The Simply No Pressure Life

Photo Courtesy Miles Aldridge- Vogue Italy March 2005

I wasn’t sleeping and it was driving me crazy. I would go to bed and fall asleep and then around the blessed hour of three o’clock in the morning I would wake up and just lie there completely awake. Very aware of the shadows of the trees dancing on my pearly white walls. Very aware of the hum of my air conditioner. Very aware that during the few hours I did sleep I was moving around frequently as my fitted sheet no longer hugged the corner of my sky blue floral mattress and instead curled around my toes.

I had a presentation quickly approaching. The new semester at my university would be starting and I still had programs and contracts to finalize and new interns to prepare and train. Several students emailed while I was away and wanted to start counseling prior to the semester’s official start. I knew I wouldn’t be around much this weekend and the following weekend I was set to be in DC. I still had to book a trip back to the west coast mid fall and this time my sister and nephew were planning to join me and I was already thinking of how to make it their best time ever. The pressure to fast track the next couple of weeks of my life was on.

Now, I don’t know about you, but waking up tired from a restless night didn’t particularly leave me ready to do anything fast except get back in bed. Where was this pressure coming from? I was feeling less like myself and more like I needed to prepare to entertain the groups I’d present in front of, the students I’d counsel, the students I was creating programs for,  the interns I was to supervise (no one wants a lame internship experience), my sister and nephew. I felt like I needed to dig out my tap shoes, sequin tuxedo jacket, and hat for my routine.

Photo Courtesy of the Philadelphia Folklore Project

I called Stephanie, friend and member of my dream team, and told her about the sleeplessness and being pretty convinced it was due to me telling myself that with everything coming I needed to it all right. I wouldn’t say perfect, because well that’s not realistic. However I could totally and  realistically have some sleeplessness as a result of my need to do things right and knowing that if I do things right then others will be satisfied and happy with me right?!

I hope you didn’t say “Right.” Because as soon as I verbalized those thoughts to Stephanie, I knew before she said it that I was not at all being fair to myself and that I can’t control or be responsible for how people think or feel.

Sometimes we can get so used to being responsible for things, wanting to control every aspect of everything, that we take away from our genuine personable-ness and life, instead  becoming a character whose role is to entertain in a production of life. Talk about pressure!

Sometimes  I look at all that I have going on and I just want to do it all right and make sure everyone else is satisfied that I completely override my own satisfaction. I had forgotten all I ever have to do is my best. All I have to do is know that I gave the presentation, program, session, trip, 100% of Ahyana J. King. How people choose to respond to what I offer is up to them. Surely what I do and say can influence a response, but at the end of the day ultimately I’m not responsible for the thoughts and feelings of others.  Ultimately, YOU are not responsible for the thoughts and feelings of others.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Brooks Vogue Germany 2011

I had to tell myself that a few times, especially as I rehearsed my presentation for Monday, began filling my calendar with new students and meetings for the next term, completed contracts for guest speakers at the programs I designed, talked with my sister about our travel plans, etc. As I did, the pressure began to lift and the temptation to pull out the tap dancing costume dissipated. As I reminded myself that I am enough, I could embrace the simply no pressure life. A simply no pressure life is not a life completely free from pressure, but it should certainly be void of the pressure one self invites due to unrealistic expectations like being responsible for the thoughts and feelings of others.

What areas of your life have you invited the pressure of being responsible for someone else’s thoughts or feelings?
How do you remind yourself that your best is what matters most?

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