“A” for Effort
For almost two decades, I believed that I could outsmart the differences and disintegration. But when my crumbling marriage finally lay in heaps all around me, I heard a common sentiment from my tribe.
“No one could ever blame you for not trying”.
In the devastating aftermath, I already had plenty of guilt, shame and fear of the future to juggle so there was some small comfort in being told that I could let go of some of the blame due to the fact that I had been “trying” so hard.
But now, after almost a decade after the dust has settled, I see the game I had been and still am playing. It’s a sleight of hand trick. To intentionally draw attention to one thing to keep them from seeing another. Hey, look at me trying.
It’s like the fiction authors who insert themselves into the plot ensuring that the reader thinks of the author often and is not able to get lost in the story. Or the actors who don’t let you forget they are acting thereby not allowing you to suspend belief for the length of the movie by believing they are who they are portraying.
Or it’s like me in yoga class when I make my effort clear to the teacher so that they don’t expect the same perfection in the pose that I am expecting because they see how hard I am trying.
But that is exhausting. Trying hard to outrun criticism or suggestions for improvement is a dead end run.
How can I move from “try” to “do”?
In yoga class, instead of trying to get my heels to the floor in Downward Dog, what if I simply do the Downward Dog that is accessible in the evolution of my personal practice, and extend my heels towards the floor and call it a day?
And what if I considered that I might have an unhealthy attachment to trying? Ouch. That’s uncomfortable.
This came up recently in yoga class when the instructor asked us to gauge our level of effort in a challenging pose. She encouraged us to give about 70% effort. I have given that same instruction in classes but always resist it when the instruction is given to me. The alternative to actually exerting less effort is to try to look like you’re not trying so hard. That’s something I would totally do and you’d be justified in putting me in a padded room for it. That is just crazy-making!!! Easier just to give a little less, non?
Then another instructor asked us to go deeper, to look beyond the bold noticeable effort we were exerting and consider what “subtle efforts” we were still engaging in. Where were still trying hard to rescue ourselves from this challenge in hidden ways, down deep beneath where they couldn’t be seen? Yikes, this will take some work!
Outside of yoga class, what if I gave less than 100%? What would that look like?
What if, in my relationships, I didn’t try to play a role in that relationship and just be in it? What if I didn’t keep inserting myself into the universal story line? What would look different? What would look the same but feel different?
Ease = Effortless Effort
Ease. Not a place where I tend to hang out. Trying hard seems to have been permanently etched on my moral compass. Trying hard has seemed to be tied to authenticity to me. Even in failure and loss, if you tried harder then there was some consolation. Ah, my old friend, consolation. You are never far.
Ease. Would actual authenticity be easier? What would the ease of authenticity look like?
Ease. I’m putting a pin in the map at that location and seeing if I can let go of trying so hard and can meander into a clearing of effortless effort. All the chronic over-achieving, perfectionist, try-ers are welcome to join me. Bring your own hammocks!