stretched to limit

Stretched to your limit? Elastigirl you ain’t

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I wonder if it was a coincidence or an act of design that the the mother in The Incredibles was given the superpower of elasticity.

Because if there’s one thing a working mother understands it’s the feeling of being stretched to the limit.

When there are competing needs or commitments pulling at our time and attention from all ends, we can feel like an elastic band about to snap, and often we do – snap that is, usually at our nearest and dearest.

In The Incredibles 2, the mum is the hero of the show when she goes back to work and leaves dad home to mind the baby. She uses her stretchy-powers to win the day: fighting the bad guys and protecting her family.

We think her superpower is her ability to stretch herself to incredible limits.

But it’s not.

What her superpower actually is, is flexibility.

Stretch or flex: how to not snap

We mere mortals should be wary of thinking of being stretched to the limit as a superpower. It’s really not something you want to aim for.

When we’re juggling all the elements of life and trying to keep our arms open wide enough to make sure we catch all the balls, we don’t want to keep stretching our arms wider and wider.

You can only stretch so far before you either snap or exhaust yourself. Just like an overused elastic band, you risk either breaking (the snap that comes with the last straw) or losing your elasticity, becoming worn out from all the stretching.

Over-stretching is to exist in a constant state of tension.

Being over-stretched on a short-term basis, a day every now and then, is not so bad. But it’s not something you want to adopt as a way of life.

When we are flexible instead of stretched though, the tension isn’t constant.

If you instead adopt a flexible approach to the juggle in which you move with ease between your needs, wants and commitments, changing direction fluidly as needed, the tension is replaced with a sense of flow.

You expand and contract as necessary, taking things only as far as you need to, not stretching wider and wider.

To go from stretched to flexible, I practice these two things:

Surrender

A lot of the tension we feel is actually created from resistance.

We don’t want to be so busy or have so much to do, so our mind keeps reminding us that the situation sucks. Our internal chatter will be something like this:

“I don’t want to have to this thing for the boss. Why do I have to be the one who has to make dinner. I’m tired. I just want some peace. But I still have so much to do. I can’t forget to pay that bill. The floors are filthy. I have so much to do. I’m going to be late to pick up. I promised to help with homework tonight. And I have to go buy the ingredients for that dish I promised to take to the BBQ on the weekend and if I don’t get them today I won’t have time to make it. I don’t want to do all this!”

And so on.

It’s a state of resistance where we wish things were different, and it’s the resistance those thoughts create that create the negative feelings of tension.

If we simply let all that go and surrender to the situation and moment, the resistance leaves and so too do a lot of our negative feelings.

It’s an acceptance of what it is. A process of saying to yourself: It is what it is right now, so be it.

Take a deep breath, exhale and let the feelings of resistance go.

Release

And then, you release whatever you can.

You dump what you don’t truly need to do. You release your death grip on your standards and let something slip.

You release your need to be all things to all people and decide on what the absolute necessities are and just do them.

You actively seek to release the stretch and come back to centre. This is how you develop your superpower of flexibility and live in a state of flow, not as a tense rubber band about to snap.

I also loved what one of the members of the Complete Life Facebook group said about the topic. She said she tells herself she chooses to live a busy life.

“I feel like an elastic band woman a lot. But I realise that I chose to take too much on at various points. Now, I try to protect my precious time and energy so I don’t snap. When I have a lot on I try to think that I choose this; I choose to be involved. I remember that this is the type of life I wanted – one where I worked, one where I parent, one where I am involved in sport and the community. If I choose then how can I be agitated? Sometimes it helps to shift perspective from this is happening to me and it is too much, to why did I choose this? What were my reasons?”

So keep your super human stretching efforts for the yoga mat, and allow yourself the ease of flexibility.

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