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When Healing Becomes a Hustle

Written By: Meaghan Shaffer



I did everything right. I created a morning routine that would make Brené Brown envious, complete with a workout, reading, gratitude, and journaling on a cozy chair with my coffee in hand.

But I ruined it. I couldn’t keep up. I’d miss a day and have trouble jumping back in. I figured it must be the journaling, which was far too rigid and too much pressure. So, I switched to doodling and then meditation instead of gratitude. But nope. That wasn’t it either.

Maybe I just wasn’t disciplined.

Or maybe I needed to consolidate.

I bought a fancy planner with a section for daily/weekly/monthly goals and notes and journaling and cycle phases and moon phases . . . I mean, it was an all-in-one smorgasbord of goodness just waiting for me to dive into every day. It was so very extra. And it thrilled me.

Eventually, I dreaded lugging that thing out and it began to gather dust.

Instead, I broke my goals and doings into categories: Spiritual, Creative, Operational, and Physical. That plan was so refined but never saw the light of day because it was much too fucking much.

Maybe I needed to wake up a little earlier.

Or maybe I needed to shift into more of a nighttime routine.

Or maybe I needed to simplify.

Or maybe . . . I’d replaced hustling for my worth with hustling for my healing.

 

I plowed through life doing all of the things expected of me; doubling down and enduring when things felt wrong, but appearances were on point. Hustling. Until I couldn’t. Until it was a matter of “let go or be dragged” (Zen Proverb). The compelling calamity was infertility and loss; the impact was an internal ultimatum - either withdraw completely or figure out a way to live a life that made me feel whole.

I didn’t have these words at the time, I wasn’t sure what I was striving for, I just wanted to feel better . . . good, even. As it turns out, there was a lot to unpack – an entire lifetime. But that was okay, because I was going to be the best at healing. I was going to do it just right. The same way I’d planned to be the most proficient college student and graduate early (it took me five years). The same way I was going to find the most fulfilling career (I worked in a horribly toxic environment for more than seven years). The same way I was going to get married and do the only thing I was confident I would be good at . . . motherhood (well, that was a total shitshow).

I found a therapist, I started writing, and over time I worked toward several iterations and evolutions of what I thought healing should look like amongst more loss and more doctors and more surgeries until I found myself in the aforementioned pu pu platter of morning strategies.

I’d not yet let go of this idea that everything should look appealing, be organized, well-articulated, and excessively presentable. But that is not life; that is not real. And I was exhausted.

So I quit.

I quit journaling, doodling, writing, and meditating. I quit trying to control the process, the timing of things, and the outcome. Mostly, I quit trying to control how I was seen by the world and started taking more of an interest in how I was seen by me.


I made my world very small. I leaned into what felt good and let go of what didn’t. I earned back the trust in myself I’d relinquished long ago. I focused on the power of the truth that lived inside only me, the guidance only I could offer myself, even when—especially when—that knowing voice told me to do or say the hardest thing.

Healing was (and continues to be) neither pretty nor linear. It was scary and brutal and lonely; it was also beautiful and empowering and life giving. It was found in anything that allowed me to get acquainted with my very core; the bravery of asking for what I wanted and needed; the courage to live in my integrity and inherent worth, and possibly most importantly – out loud.

All of the neatly packaged work I’d done wasn’t for nothing. The gratitude, the writing, and the meditation were great tools, but eventually, they became performative, and I started to hide behind them - avoiding crucial steps and big truths. I was comfortable in the hustle; it’s what I knew. It was a long-held survival mechanism that had once served me well. But not anymore, hustling was a barrier to wholeness.

 

We are all enduring or recovering from something: a persistent or chronic medical condition, a profound loss, our childhood, a life-altering change, chronic stress, a death, mental health concerns, burnout; the very heaviest things we carry with us and do life in spite of. Sometimes these things look like addiction, anxiety, perfectionism, disengagement, fear, or bullying. Often, we are dealing with several of these at once because life is complicated and layered and quite the mess.

I can’t tell you how to work yourself out of these things; that road is deeply personal and sacred. The process is a unique path only you can forge. I can tell you that it will likely feel uncomfortable and lonely and breathtaking and beautiful and sometimes all of these all at once. But, it happens in the in-between. Not in the trying. Not in the running. Not in the noise. Not in the chaos. Sometimes it is in big moments that are definable, and sometimes it is in small moments that are both imperceptible and massive; quiet and loud; gentle and strong.


Maybe the best morning routine ever allows you to tap into exactly what you are looking for. Wonderful. That said, if you find yourself holding on a wee bit too tight; in a panic because you missed a day, or are having trouble sticking to the schedule or pace or idea you’ve set for yourself (the one that sounded good in theory, but felt off in reality), maybe there’s a reason. Maybe you need to give yourself a bit of grace, freedom, and space to let your way find you.

My way isn’t your way; my thing isn’t your thing. But I promise you, If your path to healing is too hard or makes you feel like something is wrong with you or encourages you to play small or betray your truth, it is also not the way.

Your way doesn’t have to look pretty or be perfectly planned or well-articulated or even at all articulated. It just has to feel true; it has to feel like you. In the words of Andrea Gibson, “You are the best thing that has ever happened to you.”

You are the truest thing. If you are going to hold on tight to anything, hold on to you.


 

Meet the Author

Meaghan Shaffer

Meaghan strives to live true and out loud; to embody more compassion, grace, courage, and joy. This mission is ever a work in progress . . . possibly more of a practice, really.




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