go ahead and don’t- you’ll be glad you did.

I was talking with a colleague the other day about my slow and wandering bicycle ways, and she handed me a little sign that she keeps on her desk that says “you don’t have to go fast, you just have to go”. I took a deep breath, thinking that that this couldn’t be truer for where I am in my life- on my bicycle, on the yoga mat, and in general. There’s nothing I’m fast at these days …and very few things that give me so much of a sense of urgency that I feel the need to get frantic. This little sign, granting permission on one hand, and offering an alternative on the other, made me happy. I don’t have to go fast, but I do need to keep trucking forward, because life has a way of moving in that direction, and whether I want to or not, I have to go with it.

So I thought about all of the other things that I don’t need to do, just to take the pressure off. I offer the list here that I made for myself. I call it the “go ahead and don’t” list:

You DON’T have to make everyone happy: Because the more you try, the more frustrated, defeated, lonely, exhausted, and sad you will be. Trying to make everyone happy is impossible. (Note that this is not saying not to do good things, to be loving and compassionate, give gifts, or smile at the world- it is saying that despite all of those acts of love and kindness, some people are not going to be happy. They may not even like you. And that’s ok. You don’t have to like or be liked. And, also, people can take care of themselves….for the most part).

You DON’T have to act small: It’s ok to take up space. In fact, it’s liberating to be big in this world and to show your beautiful ways. Take pride in the things that you feel good about, toot your own horn, dance when you want to shake your backside, and sing out loud when the inspiration hits. People may look at you like you’re crazy or bitchy or they may even ask you to tame it down, but you only limit your possibilities by shrinking down, and you almost always resent or regret it when you do. So be large. Take up space.

You DON’T have to be perfect: In fact, perfection is not only impossible, it’s also very, very boring. The scars are what make you interesting and unique. The process of learning and trying in life add to the journey. The fact that you can’t do a handstand without the aid of the wall does not make you a lesser yogi, it makes you a person who is working toward doing a handstand. Period. The process itself is what matters- be authentic and real. Fail sometimes and learn from it. The handstand moments will come, and they will be mind-blowingly fabulous.

You DON’T have to follow: Trust your gut- it’s the best compass you have for your own life. Although others may know a more direct path, you’ve always appreciated the scenic route. Continue on your journey and ditch the map so that you get the chance to experience reality from your own perspective. Less metaphorically speaking, it’s acceptable to recognize that what works for other people often fails to work for you. So do what feels right for you and make up your own mind when you can. You’re a smart cookie.

You DON’T have to have the answers: Sometimes not knowing is far more interesting. Be curious and open yourself to learning through new interactions and experiences.  You will gain far more knowledge through shutting up and listening generously than trying to pretend you know something that you don’t. Genius is not gained through talk alone. Be humble with what you don’t know to make space for the new.  

You DON’T have to keep moving: Remember that you will not reach enlightenment through house cleaning alone. You have permission to stop cleaning, making, and doing. Take deep breaths and sit still from time to time. It feeds you in ways you rarely admit, and despite your antsy nature, you always appreciate it when you make space for silence and stillness. You deserve that for yourself.