A couple of weeks ago, I sliced three of my fingers open.
In my defense, the bread knife someone kindly gave us when we moved here is quite a bit sharper than the bread knife at my parents’ house. The knife at my parents’ house can cut through bread and can then be stopped with one’s hand.
Our new bread knife, it turns out, cannot.
To make a long story short, I ended up with five stitches in the index finger of my left hand.
Do you know how many things you use your left hand for in the course of a regular day? Not just your hand: your left index finger, to be exact? I didn’t.
For the first several days, I couldn’t grip anything with my left hand—those three fingers felt like they were getting split open again every time I tried. Even after the two other fingers started to heal, my index finger was completely useless. It had stitches in it, remember? I had to keep it covered; I couldn’t get it wet; and I certainly couldn’t use it for anything actually useful.
So I had to slow down.
I couldn’t do my hair—all those cute styles involve elastics and hair pins, and it turns out you can’t really put those in without your index finger—so I just left my hair loose.
I couldn’t type very quickly anymore—did you know that you use your index fingers almost more than any other finger when you type?—so I had very little time to do anything except homework most days.
It took me a lot longer than usual to get ready in the mornings—I had to gingerly work around my throbbing finger—so I stopped trying to do anything else before I left for work in the mornings.
And you know what? It was kind of nice.
Just let it go
The moment of truth for me came a few days after I had cut my fingers. I had been planning to do a 30-day yoga workout challenge to kickstart my exercise habit, which had taken a backseat over the last few months. I was planning to start on December 1st—
—but on November 30th, I cut my fingers.
Most of the yoga postures I find most helpful involve putting your hands on the ground, pressing down with your fingers, and bearing weight in your hands.
Clearly, that wasn’t going to work for me.
As the days went by and I realized how slowly the healing process was progressing, I decided I probably wouldn’t be up to a 30-day challenge before the end of the year.
So I let myself off the hook: I decided not to make exercise a priority until January.
All of a sudden, I didn’t feel guilty about not exercising. I didn’t feel that nagging sense that I’m not doing “enough.” A huge source of pressure in my life was just—gone.
Give yourself space
Let me be clear: I’m not saying you should quit exercising. Moving your body is good for it, and it’s important to find some form of physical activity you enjoy so you can keep yourself healthy.
What I am saying is that you don’t need to focus on all the things all the time.
I’ve written before about how my expectations for myself are often too high. I tend to expect myself to be amazing at everything—work, school, homemaking, health and fitness—literally everything. And when I fail to live up to my expectations, I feel guilty and ashamed—as though I am somehow “less” when I’m not doing all the things.
But here’s the thing: no one can do it all. We have to choose what we’re going to prioritize. And we have to be willing to let some of the other stuff go.
It’s okay to say no
The holidays can be hectic. There are so many things to do and people to see and events to attend that sometimes it feels like we don’t even have time to think. And after all that comes a new year, and if you’re anything like me, your calendar is already rapidly filling up.
May I encourage you to do one thing? Give yourself permission to slow down.
You can’t give the same attention to everything—so choose what activities and goals are a priority for you right now, and let other things take a backseat for a while.
Choosing to let some things go for a season allows you to slow down. It helps you break out of the cycle of days crammed too full of too much. It creates margin, giving you space to rest, to breathe, to be.
It takes the pressure off.
Let’s lay the unnecessary clutter in our lives aside for a few days. Let’s give ourselves space to enjoy the holidays, to be present. Let’s forget about all our self-imposed expectations.
Let’s slow it down.
Have you ever been forced to slow it down? Is there an area of your life where you could take the pressure off a little bit?