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From Maleck Odinsson comes this topic: “How do you know when to slow down and when to push through? When to let yourself rest and when to buckle down and power through?”
Before I tackle this, I have to say I giggled at this topic. Not because it is not needed or serious, but because I am really bad about slowing down, resting, and relaxing. Case in point, I am on a break and working on this topic instead of, say, playing a game on my phone, just listening to some music, watching something, or reading a book. My idea of reading for pleasure lately is cracking an academic-level book relevant to my religion, culture, or other topics of interest. I have found it a lot harder in the last couple of years to read fiction for pleasure. Exploring new forms of fiction or going back to the book equivalent of comfort food is probably in order because I used to read fiction all the time.
Óðinn and my other Gods have seldom had to push me to do or finish things relevant to my religion, whether that is research, spiritwork with Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir,, divination, and the like. Where He and other Gods have really had to push me is actually in the other direction: to relax, recuperate, and slow down. It’s damn funny to me when I type it out that right now I am actually working on relaxing. If I feel the writing bug and don’t scratch the itch it comes up later, sometimes worse. Often, in order to relax I have to do things that make me feel productive. It’s also true that some forms of work, like writing here, spiritwork, and divination can themselves be relaxing while also being work.
A pretty big tell for me if it is time to let myself rest is if Gods are telling me to slow down or relax. This is not something Gods do for/to me, generally, especially since there is trust and expectation on Their part that I will speak up if I am overwhelmed. So, if all I am thinking about is work, that is a big clue for me to explore what might be relaxing. If it is bad enough I will have to force myself to do something relaxing. Another big tell for me is that if I am doing something that I usually find relaxing, soothing, or enjoyable, and I am consistently worrying about ‘wasting my time’ then that means I need to acknowledge the feeling, let it pass, and keep on doing what it is I am doing.
If it sounds like I am doing a lot of working around anxiety that is because I am. Unfortunately, the United States’ work ethic is pretty horrible. Despite growing up Catholic and being a Heathen now, escaping the WASP overculture’s influence on how we view, engage in, and relate to work is something I am still working on exorcising. Telling myself or being told “I am enough” or “I have done enough” or even “I can relax” is hard to accept, especially if I do not feel it. It is odd, though, because my initial impressions are usually right with regards to “I can and should power through this” or “I can and should relax”. Where I tend to trip up is the expectations I feel I should be fulfilling, which is why “I can and should power through this” gets weighted far heavier in my head than “I and should relax.” So part of this is that I am trying to listen to my instincts better on this, and the other part is that I am trying to stick to those guns where relaxation, recuperation, and rest is concerned.
Far less rough for me is to know when to power through. If I am feeling challenged in a way that makes me excited to do the thing, even if I am exhausted, that is a pretty good tell. If the idea of not doing something outweighs my sense of frustration or weariness of it, that is usually a pretty good sign to power through it. I tend to feel this with regard to exercise. I have to make it fun or interesting. I need to do it for my health. So, squaring my shoulders (or legs) and just doing it provides me satisfaction after I am all said and done. Knowing when to power through feels fairly uncomplicated. I have something that needs to be done, and I do what I need to in order for it to be done. Getting to this point with rest, recuperation, and relaxation is a work in progress, and something I am aiming for.
I do not push through when it is clear the process I am going about is teaching me something through the process. Likewise, I do not push through when the relationship is unfolding through letting it unfold in an organic way. For instance, my relationship with Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir could not be pushed along. The unfolding of those relationships were teaching through the process and it had to unfold in an organic way or it would have been done poorly. When learning a new spiritual technique or engaging in a relationship that is usually not the time to push through. Things need to unfold as they will, and no amount of pushing is going to make a good relationships or make the lessons a God, Goddess, Ancestor, or vaettr has for me stick.
I push through when it is clear I have hit a roadblock or that in order to progress further in a lesson, work, etc I have to do so. For instance, it is adding on the five minutes or adding the next 5 pounds to a weight when I can physically take that on. It is having an obligation that I will fulfill because I gave my word. It is doing everything I can to meet obligations, clear debts, and do what needs to be done so my relationships can be healthy. I push when it is needed for gipt fá gipt, reciprocity, to be fulfilled.
I do not always know when it is best to relax or power through something. A powerful way that I assess if I need to relax or power through something is that I talk with those I love and trust. I ask my Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for Their input. I ask my family, my friends, my kyn. I ask for input, consider it, and sometimes follow it. I have avoided a lot of wasted energy this way, as well as avoided breakdown.
Some really useful phrases I have kept for a long while are “What does it do? How well does it do it?”
Does this action allow me to fulfill my obligations? How well? This action-oriented approach even to relaxing has made it easier for me to engage in relaxation. See, it takes relaxation out of the realm of something passive into the realm of something I am actively engaging in. I have to relax, I know I do, and in framing my relaxation as part of the cycle of Gebo, of gipt fá gipt, I do not need to justify my relaxation to myself. It justifies itself here. I am a more present, efficient, careful, and whole person when I have enough rest. It allows me to meet my duties, obligations, and engage in my interests by being well-rested. This evaluation works just as well when it comes to deciding whether I should power through something or not.
Figuring these things out, and even getting the skill to evaluate whether I need to relax or power through is a work in progress. I have had times where I clearly needed to relax, and instead, pushed through. I have done this with spiritual work, but it takes a toll, and unless there is an immediate need I do not recommend it. I have had times where I should have pushed hard to see something done and relaxed instead. Over the years listening to others, making mistakes and good calls, and learning from experience which intuitions and instruction to follow have been my best teachers.