Topic Tuesday: Expectations

“Updating Expectations (By: Ash Kuhl)

I spent a few days going back and forth about what to write for this blog post. I could feel my mind beginning down the well beaten path of shame, getting down on myself for not having anything that feels important to share.

But then I remembered that we are in a period that is requiring much more energy, mental and emotional, to do daily tasks that once could be done pretty automatically. And maybe it’s okay that my brain isn’t feeling all that up to intense reflection right now. Maybe my brain is focused more so on making sure we get through the day and remember everything that we have to do. And maybe that’s okay. Thank you, brain. This year is really testing your limits of adaptability. You’re doing great. I love you, keep going.

(An aside: This article does a good job discussing with experts why time feels so weird in 2020 and why it may leave us feeling more tired than usual)

So I have no deep, ultra-contemplative reflection on this time. What I can share is what has been helping me.

Three things I know, for me, have been critical during this time:

  1. My daily routines. Little bits of structure that have kept me feeling like my days and weeks are not just utter chaos.
  2. Staying oriented in my community.
  3. Spending time being in my body.

Not only are these items incredibly boring, they are all things, I really do not want to do.
I do not want to journal about my feelings.
I do not want to do a yoga zoom video.
I do not want to check in with my friends and be honest about how I’m doing. I don’t even want to check in with MYSELF and be honest about how I’m doing.

Those things require me to be present and feel my feelings. And that is vulnerable, and uncomfortable, and scary. Not three of my favorite things. I have a hunch I may not be alone in that distaste.

But I do them anyways. Because to not do them is to avoid. And things don’t go away because I choose not look at them, they just get more creative in how they ask to be felt. I’ve seen this before. I know where that road leads.
There was a time I remember when I did not want to eat food. But I did. Because I needed to. So I have seen that sometimes there are things I really, really do not want to do. And I still need to do them. (Is it just me or is recovery is almost embarrassingly simple, and cyclical sometimes?)

There was a time that these daily routines and practices saved me. And even now when I really don’t feel like I want to do them or when I could try and convince myself I don’t need to do them, I am leaning on the faith that I have that at one point they really helped. I wrote these things down on a list entitled “Things That Keep Me Well”, and I am just putting trust and faith in the belief that I probably didn’t write that down for no reason.

So the majority of my days it feels like the bulk of my mental and emotional bandwidth is spent reorienting myself (“What day is it? What month is it? Do I work from home today or the office today?” etc.)  and doing the essentials. Most days I do not feel like I have a ton of extra brain power to deeply reflect, but that is okay. We are all just trying to make it.

So in lieu of a blog post coming from a place of deep introspection, I’ll instead leave you with a short poem that I wrote on a day that I was able to find a little more space than usual:

Some days it feels like miles
from the city I have created in my thoughts
to my feet.

But I’m (re-) learning to make a point
to take the train down there more often.

If my limbs are constituents,
I need to hear them out.

About the Author

Ash Kuhl lives in Nashville, Tennessee and works at a mental health non-profit there. They have enormous gratitude for both Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado where they first began their journey to recovery, and the Renfrew Center in Brentwood, TN. Ash cares deeply about affordable mental health services access for all, LGBTQIA+ healthcare and justice, and building robust and supportive community. Ash can be found climbing, sitting under any good tree, or hunting for the best iced coffee in town.