I had a dream that I was in a long distance race. I’m in an absurd outfit: with a red high heel on my right leg and a worn sneaker on the left. A desperate thought goes through my mind: I have to run in such a way as to give the impression that I have two identical shoes. I also have velour overalls with an odd pattern. All this is terribly uncomfortable, but I still run, sometimes pushed by other runners, both men and women, as the run is co-educational. Several times my red heel crosses the race track line and I’m afraid that someone will see it and I will be disqualified. But in the end, this absurd, limping run gets me across the finish line first – I raise my hands in a gesture of victory and fall on my face. The red shoe slips off my feet. While I’m lying there, panting, a woman resembling Marit Bjoergen approaches me. In my dream I know that she is my coach. “Nice one”, she says sarcastically, practically irritated. “But why are you lying here”, she adds, “Why”; she repeats with the same exasperated tone of voice. Then she adds curtly, “We’re about to start”. “I don’t understand – start what?” I say, panting weakly. “The training!” It is clear Bjoergen is mad. “We’re starting the training now, the next run is tomorrow! I’ll be waiting in the changing room” she adds, turning on her heel. Then I see that she is limping too, as if she was wearing one high heel. I wake up tired.
This dream came to my mind at a coaching session during which my client – let’s call her Matylda – told me about her two personae. She called one of them the ‘Engaged One’ – a manager, always smiling, always ready for new challenges, always full of energy; a woman to whom helpless people ask for help from, when a problem arises. The ‘Engaged One’ always gives water to the thirsty, feeds the hungry, organises lives of the chaotic, captures every new, exciting business opportunity, does her make-up while waiting at the traffic lights and helps the child do homework over the phone, whilst rushing through the supermarket aisles and tracing unprocessed food with the precision of a sniper. In the competition, The ‘Engaged One’ gets to the race track early enough to do a warm-up and after she reaches the finishing line first, in her velour overall, she immediately gets up, even without Bjoergen’s groans, and rushes to the next training session in one shoe.
But there is also the other Matylda. We called her the ‘Crumpled One’. I didn’t get into details out of gentleness, but I know more or less what the day of the ‘Crumpled One’ looks like. The ‘Crumpled One,’ looks for a T-shirt in the wardrobe, pulls its sleeve and onto the floor a large ball of mysteriously tangled tights, socks and leggings fall, resembling old New Year’s resolutions and promises which were never kept. The ‘Crumpled One’ comes home after a day of work and gets under the blanket with a bottle of wine, a packet of crisps and a large tub of mango flavoured ice cream – she will eat ice cream first, proceed to crisps and then she’ll drink wine from a glass, from a cup or perhaps straight from the bottle.
When I talked to Matylda about the ‘Engaged One’ and the ‘Crumpled One,’ I remembered that I once discovered the same two internal personae in myself, only I called them the ‘Top Student’ and the ‘Saboteur.’ A wise person with whom I talked about it said something that I found revolutionary: “I think the Top Student is the Saboteur”. As Matylda and I began to analyse how strongly these two characters are intertwined within us, it dawned on me that they are like communicating vessels, triggering behaviours and reactions. As much as the ‘Engaged One’ overworks, overhandles and over woos the world, the ‘Crumpled One’ must crumple up, hit rock bottom and stock up on ice cream. That’s just the way it is. What is important is finding a balance.
Contrary to what we believe, along with some of our employers or household members, our energy reservoir is limited: there is no more fuel in the tank than the tank’s capacity. Although many women have made it a point of honour to master the art of running on fumes, someday our vehicle will make a strange noise and simply stop.
We concluded that the ‘Crumpled One’ deserves gratitude. That her intention is to protect us from ourselves, from the impulses of the ‘Engaged One,’ who out of the fear of imperfection, that not everyone will be fed and given water, that she will leave dust in the corner of her home and a typo in the presentation, would run us off our legs. To thank the ‘Crumpled One,’ I asked my client to organise the ‘Crumpled One’s Day,’ without waiting for her to force it. Ice cream, wine, Netflix and off to bed, without feeling guilty!
Yes, I know there are other healthy ways to regenerate: long walks in the woods, letting go of anxiety during meditation sessions and practising yoga. There is nothing wrong with them, I sometimes even use them myself. It is understandable that when you have worked hard, you need rest. But what if you rocked the boat? What if you ran in two different shoes, what if you forced yourself to take on a marathon after a run? What if you take that risk? If you overdo it, you have to give yourself time off.
So when are you having your ‘Crumpled One’s Day?’
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