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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

I Expand and Then I Contract

I love new ideas. I love acting on the energy of a fresh thought and expanding the work I’m doing in the world.

Sometimes that means expanding into a new creative project, like an upcoming book. Sometimes that means reaching out to others to work more together, like setting up accountability partnerships. Sometimes it means expanding my reach with my writing, by trying new platforms like Medium. Sometimes it means starting an autistic talk show.

This style of expansion I contribute to my autistic mind. It has a new idea and I want to try it now! I’m enthusiastic and that enthusiasm blows past any inertia or possible fears. It’s not an impulsive decision, for I still see the things I am blowing past. It is a decision happily made that I feel will benefit myself and the work that I am doing in the world (which is currently primarily focused on late-identified autism, helping therapists start private practices, and providing life-enhancing therapy).

I’ve noticed a pattern in my expansions. I’m usually able to carry them for a while - at least a week. But there always comes a point where my expansions grate against my capacity. Where I realize that what I am doing is not sustainable and an adjustment is needed.

A distressed blowfish cartoon
"I Over Expanded" Sketch by Jackie Schuld

This is usually a period of great angst. I do not want to give up my enthusiastic new thing. And, I recognize that my enthusiastic new thing has thrown off my life balance and I can no longer stay in the place of balance and tranquility. To keep up would mean to shift into a system of hustle, and I do not want to return to that place.

This is when I enter a period of evaluation. Where I look at my existing commitments and energy expenditures. I discern where I can make adjustments. Where I can contract.

Sometimes it means one of my other commitments drops down. Sometimes it means I dial back my existing commitment. For example, I set a goal of publishing a book about creating an ideal private practice. After a week I realized I did not have the extra mental fortitude to complete this project. I also had other projects that were a higher priority to me, so I decided to bump my deadline to later.

Another approach I take is to look at the systems I have in place and what adjustments can be made. For example, when it was too much to edit and publish a pre-existing blog post every day, I tried preparing seven in one sitting. I realized this approach worked far better for me.

I explain these things like they are simple steps. In reality, it is quite messy until I have it figured out. It usually takes talking with my trusted accountability partners and friends to discern the best choices to make. We brainstorm and toss ideas back and forth.

It also means moving through the emotional consequences of those decisions. For example, I am sad to push back the release date of my book. I needed to make space for that grief in my life.

While contraction does not feel as good as expansion, it restores balance and order in my life. It ensures that there will be future days of expansion.


Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter. If you would like to explore your autistic identity with an autistic therapist, you can learn more about my therapy services here.


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