There’s a lot of discussion in the world about “if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do it” or “don’t wait until you’re ready, the world is at the end of your comfort zone.” For many people “ready” seems like a dirty word. It’s an excuse or a limit to what you can do, a crutch. But crutches exist for a reason—to help you walk when you’re injured.
I disagree with the notion that ready is an excuse or a cover for fear. Sometimes you can’t rush things. If you do something before you’re ready, you might set yourself back and eventually sabotage your efforts. If you try to work an injured muscle or bone before its healed you can injure it further. Pushing it isn’t always brave, courageous, or strong. Sometimes, what is wise and brave is knowing that you are not ready, that you can’t do something yet.
It has taken me a very long time to realize this. I thought pushing myself through pain and fatigue and all other limits was strength. In the last year, I’ve learned that I cannot rush some things, like healing and recovering. And this doesn’t just go for the physical (although it definitely does apply there too!), it is also the mental and emotional.
The other day I took a short hike after a long week. It wasn’t easy, but I felt at ease mentally and emotionally doing it. I knew that I wasn’t pushing myself to go further or work harder than I could. I knew that I was working myself, but it was within my ability. I knew I was going to be okay. I knew that I would have to rest up afterward, but I wouldn’t be debilitated by the excursion.
I’ve learned more and more to recognize that sense of ease. I don’t mean easy. Easy doesn’t require work or effort. Things that I can do with ease do, but they don’t carry a weight and a sense of trying not to be pulled down into the depths of a body of water as the anchor sinks.
For a long time I didn’t drive. I didn’t have a car during or after college and I relied on public transportation. When I got married and my husband began working more from home, suddenly I had access to a car fairly regularly. I was nervous to drive again—I felt rusty and nervous. What would driving in New England be like? In the ice, snow, rain, and one-way streets? I never learned how to drive in these conditions. I put off any driving for so long and then even with this car available I put it off a bit longer. I didn’t feel ready. I felt anxious, tense, uneasy: essentially unready.
Then after a certain point, knowing that a car would make some things easier, especially for my husband, I started to come to terms with driving again. I went out with my husband on practice drives, short ones and then eventually longer ones. Finally, I got on the highway again. I took my time and was patient with myself. As a result, I knew when I was on the highway I would be okay. And I was. It wasn’t without its challenges, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I didn’t get out of the car at the end feeling like I could never drive again. I felt confident instead. And that’s the difference between waiting until you’re ready and pushing yourself.
Sometimes you can’t avoid having to push yourself and that’s okay. Forgive yourself if it doesn’t go well or if you feel worse afterward. But if you can, I’ve found that waiting until I’m ready feels like a step forward, like an accomplishment, and more than that like I’ve healed or grown.
Lately, I’ve been feeling that ease more and more as I’ve allowed myself to get stronger and healthier—when I write, when I exercise, when I schedule my day. And when I need to take a break, I’m getting better about giving it to myself without guilt. That rest might be what I need to be ready to take on a new work project, start a new health investigation, or another adventure I haven’t thought of yet.
Photo by Khachik Simonian on Unsplash