I LOVE SUNDAYS. Days to sleep in, take walks, not worry if I’m not really all that productive. Days that feel as if they are entirely mine and it’s okay to slack off, even if I don’t. Which, when I think about it, is interesting, because I create my own schedule. Yet I have imposed a weekday work week on myself. Now why would I do that?
First, I would probably work seven days a week and love it. So I allow myself a day or two of rest every week (if you count housework, laundry, and taking care of all those niggly household things “rest”) in order to stay emotionally balanced and healthy—not to mention the fact that my family would probably forget that I exist. Yet I often feel stress because I think I’m not working hard enough, or am not productive enough, fast enough, yada yada yada. I wonder: where does this sense of inadequacy—and I don’t mean inadequacy as a person, but inadequacy in terms of effort and accomplishment—come from? Is it an embedded part of my personality? Did I internalize it from my parents? Is it because I possess an inexhaustible love of learning? Or was this work-too-hard ethic instilled in me by the greater culture in which I live?
More important, does pushing myself to meet my goals serve me in any way? If so, how and when does this internal urging to perform serve me and when does it not? It serves me when I am under deadline, when I need to accomplish something for someone else or to meet goals I have set for myself. It doesn’t serve me when it results in stress or causes me to neglect my relationships with my friends, family, and spiritual community.
The need to be productive, if it is healthy, is tempered with awareness.
I need to be aware that I am not alone, an isolated bit of energy typing furiously away at her keyboard at all hours of the day. I am part of a larger chain of events, of beings, of energy that is constantly expanding and interacting with the energies of others.
Awareness is, for me, the answer to balance, the answer to spirituality, the answer to just about every question I can invent. When I am aware, I slow down, consider how each of my actions ripples outward and how it may interact with others. So I take action more thoughtfully. Also, when I give each moment my attention, I am able to focus my heart and mind, as in meditation.
So how do I achieve this awareness? (There I go again …) Of course! It is cultivated by practicing, like everything else. And this is where my tendency to work hard works for me. Even though at first glance this might seem to be just another thing to achieve, awareness of my connection to the world around me is paramount for true success.
It reminds me of a game I used to play when I was a child. The object of the game was to fit puzzle pieces onto a board which had been pressed down. Players had to race the clock to get all the puzzle pieces in place. If they took too long, a buzzer would sound and the board would spring up, causing all the pieces to pop out of place. I discovered that if I relaxed and slowed down, I was able to place the pieces more accurately and had a better chance of succeeding under the deadline. The same is true now of just about everything I do in life. When I slow down and am aware, I am automatically more accurate and more likely to succeed. It’s a good life lesson to learn and remember. The game, of course, was called “Perfection.”