I have a problem. I’ve been accused of being a workaholic, and even though I fit a lot of the descriptors, the label has never really sat right with me. Because I DON’T feel the pressure to work all the time. I very much enjoy taking a vacation, or enjoying a hobby.
What I HATE doing is nothing. Especially if I feel I haven’t “earned” it. Don’t get me wrong, if I’ve had a day of back to back presentations and the kids have been crazy and dinner’s been made and put away I have no problem ignoring the dishes on the table and sinking down into the couch with a glass of the sweetest cheapest wine Fry’s sells and enjoying my night.
My problem arises when I have a light day. When I DON’T have anything particularly stressful or busy or hectic going on. I hate those days. I feel so much pressure to “use” the downtime to get ahead, start a project, research an idea, basically create the stress.
I do it with recreation too. No birthday parties scheduled for a Saturday morning? Let’s go to the Zoo, followed by lunch, followed by a play place, followed by remaining out of the house as long as humanly possible because gosh darn it it’s a beautiful day and we don’t get too many beautiful days and the kids are growing up and we need to make some magic.
I’m an activity-aholic. I have an overly dramatic time scarcity mindset. Much like people who lived through the depression still scrimp and save every penny, even though they no longer have to, I scrimp and save time, because I never know when I won’t have it again and it’s kind of stressful.
“Tomorrow, when I’m stressed, I’ll WISH I started that thing.”
“How can I say I don’t have time for XYZ when I had 20 whole minutes of downtime yesterday and I didn’t USE it.”
This is the constant loop of self-talk in my head. I’m super fun at parties.
(And I know what you’re thinking “what, so this lady is complaining that she’s TOO productive? oh boo hoo and your sad little life.” I know, we’re getting there.)
My Deep Running Thought
Then this past Sunday I was running a race and had a deep thought. Stick with me.
We were 75% of the way through a 9 mile race. I could see the route was about to take us down a hill. “Sh*t,” I thought. “If we’re going downhill, that means there must be an uphill afterwards and I HATE uphills.” I spent the next few minutes dreading how the uphill would feel on my legs and wondering why they couldn’t put it at the beginning of the race instead of the middle to end.
Then I heard a woman behind me say to her friend, “Man, this downhill sure does feel good!”
I wanted to just stop in my tracks.
Man, this downhill sure DOES feel good.
What does that say about me as a person, that I refuse to enjoy something enjoyable because I know something unenjoyable is around the corner. Why should I spend the downhill thinking of what’s to come rather than enjoying the feeling of my feet being propelled down the decline, tumbling into the pavement in front of me? Is that who I am? Cautious in my joy while I wait for the other shoe to drop?
I thought about this the whole rest of the race. (Mostly because I enjoy turning all fun things into metaphorical life reflections. )
I don’t want to be a person who prefers flat and steady in order to avoid possible highs and lows. I don’t want to settle for the constant hum of “busy,” squeezing every last moment of productivity out of down time in the fruitless hopes of possibly alleviating a tiny bit of stress in the hectic times.
My New Mantra
Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT saying we shouldn’t plan ahead. There is certainly value in being prepared and using down time to get ready for stressful times, but I just fear I’ve taken it to the extreme. I want to enjoy the downhills. Even though the uphills are coming. This year, that’s my new mantra:
NOT “what can I be doing right now?”
NOT “do I need to be getting ahead right now?”
NOT “am I being purposeful right now?”
But instead: “Man, this downhill feels great.”
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