Off the Mat: The Deep End vs. In Over Your Head

Going Deep

Do you let your kids quit? Do you let yourself quit? In this month’s “Off the Mat: Reflections on the Practice of Parenting,” Ginny Hamilton explores the difference between being comfortable in the deep end and being in over your head.

Today, I quit. I’m not big on quitting. But I am proud of myself in a way. Hear me out.

In September, my son started swim lessons. Despite our best intentions for fun, exercise, and life skills, it quickly became a dreary slog. Timing is everything, and Fridays after school isn’t his best time. Even so, I refuse to let him consider quitting until he can swim in water over his head.

Last week, when offered a Monday lesson slot, we switched without hesitation. Suddenly, swimming was fun again! He cut through the water, head down, crawl strong, buoyed by success.

In September, I purposefully committed to one big professional network and one big volunteer endeavor. The professional connection was intimidating at first. But I’ve risen to the challenge. I’m figuring out the system, linking with like-minded colleagues, and having fun. I look forward to meetings and to supporting my peers as we all strive to grow our businesses. It’s what I was hoping for.

But by the time my work day is done and gears switch for after-school, homework, dinner, kiddo bedtime, I’m spent. I don’t want to get back on the computer or back out the door to volunteer. I found myself dreading the responsibility and falling into annoying old passive patterns of resistance to the commitments I myself had made.

So I quit.

Of course it was not that simple. And it was.

It’d been a particularly tedious weekend. November flying by. Tired parents, ornery kid. Unkempt house, dust and mold exacerbating allergies. Crash coming. So Monday morning, after launching boy onto bus, I went directly to my mat, a meditation guidebook nearby. Loosened body through movement. Settled into stillness.

In the quiet, still place, the guidebook’s questions struck me full force. “What obligation do I wish to be free of? What part of my ego does it serve? What would I rather do with my energy?”

Flash back to volunteering when my son was a baby. I thought I had the time and energy. I wanted to help. I was deeply committed to the organization. Even as the job sucked me dry, I kept at it out of obligation. Because I had said I would. Because I felt guilty and embarrassed to quit.

Now, guilt comes from letting down other volunteers in over their heads. Embarrassment from publicly jumping in with both feet. Sitting in stillness with guilt and embarrassment, I ask myself, “are you going to keep doing something that drains you to avoid guilt and embarrassment?”

For the last dozen years – for real! – I’ve made a concerted effort to focus more on being, less on doing. By spreading myself thin, I’d avoided depth. Doing less has helped patterns surface, then shift.

So I resigned today. With heartfelt apologies for swamping others. Guilt and embarrassment remain. The junior high worry-self wonders what people will think of me. But my hope is, I’m learning. Learning to sink into stillness. To float there. To dive into projects that feed my reserves and to move away from ones that drain me.

Maybe next time, I‘ll start in the shallow end.

[Photo credit: (cc) SphericalBoy]


Ginny Hamilton

Ginny is a pain specialist, yoga instructor, and Reiki practitioner, offering classes and support to busy moms carrying the pain of too much stress and too little exercise, rest, and self-care time. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.

2 Comments on “Off the Mat: The Deep End vs. In Over Your Head

  1. We’re all slow learners, Tracy! Teaching/writing/sharing helps me practice what I most need to learn myself. Glad to share this with you.

  2. Doing less & focusing one’s energies seems like a good way to live more & be more. I am learning this through your example & others. It’s too bad I’m such a slow learner, but I’m trying.

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