Busy = Important*
Failure = Not Working Hard Enough
Success = Money and the Things it Buys, Power over Others, Status Symbols
Rest = Laziness and/or Weakness
These capitalist values seep into my unconscious and feed a self-critical part of me. Consciously I refute their truth, but I still find myself fighting to defend my chosen perspective:
Worth of an Activity = In Alignment with Values of the Person doing the activity
Worth of a Human = Inescapable Untarnishable Nature of Existence
Busy = Potentially Useful and Potentially Dysfunctional Stress
Failure = Refusal to Learn or Acting without Integrity
Success = Joy, Human Connection, Integrity, Growth/Learning
Rest = Universally Necessary and Potentially Joyful
Like most people, I have expansive days when it feels good to work hard, push my limits toward accomplishing a goal, give to others, and engage my full attention in the world around me. Like most people, I also have contractive days when it feels better to rest, feel, self-reflect, and receive more caring attention and entertainment than I give. Habitually, I feel good about myself when I'm expanding and shame when I'm contracting. The pride with which people far busier than I describe pushing through their chronic exhaustion demonstrates how our culture values accomplishment over the quality of experience.
Over the last couple years, I've been trying to set aside our cultural obsession with "productivity" and see value in both expansive and contractive states of being. It can be terrifying to give myself permission to write in my journal rather than do the dishes, do restorative yoga rather than vigorous aerobic exercise, or say no to seeing clients on Wednesday nights so that I can go to a joyful and social Partner Acrobatics class. It's embarrassing to hear the internal and external accusations of laziness and self-indulgence, and it's scary to face the doomsday daydreams that dramatize the theme of "if I stop pushing now, I'll become weak and depressed and my life will spiral into miserable chaos."
During the darkness of winter, sinking into a slower pace seems natural. Rather than acting as if I have to fight my way through the dangerous Swamps of Sadness I'm finding peace in trusting the restorative, rejuvenating power of surrendering to my desire for rest.
May you all sleep well this winter, enjoy peaceful breathing, and find joy in the abundance surrounding you without fearfully frantically seeking more.
*Brene Brown speaks and writes beautifully about her research on shame and on vulnerability as essential for whole-hearted living. She discusses how using exhaustion as a status symbol is one way we try to hold vulnerability at bay. John Cleese brilliantly exposes how staying busy can interfere with creativity.