My back and shoulders have been tight the last week or so. Normally I'd just chalk this up as getting old or a result of my college pole vaulting days (and the many injuries I collected). Instead, I've started to think a little deeper about my body and what it might be trying to tell me. Along the lines of "know thyself" I want to understand how my mind impacts my body and how my conscious thoughts and feelings don't always represent what my mind is processing. I started to wonder, could these tight muscles be related to stress?
When I think through my life, it's not one I'd describe as stressful. That's just my view of it. I'm sure others could see opportunity for stress, such as when I broke my arm in half in high school, lost our house and had to live on a boat, had to live off the charity of others for 6 years working in ministry, bootstrapping a company with responsibilities including securing hundreds of thousands of credit cards and over a billion dollars in transfers, etc, etc. In my mind, it doesn't register as stress. I can think of one time during a failed infrastructure migration where I felt like I was going to throw up (I literally got a bowl next to me). That was clearly stress and my body was clearly responding. When I think back on that moment, what stands out most to me was the feeling of no control. The migration had failed and it looked like we weren't going to be able to migrate our data back to the old system. Thousands of stores were broken, and I didn't see a way out.
Thankfully, my business partner at the time found gigs of logs to clear out, and we survived and thrived. The lesson is still there: stress comes from feeling like you have no control, but you have an expectation that you should have control and that it's all relying on you (but you feel powerless).
As I think about my journey of self-discovery, I realize my body is always communicating to me. Even though the responsibilities I've been signing up for with the EOS Foundation and the Foundation for Interwallet Operability (FIO) seem to me like exciting challenges, I also have to recognize there are plenty of things out of my control. I also have existing responsibilities to eosDAC, Steem, and other projects I support. To feel no stress would be a bit strange, especially with regards to signing long, complicated legal documents (something I already know causes me stress). So it's no wonder muscles in my body are tight. The wonder is, I don't recognize and categorize stress for what it is. Even if I don't "feel" stressed when describing my current state of mind, it's more than possible my brain, sub-consciously, is recognizing the responsibilities and the lack of control over outcomes and deciding that's something to send an alarm signal over. If that signal isn't appreciated for what it is, I imagine my sub-conscious trucks along doing what it does until eventually it sends signals to the body to brace for impact, so to speak.
So instead of focusing on all the work I want to get done, I decided to take a rest, and enjoy Thanksgiving and Friday (traditionally a day many in the U.S. take off from work). I'm going to do my best to listen to my body and understand what it is feeling and what signals it is sending. I'm going to think clearly about the responsibilities before me and my own sense of ego in relationship to what success (and failure) mean within those responsibilities.
I tend to push myself rather hard and expect a lot. In my ego, I'm beginning to realize, there's a part that believes I'm better than average. Not only that, I might even believe I'm better than most. Maybe that's rooted in a competitive nature that came from college athletics and being accepted in an Ivy League school. Maybe that's because I believe the voices that tell me I'm great. Maybe it's something else. Either way, I realize, it's not necessarily a healthy thing to think you are better than others. You may get some sense of security for a time, but ultimately you are left with constantly expanding expectations where failure is not an option. How can you convince yourself you are the best if you fail?
I think it's better to acknowledge the truth that you not only will fail, but failure is part of the process of showing you your true self, not your ego-inflated version of yourself. It's also a way to slow down and clarify what you can influence and what is outside of your sphere of influence. Stress, I think, comes on mostly from taking responsibility for things you can't control.
So, if I'm right, my back will feel better as I go deeper into my own sub-conscious thoughts and worries which manifest themselves in my very muscles. If I go deeper and let go of my expectations of outcome, I have a hunch my muscles will let go also. The driving force of responsibility that causes us to work harder and longer and more effectively than those we see around us can also be a cruel task master. The answer, as with so many things, is to let go.