Knowing When to Hit CTRL+ALT+DELETE on Life

So this morning, as I meandered to the beach to watch the water, drink my coffee and consider what’s next, I kept thinking about Al Pacino. 

A close up greyscale image of a woman sipping coffee, alongside a quote that reads, "Meander along the beach, savour your coffee, and contemplate what 'next' entails."

Even though self care is incredibly important, being expected to be a woman who has-and-does-it-all-before-breakfast makes it near impossible to find time for yourself in the busyness of daily life.

Maybe you fell into the well of society’s archaic gender roles and you can’t see a way out. Possibly you volunteered-as-tribute, many moons ago, and found out too late there’s no take-backs! 

If you juggle being the carer, the nurturer, the goal-getter, the bread-winner and the live-in chef, chances are you end up feeling guilty in the rare moments of calm and quiet, because you really should be doing something more productive with your time. Ugh. It’s EXHAUSTING. 

Taking a self-imposed time-out is not only necessary, it’s goddamn courageous. It takes will and determination to put yourself first, especially when the world repeatedly suggests that you are a woman – therefore it’s your duty to be more, give more, do more. 

I decided to hit ‘CTRL+ALT+DELETE’ on my life for a few days.  Like pretty much everyone in my corner of the world, the endless state of heightened anxiety – of pandemic fatigue, of the tumult of fear-mongering and mixed messaging and lockdown after f*cking lockdown – became all-too-much.  Stopping short of an epic bridge-burning/life-imploding meltdown, I made the decision to step back and recalibrate.  I did this in the form of three days of self-imposed solitude in a place far from home.  

You might be thinking, “DUDE! You’ve been working remotely and without a team since March 2020.  You don’t need solitude, you need people!”. But to know me is to know I do my best self-care in a space away from everyone and everything that is familiar.  It might be illogical, but it’s how I regroup.  It’s worked before and it’s saved my sanity on too many occasions to count, so it’s become my default strategy.

So this morning, as I meandered to the beach to watch the water, drink my coffee and consider what’s next, I kept thinking about Al Pacino.  He delivers this incredible speech as a football coach in the film, Any Given Sunday.  I can’t remember if the film is worth watching or not, because it’s been a decade or more since I’ve seen it, but I very frequently revisit ‘the speech’ via YouTube (and I have used this many times over the years with my Year 9s – to teach them the power of persuasion.  Not gonna lie – Year 9 boys eat this up.  Especially the final part where Pacino roars, “That’s the f*cking difference between winning and losing, between living and dying!”).  

There’s a section where Pacino’s character says: “When you get old in life, things get taken from you.  That’s part of life.  But you only learn that when you start losing stuff.  You find out that life is just a game of inches”.  

As I sat on the beach, basking in the calming rhythm of the nearby lapping waves, and the modest rays of the winter sun, this chunk of the speech played on loop in my head – complete with Pacino’s unmistakable cadence, tone and temper.

Life is a game of inches.  Replete with sliding door moments, omnipresent uncertainties and infinite intangible wins. Life is a lurching journey – inch by inch – from one monumental milestone to the next.  For every exhilarating win, there seems to be an equally weighted loss being experienced somewhere else, simultaneously.  If you’re prone to comparing your circumstances to ‘others’ or you’re a highly sensitive soul (like me), the burden of life – the game of inches – can feel insurmountable some days.  

So what have I learned (or remembered) from three days of self-imposed exile – from hitting CTRL+ALT+DELETE on my life?  Eleventy-hundred things, actually, but below are the top five.

Y’all ready for this?

You cannot serve others to the best of your ability, if you don’t take time for yourself.  

When you’re running on empty, it’s impossible to give your best to those you love. In order to be the you-est you, it’s fundamental to commit to actions that nourish your soul – physically and emotionally. 

When you take care of yourself by engaging in self care triage, you’re better equipped to show up for others with a mindset of abundance, rather than one of ever-increasing resentment.

My preferred method of recalibration (solitude, silence but for nature, a weighted blanket and cereal for dinner) may sound like hell on earth to you – choose the recalibration process that works best for you.  Schedule it.  Commit to it for yourself and go figure out where you are, versus where you want to be. That way you can execute a plan to get from A to B!

If not now, then when?

Leaping into the unknown can be scary. But it can also be exhilarating, exciting, and empowering. When you take a chance and back yourself, you open up a world of possibilities. 

You might discover hidden talents. 

You might find yourself in new and outrageously amazing places. 

You might meet the people you once thought could only exist in your imagination. 

Or you might simply feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement that comes from knowing you took a risk and made it work. 

If you’re feeling like you’re wading through mud, ask yourself: what’s holding me back from taking a chance? Take a breath. Close your eyes if you need to. And leap. 

There’s always a reason to put off taking your leap: it’s scary (and heights seem to mess with depth perception so much more with every passing year)!  But if we take only one life lesson away from the global pandemic, it’s that we just don’t know how long we have on this planet.  Tickety-toc, Teresita! 

When I first began contemplating quitting my corporate job and the conventional 9-5 life, the mantra, ‘If not now, then when?’ incessantly cut laps of my brain. The buzz-killing grouch whispering doubt in my ear, however, always had a reason an excuse for why I should maintain the status quo: 

  • You’ve just got married(!) 
  • You’re building a house – you’ve got a mortgage and financial obligations
  • Yes, your job is soul-destroying BUT it gives you stability in an unstable world, and it’s the easiest job you’ve ever had!
  • A life of beer and skittles just isn’t realistic – stop dreaming.
  • You’ll make so many people uncomfortable if you pull the pin on “normal” – don’t rock the boat.
  • And so on and so forth to infinity and beyond.

The point is, it feels like it’s never the right time to take a calculated risk. And there are ALWAYS reasons – some valid, some not – to play it safe and to fall in line with conventional expectations. But ships weren’t built to stay in the sanctuary of the harbour. There comes a point where you need to flip the bird to your own shoulder-crouching, buzz-killing, nay-saying grouch and just go for it. If not now, then when? Seriously.

Take a chance, take a leap, back yourself in, because if not now, then when?! You never know, it just might be the best damn thing you’ve ever done for yourself.

YOU are your number one cheerleader.

No one ever achieved anything great by sitting on the sidelines and waiting for someone else to do it for them. The truth is, if you want something (ANY thing!) to happen, you have to be the one to make it happen. Only you can push yourself to achieve your goals and reach your full potential. 

Like me, you may be lucky enough to have a super supportive spouse and/or a handful of ride-or-dies that champion you to “Do it. DO IT.  DO IT!”.  That said, if you are not leading your own cheer squad, it’s never gonna happen – whatever “it” happens to be.  

Identify it. Plan it. Do it for nothing but the powerful beat of your own bodacious heart.

Know your ‘Why’.

FUN FACT: I’m obsessed with ‘WHY’. I’m specifically fixated on the interconnected elements of why that pertain to:

  • Figuring “it” all out; 
  • Determining my purpose and the value I can offer in contribution to the world; and 
  • Understanding how to create the conditions that’ll enable others to exceed their own expectations.

Simon Sinek writes: “There are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.  Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief  – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”.

Understanding the why of anything (and everything) comes back to the story:

  • What’s the story you are telling yourself?  
  • What’s the story you are selling to others?  
  • Who’s the hero in your story?  (If it ain’t you, HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!?‍?)
  • Where are you actually going and WTF are you planning on doing when you get there?
  • Why did you set out to begin with?
  • Can you adapt to unforeseen circumstances, or do you fall prey to the first bogeyman that jumps out from behind the skip bin?

I want you to think about it:

  • What’s the “thing” that makes you get out of bed in the morning?
  • What were you put on this earth to achieve, to do, to fix, to change, to help, to abolish, to rebel against, to accomplish?  
  • What gives you a sense of purpose and makes you realise you are making a difference? 

Once you can answer these big questions – once you know your why – the pieces start to click together just that little bit easier.  Legit.

Set actionable goals (and smash them).

The ugly truth is this: most of the research you’re doing to ‘figure it all out’ is merely procrastination disguised as productivity. It’s time to determine what you want and to pursue it with the zeal of Artemis – the Greek goddess of the hunt.

It’s time. Work out what you want, sketch out the steps you need to take to turn lofty thoughts into achievable actions. Create self-imposed deadlines to make it easier to measure your progress and track your motivation. Then – when you’re ready – step up and swing, batter-batter, SWING! ?

In a world of constant change, it can be difficult to know who you really are. We’re bombarded daily with messages telling us who we should be and how we should behave. It can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. Remember, however, that the real you is still in there. 

Maybe she’s just waiting for her awakening. 

Maybe she’s hiding out, hoping the hard stuff will roll past, leaving her unscathed. 

Maybe she’s just itching to take the first step on a life-defining adventure of self-discovery. 

In her ground-breaking examination of Anxiety, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson unpacks the urge for authenticity.  Wilson writes: 

“I yearn for a complete sense of self; I’m not sure it’s something I can find or something I just have to wait for. I want to be authentic. I yearn to find the real me. I feel I am missing a connection with myself. But the thing is I want to find it while “life-ing.” I want to have yearning and be in this life. Everything seems to be fractured, rather than unified as my gut tells me ought to be the case. This stems from a yearning for the world to make sense, to fit together. I yearn for life direction and purpose…I want to wake up. I feel like a zombie going through the motions of work and married life and the real me is dormant. I want to know the real me, even if I have no idea what the real me is. To know the connection to a bigger force. To know that the universe has got this one. It burns at me every day to know that everything I’m doing makes sense.” 

When you make time for yourself – to discover who and why you are here, you’re telling the world that you matter.  Long story short, LIFE is short.  It’s a game of inches.  If you break down your challenges, your desires, your plans and aspirations into little digestible chunks, the only thing between the goal and the attainment is the doing part.  It’s time.  As Stephen King puts it: “Get busy living, or get busy dying”.  And as the ride-or-die cheerleaders chant: “Do it. DO IT. DO IT!”

  • Watch Reese Witherspoon’s iconic scene where she emphasises “It’s EXHAUSTING!”, HERE.
  • Watch Al Pacino’s epic ‘Life is a Game of Inches’ speech, HERE.)

Subscribe below to get Silver Penned delivered express to your inbox each week! ?