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Rushing Past Ourselves
5 questions for self-proclaimed needy woman, coach, and author Mara Glatzel
This book is so juicy that I can’t help but organize a pop-up book club on it. RSVP here. Buy the book here. Mara will join us! We can’t wait to hear your thoughts, questions, and experiments with reclaiming your sovereignty.
Examined Family is written by a recovering convenience addict. Turns out she has needs. One of them is to get paid to keep producing these dope Q&As for you. If you subscribe already, thank you! If you don’t, now’s a great time.
Merely reading the title of Mara Glatzel’s book sort of knocked the wind out of me:
What immediately struck me was a) my internal recoiling at the word needy and b) my intrigue towards the word sovereignty. The book was recommended to me by one of the friends I trust most to be on the cutting edge of culture, plus I found the language in that title so challenging and fresh that I knew I needed to see what this was all about.
And let me tell you, reader, it got me good. Unlike any other book I’ve read on self-care or related topics, it helped me see myself differently in all kinds of quiet moments. It turns out what I do in those quiet moments has profound impact on how I feel in much bigger ones—who I blame for my exhaustion, how I navigate overwhelm, how resentful I feel that I am muscling through chaos again without asking for help or the recognition I want. This book really undid me in a lot of important ways that I’m still working out. I couldn’t wait to connect with Mara, who gave me, and is giving so many people, this gift of witness and challenge. Meet Mara…
Courtney Martin: You write: “We may be able to easily pinpoint large breaches of trust but unable to pinpoint the small ways our trust in ourselves and others is undermined on a daily basis--through action, inaction, cruel words, and refusals to witness the fullness of our existence.” I am working on rebuilding trust with myself in little ways and it's hard! I’ve spent so many years not listening to myself until I’m in resentment mode. Any advice for the early, tender days?
Mara Glatzel: The most important thing to remember in building trust is that how you speak to and about yourself either has the capacity to rebuild or further destroy that trust.
That means that how you talk to yourself about how you talk to yourself is just as important as trying to be kind all of the time. Can you offer yourself compassion as you practice? Can you notice your resentment as it builds and remind yourself “Oh! That is what happens when I haven’t been listening” and turn towards yourself in those moments to ask what you might have been missing? Can you remind yourself that your intention is to be kind and to pay closer attention to the circumstances or situations that you find yourself stuck back in old patterns?
Rebuilding is slow, intentional work. It is the choice to relate to yourself differently as much as you are able, and to bring your awareness to moments when doing so becomes more challenging. This isn’t something to do perfectly.
Your relationship with yourself requires your presence, not your perfection.
I loved your distinction between active and passive rest activities. Can you explain that?
Often, meeting our voracious need for rest can feel overwhelming if we aren’t able to log more horizontal hours in our beds or fit in a nap, so it becomes essential to consider the ways that we can braid active rest into our lives. Passive rest is sleep. Active rest includes activities that require energy to complete, but provide us with more energy than they require. This might be going for a walk in nature, reading a book, cooking -- or, for me, detailing my car. This is an activity that does require energy, but the return that I receive mentally and emotionally from transforming a small space is enormous.
When we feel tired, it can be powerful to think broadly about what rejuvenates us beyond sleep, so that we can create more restful moments in our daily lives.
I feel like I decided, at a very young age, that the people around me had enough needs, preferences, and personality that it was my job to be chill and convenient. It has served me well in many ways. How do you help clients distinguish between being genuinely easy going and suppressing their own desires/needs? I get confused a lot.
The social pressure to be chill and convenient is enormous, especially for humans of all genders who were raised as girls. We are taught to bend and acquiesce, and that our belonging is contingent upon making ourselves easy to be with. Now, of course, we all have different personalities, and that lends itself to different temperaments around having needs or not, but I think that by and large, we feel calmer and more grounded when our needs are met. For some of us who experience this it is because luck would have it that we have a life that already meets many of our needs! This doesn’t mean we don’t have them, it just means that our environment is working for us overall. For those of us who feel less chill as it relates to our needs, it might be because our environment is not adequately working for us, and we must advocate for the needs that aren’t being met, both to and with ourselves and with others.
The crux of it is this: ALL humans have needs. There is nothing wrong with having needs. Acknowledging, honoring, and advocating for our needs is how we fine tune our environments in order to more safely and genuinely belong in them. They are guideposts to a life that is rich, fulfilling, and deliciously satisfying.
This is easier for some of us than it is for others. For me, for example, as a person with an anxious attachment style, I am highly attuned to not having my needs met, because I trend towards being more hyper vigilant about my surroundings and assessing my safety in relationships. This doesn’t mean I have more or less needs, but it does mean that I might be more sensitive to having those met -- and also might have some shame about that, having also bought into the chill and convenient mentality during my adolescence.
I read your and Jenny Odell's new book, Saving Time, one right after the other and it was a really interesting pairing. It made me think about how for me, someone trying to grow into knowing my own needs and desires better, one of the biggest factors is time. I have to sit in front of the rows and rows of socks at Target and actually try to feel out what texture, color, size is right, not just grab the cheapest, do-able thing and keep it moving. How do you think about time as it relates to sovereignty?
We need to have access to our own precious resources—our time, energy and attention—in order to do the work of tending to our needs. For those of us who are used to rushing past ourselves because we believe we don’t have the time to slow down, this can be a very uncomfortable concept.
I know that for myself, I was raised with a full understanding of it being Right and Good to be a productive person who did things quickly and perfectly and was generally pleasing to the people around me. This life approach left little time, energy, or attention for tuning in to myself to see what I wanted or needed.
When I started this process of turning inward, I was dismayed by how long it took and how unproductive it felt. But, I also noticed that when I slowed down, I tended to make better decisions that lasted longer instead of going with what was cheapest and easiest, and inevitably setting myself up to have to deal with it again in the near future.
You’ve been on this journey for over a decade. What’s a need you surfaced that surprised or made you laugh?
I am continually surprised by how young and tender some of my needs are to be seen and heard and held. They rarely make me laugh, but often bring me to my knees. There is so much healing for me in allowing myself to be open to these needs and ask for simple things, like a hug in a moment of overwhelm. We are taught that being an adult means shouldering responsibility and caring for what needs caring for, but too many of us have our childhood pain for slowness, for acknowledgement, and for consideration.
We might resist “caring for our needs” because it feels as though we have so much on our plates, but magic happens when we find the time and space to offer ourselves the gentleness that we are aching for. It doesn’t have to be complicated or grand -- many days a hug or a handful of validating words will do.
We will be donating in honor of Mara’s labor and wisdom to the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project.