I’m reading a book about walking the Camino, a pilgrimage trail in Spain that takes 35-40 days to walk. The descriptions of ill-fitting shoes causing massive blisters turn my stomach, and I wonder why people don’t a) break in their shoes before they go and b) get professionally fitted, and c) buy a new pair of shoes once they figure out the current pair is a bad fit.
You can guess where this is going. The ill-fitting shoes are a metaphor for life. We could be talking about your relationships, jobs, location-any number of pieces that could be a bad fit. If you’ve ever done a jigsaw puzzle, you know how it works. Despite an overwhelming disdain for puzzles, I’ve managed to find pieces that were an almost-right fit. The corners or edges seemed to match up, but when I tried to force the piece into the opening, it didn’t fit quite right. And then, of course, if I left it there, it would throw the whole puzzle off and throw my husband (a puzzle expert), into fits.
That’s what our lives are like. We might force a piece to fit, hoping “it’ll do”, and maybe it does for a while. But, the further along the puzzle progresses, the more you realize it won’t work.
We’ve all been in relationships that weren’t a great fit. Last week I interviewed a friend whose marriage was a good fit initially, or so it seemed, but it ended and she had to figure out how to live life without this piece of her puzzle.
I described in my big announcement episode how patient care had always been the perfect fit for me, but I began to feel like I was wearing the same pair of shoes I’d always worn, but on the wrong feet.
What about hobbies? Maybe you always scrap-booked when your kids were small. Now you still do it, but it feels like drudgery. Or you’ve always belonged to the same church or social organization, but over the years it no longer fits who you’re growing into. I grew up southern baptist and after leaving home, living up north near DC, and growing friendships with people of all different backgrounds, it no longer fit.
I had a different friend group when we moved back to Athens. I drank a lot more than I do now, we would get together and go to happy hour on a weekday after work! I now have friends I work out with or get together and eat a meal with, but my happy hour days aren’t a good fit anymore.
You dread your job or getting together with your friends
It feels like drudgery or at the least, it feels forced.
Perpetual bad mood or negative attitude
You feel relief when you imagine not doing whatever it is
When you think about yourself in 5 years, this part of you doesn’t have a place in your vision
Obviously, you shouldn’t quit a job or long-term relationship without some serious therapy to determine if this is the right move, but it’s important to allow yourself to imagine what life might be like if you let go of this thing. Ask yourself these questions:
Why are you continuing this thing?
What do you get out of the thing?
What does continuing this thing give you permission to do or not do?
How would you be different without this thing/person?
A small example is my yoga membership. I love doing yoga, but having a membership for the last year plus my perfectionist tendencies meant I felt like I wasn’t getting my money’s worth if I wasn’t doing it a few days a week. Except sometimes I didn’t want to. Sometimes I did it and felt negative thoughts for the entire first half of class. Another giveaway was when my internet would blip out and cut the class short, I felt relief.
Go through each of these areas of your life and assess areas where you feel dread and heaviness.
Your friends, your family, your partner. Your job (and you can go through all the parts of your job to determine if certain parts are a good fit and others you may have outgrown.) What about how you spend your free time? Think about the weeknights and the weekends. Sometimes as parents we don’t have a lot of choices. We go sit at gymnastics for 90 minutes twice a week. I was doing this and realized I didn’t enjoy the thumping music, the fluorescent lights, and the chalk dust in the air. I started sitting outside, walking, or reading a book. But it took weeks before I blinked and realized I was spending three hours a week doing something I didn’t want to be doing. Don’t let years go by wasted spending time on things that are a poor fit.