Stand down

By Caitlin Kelly


Much wisdom in this (too-long) blog post, on Medium:

True growth and success is always sustainable. It’s not a short sprint with an inevitable physical, mental, and emotional crash. All goals are means, not ends. Each succeeding stage of your progression should clearly build one-upon-another, leaving you stronger and more able, not weaker and permanently damaged.

In order to do this, you must properly “recover” from the following things on a daily basis:

  1. Work

  2. Technology

  3. People

  4. Food

  5. Fitness

  6. Being awake

This is so damn smart!

This is so utterly counter-cultural.

I make it a point to recover from all six of these, as a matter of course and of self-care and self-preservation.

For numbers 1 through 3, I’m fortunate enough to be self-employed, so setting boundaries, and keeping them, doesn’t mean potentially threatening my livelihood.

For Number four, I eat 750 calories two days a week.

For fitness, I work out/exercise 3-4 days a week, sometimes (sigh) only twice.

Working from home, I nap as needed, sometimes as little as 15 to 20 minutes, sometimes 90 minutes; without dependents, not difficult.

Living in the United States these days, and I live/work near New York City in a thrashing/disrupted industry (journalism), means waking up every single morning in something of a panic.

Not helped by the daily chaos of Trump.

Whose civil rights will disappear tomorrow?

Which new executive order will require more calls and emails to elected representatives or another street protest?

Should we move back to Canada? When? Where?

If I stay — or if we go — would we be able to find work?


This is also brilliant, from a writing-focused website called Catapult:

Call it self-care, sure, or call it life, but a soul is a thing that requires tending. The soul is not quite interchangeable with “heart” or “mind,” or any other word we mean to denote only the “spiritual” part of a person. In the words of the philosopher Dallas Willard, the soul is the entire inner person, not detached from bodily life but inclusive of it, as well as heart and mind, thought and motivation, feeling and judgment. An untended soul drifts toward inertia.

But what does my soul benefit from being “productive”? Am I any number of inches closer to God because I wrote an essay that was praised by someone I desperately wanted to impress? What is the moral imperative to produce?

These questions are all tricks to say that I have no idea what the answer is. I know that when I am anxious, I often think I can produce my way out of it. I have an uneasy relationship with productivity, thinking my anxiety will be placated if I just do enough big things.


Every day, I see talented, experienced friends losing well-paid jobs in our field, with no certainty of being able to replace them. One pal needed almost an entire year to find his new job, yet another insecure contract position.

We also live in a time and age relentlessly demanding increased productivity.

We’re exhorted constantly to domorebetterfaster!


Not to think.

Not to reflect.

Not to sit still, alone, in silence.


Not to take good, slow, thoughtful care of our most valuable resource, our health.

And yet, and yet, we’re each of us simply human, de facto limited in some way, whether by lack of time, impaired physical stamina, weakened emotional energy or by restricted access to social capital or financing.

We’re not robots.

We’re not robots. We need to rest and recharge.

We’re not machines, no matter what laissez-faire capitalism (and stagnant wages) relentlessly demand.

We’re all running too hard, too fast.

As a result, many of us vibrate with anxiety, shoving sweets and fats and pills and liquor down our throats in an attempt to satiate much deeper, more painful sadness and anxiety, whether personal, political or professional.

Sometimes (sigh) all three.

It’s a very wise choice to pay attention, to read the signals, to try our best to stay safe and to protect the rights and needs of others.

But not 24/7.

Here’s a 14-minute story (from one of the best shows I listen to on NPR, the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC), about how stressed many Americans are feeling since the election of Trump.

Chronic anxiety will kill you.

Even soldiers need sleep, food, companionship.

Stand down!


14 thoughts on “Stand down

  1. Absolutely! We all need to take a break from time to time to regenerate. We need to have our priorities and stick to them, including “time outs” from the media frenzy over the current President. Exercise, naps and playing board games with my family are how I cope (oh, and escapist TV shows, too!).

  2. Interesting put into that context…as recovery from. I am proud to say, I have conquered, or gained a new perspective, or are in the process of fixing, all of those. Basically only took a mini breakdown, really, to recognize shite needed to change. Or, within that philosophy, when I’m “running hard” there is a good reason and one I’ve chosen. I have a more Buddhist mindset now and often remind myself…” they are Buddha”. Er…or I’m working on that one.

    And…like my physical job, which works out all my nervous energy, and gives me a good living wage, benefits, and a very satisfying work environment. Plus, biking 1/2 hour to work @4:30 am under a star filled sky, in awe of the beauty of things I have learned is adequate compensation for the extreme hour of the day.

    I desire less, live quite simply, and have recognized that when I was happiest, I have had less. So I have less, and I am happier. And, I don’t expect anything back, but I am in the habit when I leave for work to thank the spirits for everything and ask them to keep what I love safe. And I hop on my vintage bike and ride off to work.

    AND, learning to turn off my need to know “what the frick has the 45th done now” morning routine is in my own best interest. Ugh…that has been a bit tougher. BUT…I decided to create another space for me to vent, another blog where I can rant and rave and work out all my political fascinations/frustrations. Get them out of my head, and thrown to the wind.

    See, I have learned that the very action of writing for me is so very therapeutic, and almost sacred, that on the Temenos I don’t want to trash up the place with the ugliness that man ignites. He is not worthy.

    Phew…long winded, sorry. You hit a nerve I guess 😉 thank you, you are always a refreshing read.

    1. Thanks!

      Your bike ride sounds fantastic.

      The re-charging comes in so many ways — rest/sleep/meditation/nature/exercise/POV…probably all of these.

      I have tried hard not to write too often here about Trump and politics because I think we’re all sick of it, and of him, and for the same reason as you — this blog is meant to be an escape into pleasure most of the time, for me and for you.

    1. Well, it takes some getting used to!

      The hard core eat 500 cals/day but that would kill me. Once your body gets accustomed to it (2-3 wks), you’re good to go. Memorize the calorie counts of foods (I don’t use apps) and get used to using a measuring cup and measuring spoons to know what a 1/4 cup and 1 tbsp (for example) look like.

      I don’t only eat celery or low-cal. food those days, but small portions of cheese (Babybel, 80 cals) or a tbsp of peanut butter (100 cals) and mix that up with salads, a cup of soup, etc. Basically, on fast days, almost no carbs will fit into your calorie count.

      That, PLUS spin class 2x wk, is helping. And, no liquor between Sunday pm and Friday p.m.

      1. The first few weeks you might feel really tired. Fast days are not a ton of fun but you get used to it. Eat breakfast as late as possible (8:30-9:30); lunch by 1pm; a tiny snack, dinner by 6pm. Drink a lot of tea, water, coffee, occasional diet soft drinks.

  3. Excellent advice! I like the Medium blogger’s structure of listing the six areas we need to “recover” from. I’m a list person — lists keep me organized, motivated and on track. 🙂

    I don’t want to get caught up in the ‘rat race’ and the endless hamster wheel of productivity (two rodent metaphors there, ha!). I’m happy to live simply, with less. Like the example of the young investment banker in your post about conversations at the bar, what’s the point in chasing after millions if it’s only making you miserable?

    I want to have a fulfilling career but as long as my needs are met (living costs, enough money for occasional luxuries, travel, savings, pension etc), I’m not driven by the desire to become wealthy. However, it must be said that even making enough money to meet basic needs is a struggle for many people in this economy.

    By the way, did you change your blog layout recently? It’s the first time I’ve visited for a while on my laptop (I usually read posts on my phone) and it looks different. I was looking to see if you had a “search” box, as I wanted to see if you had written any posts about professional networking/LinkedIn.

    1. It takes real thought and commitment to decide how to live one’s life — not just follow the herd or chase $$$$$.

      I liked the Medium writer’s POV — very clear and well thought out.

      Yes, new blog theme as of about a month ago. I haven’t blogged about LinkedIn. I have blogged a fair bit about work…I need to add more widgets!

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