We live in a time that is increasingly go, go, go. Here in New York City, I can expect to hear a horn honk even before the light changes. Everyday I see people literally risk their lives to run in front of moving cars, just to get to their ice coffee about .45 seconds quicker. Work is no different. Americans are working longer hours than ever before. Those who are at work for long periods and seem to be constantly busy are perceived as important. From the Industrialized Revolution to 1990, if you stayed longer at work than you were supposed to, it usually indicated how inefficient and unfocused you were. The 35 hour work week is something I truly wish they would bring back from the Mad Men era. That, daytime cocktail hour, and clothes that flattered an hourglass shape.
I have come to the point of having enough. The deadlines keep popping up like whack-a-moles and the faster I hit them, the quicker another one pops up. I know the signs of exhaustion a mile away. A perpetually catatonic state. Crying at the drop of a hat. The inability to laugh. Inexplicable aches and pains. Going 4 days without lipstick.
I NEVER GO 4 DAYS WITHOUT LIPSTICK.
When I realize I am a person I can’t recognize, in true type A fashion, I create a bevy of solutions designed to make me more efficient ASAP. 1.Go to bed an hour earlier 2.Pick up frozen dinners (watch the salt) so you don’t have to cook 3.Research shows that a 15 minute cat nap can help with productivity. 4.Buy a new pack of underwear so you don’t have to wash clothes so often.
SPOILER ALERT–it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because there is no mind shift. All those strategies are designed to ultimately help me in the very thing that is doing me in–going faster, better, stronger, harder.
But where I am going exactly? What do I gain by getting an impossible amount done in very little time? And how is getting this report done/signing my boyfriend up for health insurance/lending someone my last dollar/saying yes when I want to say no actually reaffirming my values of joy, creativity, and authenticity? I can tell you how! It isn’t.
I can’t magically transport myself to a place where the pace of life is slower and I am not trying to build my career. If that was true, I would snap my fingers like I Dream of Jeannie and be in the Carolinas or on a Caribbean island married to a (hot) millionaire in no time flat.
The last time I did this, in all honesty, was as a child. I could sit in a white room with some crayons and be entertained by my own thoughts. I was fully alive in my body and in my life whether I was on the dance floor, at the dinner table, or in the pool. Especially in the pool. God, I miss being a Southerner with unlimited access to a pool, lake, or water park anytime the temperature is over 75 degrees. From the time I was 8 to 15, my summers were spent in lessons where I learned to race from one side of an Olympic-sized pool to the other. But before I could even do that, I had to learn to tread water. You don’t learn how to backstroke or how to dive for rings on your first try. You have to learn to be in one spot until you are uncomfortable with the choppiness of the water, until can deal with the wave. That’s the importance of treading water.
Staying still where you are and being ok with it is sometimes the only way to protect yourself. It’s the only way to ensure, when things get rough, that you will not drown.