can I apply that here?
What is even easier than that?
What is easy?
What is even easier than that?
What is the path of MORE EASE?
Where am I complicating, adding steps that are not needed, or expecting too much of myself?
What happens when I do even less?
An exploration, taken slowly
This is a new form of investigation for me, trying to make room for my frustration, practice acknowledgment & legitimacy, and also turn my attention towards Less & Slowness, towards being deliberate and selective.
I talked to my doctor about PEM (Post-Exertional Malaise), the medical term for this thing where I do literally anything, and then have to spend days and days recovering from whatever it is I did.
That is not related to the back pain, but both PEM and the back pain are fun aspects of Long Covid that I really was not able to grasp just how much they would impact my life, until I found myself regularly saying things like “well, guess today isn’t a standing day”, or “yeah, I did laundry yesterday so now I need to do nothing for a week”.
Anyway, I was telling this doctor about how I have tried all the suggestions and hate them. Either they don’t work for me, or don’t apply to my situation, or they just make me feel worse.
And my doctor said, okay, new suggestion: ignore all the suggestions. Reduce things that are effortful, to the extent that you can. Make your life easier. Choose ease where you can.
What does it mean to play the day in EASY MODE
Obviously there is an element of monsters (self-criticism voices, internalized cultural expectations).
Obviously there is real-life stress (things do have to get done, I live alone, there is no one else who can get groceries or wash dishes).
And, at the same time, if we ask the ultimate clarifying question, what’s true and what’s also true, playing on any other mode is not working.
Playing on EASY MODE is a form of generosity, permission, compassion, love.
So that’s what I’m practicing right now. More on what I learn and notice later. In the meantime you are welcome to practice with me.
ANNOUNCEMENT! The Brautigan Wing returns!
In October of 2013 (nearly ten years ago somehow), I put out a 77 page ebook called The Brautigan Wing.
My description at the time: a museum of small and big realizations.
In this book, I imagined building a museum exhibit about my mind, based on found post-it notes, with commentary about what the poet (me) may or may not have intended. Maybe there are some good clues for you, or maybe you’ll be inspired to turn your pile of notes into your own exhibit.
Anyway, if you feel moved to give any sum of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund, I’ll email you a link to the ebook! I don’t check email every day, but it will happen soon.
Come play with me, I love company
You are welcome to play with any of the concepts here in any way you like. Come play in the comments!
We are experimenting with experimenting, all experiments are useful experiments! How do you want to play on EASY MODE? What wishes or themes are you playing with? What would help? As always, People Vary.
And of course you’re invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship helps.
Here’s to locating the supportive rituals, playful experiments & loving compassion we need.
If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.
I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.
Or you can buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!
And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share one of my posts with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️
I love the question “what does 10% effort look or feel like?”!
I felt the “aaaaaah” of relaxation. And then I thought, why do we hear so much along the lines of “giving it 100%”, and so little about all the other possible numbers? Possibility!
Yes!!! Me too! It’s so liberating to not give 100% or even close to it, and just find a small doable number to experiment with and find out how that feels. Like maybe trying for 10% will show me that I have a solid 17% in me? Or maybe I was wildly overestimating myself and I need to go do 5%, but at least then I have that information, which is so useful.
I was actually writing about this in other settings the other day and didn’t post it but maybe will later, that sometimes it is so hard for me to “relax” or even conceptualize being able to chill out, but if I ask the question “what would ten percent more relaxed or Slightly More Calm feel like”, then I am actually able to breathe a little more steadily and incrementally relax.
Big fan of smaller percentages and how that can open up some spaciousness
I hear you Havi!
I have been mindful of the fragility of my back, which I need to be in working order for my job (and life). I have totally bonked a couple of times lately, and am trying to *honor* my limitations as a middle-aged woman who labors and wants to keep laboring for a long time to come …
Prioritizing is hard for me and I am realizing that I’m using the wrong part of my brain (the monster part, usually).
Now I ask myself what do a *want* to do (and of course what must I do).
I am going to go for the smaller percentages and see what happens
May you gain whatever strength and fortitude you need right now.
I love this! I feel I’ve been doing Easy mode for a while now because it’s all I can manage, but I haven’t felt good about it. That constant push/inner critique saying you should be doing more. But if Easy mode is an acceptable option, maybe I’d feel better sooner. E.g. if Easy is 10%, maybe the other 90% is Rest. And I could really use it.
Side note: I hate the 110% people who don’t get what 100% percent means. Though I guess maybe some are like Scotty on Star Trek are always lowballing it to give themselves room when asked to do the impossible.
Thank you for sharing this idea!
Mmm. Can’t help thinking of the pro cyclist’s motto: don’t stand when you can sit, don’t sit when you can lie down. Here are some of the fittest people in the world, playing on easy mode because there’s plenty of other stuff that’s difficult.