Build It Up, Knock It Down

by Sara Zacuto

“Never be afraid to fall apart because it is an opportuity to rebuild yourself the way you wish you had been all along.”

~ Rae Smith

Does the weight of all the “hustle”…all our busy, coffee-fueled, buzzing, humming lives…the spinning plates act of balancing jobs, relationships, housework and parenting feel overwhelming? Does it feel hard (or even impossible) to slow down, savor, silently observe, reflect…truly reflect...and bring conscious effort to all your endeavors?

Me too.

I feel like I’m consistently swimming (maybe more like treading water, really) in meandering thoughts, projections into the future, useless worries, self-doubt, planning (and over planning), and as a working mother of two, I inevitably end up tending to everyone else but myself. I get snippy, and grumpy and overwhelmed. I start wishing I could just grab onto a life raft and sail away to my own island and sleep like I did before I had kids. I’d like to see what it feels like to live life without the constant pressure of having to be somewhere, do something, make money or meet someone else’s needs. Some days are better than others, of course, but this is a dilemma that I know many of us share. Most days finding a way to live an unhurried existence feels practically unattainable.

This phenomenon, this cultural norm that is actually viewed by some with reverence, (for more on the glorification of overworking look here) is making it more and more difficult to stay connected to each other. Every interaction feels rushed, or we are so exhausted that we simply cannot give the energy, effort or time it takes to sustain a quality relationship with our kids, our partners, our co-workers, and even ourselves. And  because we are so immersed in our cultural norms, and comparing ourselves to others in this social-media age, it’s so easy to get consumed with guilt about not being good at juggling it all. It’s a vicious cycle, and so difficult to break.

When my mind starts to reel from all this, I have to actively practice self care. Reminding myself to be kind, go easy on myself, treat myself to something, make sure that my inner critic is met with some counterpoints about what I AM getting right, forgive myself (again and again), and give myself, and others, the grace and room to screw up. Because when we do inevitably screw up…we get to practice repairing.

This is where working with young children has afforded me the opportunity to learn this extremely valuable lesson:

Every time something gets knocked down there is a chance to rebuild. 

Whether it’s a block tower, your own sense of self worth, or a relationship…every part of the process matters, the deconstruction is just as important as the construction…and reconstruction. Everything is cyclical, and what you end up with is up to you.

Maybe it will look a little different than it did before. Perhaps it will be wobblier, or need extra tape to hold it together. Maybe it will be stronger, with a broader foundation. Maybe you can build it a little higher this time. Perhaps new people will join you to rebuild and bring their unique perspective to the task. Maybe you’ll have to go it alone, and learn what you’re truly capable of.

Being conscious of not just the role, but the importance of destruction, and being willful about what you want to grow out of the rubble is the key. It provides the opportunities to develop critical thinking, empathy, intentionality, perseverance and presence with yourself and with others.

Nothing new can be built if nothing ever gets knocked down. We must make room for new growth…and growth can sometimes be painful. Let it hurt…feel it all. When you are ready to carry on you will have a new foundation of understanding to build on.


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