I was at a client working away on my laptop, and she mentioned a story she’d heard, probably on the radio, about how people who learned to type on actual manual typewriters hit the keys on their computer keyboards unnecessarily hard, trained as we were back then to exert the force necessary to make the letters hit the paper on those old machines. People who’ve only ever used computers exert much less force, since they never learned to smash the letters to make words. I imagined she mentioned this because I type fast and, I’ve been told, I type loud. Exerting more force than strictly necessary. Because that’s how I was trained.
Since hearing that typewriter story I’ve been backing off on how much energy I send through my fingers in contact with the keyboard, experimenting with how little I can do to achieve the very same effect -- words on a page. It requires me to stay aware, to really think about the pads of my fingers, to feel the contact between me and the plastic buttons that represent the letters.
I’ve also been thinking about all of the other areas in my life where I expend way more effort than I really need to, to achieve the very same effect. Turns out I do this all over the place. Hammering the keys when a light touch would do.
We’re trained, and then we train ourselves, to push, to will, to effort hard and then we can’t turn it off. We get to a place where we’ve forgotten how to relax.
That’s my story anyway.
Nine years ago I made myself stop running. Running is something I’d done since high school, something I loved, but I’d noticed that I was using it to beat myself up, to prop up my sense of self-worth, like number of miles at set pace = my value as a human being, or offset the size of my thighs. Like running somehow made me OK enough to get through the rest of my day. It was such a PUSH all the time. I had this sudden strong feeling nine years ago that I really needed to stop doing that, so I stopped running altogether. Gave it up completely. Which was weird, right, because I love running. And then I spent most of those 9 years at yoga, into which – guess what? – I managed to bring that same push.
Now I’m back to running and I love it so much and see how all along I could’ve addressed that PUSH differently. Instead of not running and transferring that push to yoga (ridiculous, right?), I could’ve addressed the push itself, that need to effort so hard.
I could’ve just stopped hammering the keys.
Because that’s what that push is – it’s that need to effort to make up for something. It’s that thing that Tara Mohr talks about in her excellent Playing Big, that way that we are enculturated to please and prove ourselves by excelling in school. Those achievements become our worth, rather than anything intrinsic about ourselves. A dangerous game. Hammering for hammering’s sake.
All that push, all that constant hustle? It's just a treadmill. It’s not really taking us anywhere, but giving us this comforting sense of motion, of pushing against a timer, toting up our value based on calories burned, miles traveled. Instead of just relaxing into the joy of running wild, using our form for its intended purpose, feeling our own strength, thinking our own thoughts, instead always the obsession. That damned thigh gap.
Instead: why not just feel whatever's happening?
This time with the running it's different. Sure, it helps that I'm older, but more so it helps that in our friends’ neighborhood last weekend, I happened upon a copy of Born to Run in the Little Free Library, then gobbled it up in two days. Which then led me to Chi Running, another book devoured in two days. And with that, I am suddenly aware of my biomechanics, of my feet hitting the ground, just like my fingers hitting the keys. I think about less effort to achieve the same effect. I practice leaning into my stride, leading with my forehead and heart, instead of with my heels, using gravity instead of will.
And because that -- that lack of efforting -- feels great, from there I declare the weekends a no-work zone. Yes, in our house, Hustle got to be king of the weekends for a while there. My husband and I both own our own businesses – his happening to be booming right now, after some lean recession years. Booming, which meant Saturdays and Sundays were spread with blueprints and calculations and work for him, while I sat in my office, too, and used that time to work. We’d head out to the garden for brief snatches of outdoor time, head out to dinner, but our minds were always on work. Always on the hustle. Hammering the keys.
Now, thinking about the typewriter, about meeting the ground with softer feet, I want to find more relaxation in the midst of all of it, of everything If there’s a way to do a lot, and yet do it without contraction, without the stress, without the push, then that’s what I’m doing. To cease making work a constant scramble to prop up my self-worth, as if I’m making up for something, but instead always starting from a place of intrinsic value, like all of this, every bit of it, is GOOD because it comes from me. Every bit of it is GOOD because it comes from me.
Every bit of it is GOOD because it comes from me.
It's not entirely comfortable, this new relaxed state, but I know, as with all things, that with practice, it'll get easier. Truth: the only way things in my life are going to feel effortless is if I cease this lifelong habit of constant efforting. Funny, right?
How about you? What could be possible, how might you feel, if you just relaxed?