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I work too hard. I know that may be difficult for some people to believe. After all, I don’t have a “real job”. I have always leaned toward comfort and ease, as opposed to seeking out challenges and pushing the envelope. I frequently describe myself as “lazy” – sometimes in a disparaging way, but often as a point of honor, trying to demonstrate a level of self-acceptance despite this obvious character flaw.
But recently I was cautioning a friend who has been doing some extremely hard and heavy emotional lifting to be sure to add some fun, play and downtime in her otherwise stressful days. I actually told her that I saw it as a “red flag” in her mental health. Then it occurred to me – not for the first time – that often we see in others the traits or patterns we most need to address in ourselves.
And it hit me that for years, the people who know me best have been saying things like, “You sure do work hard.” or “Slow down. Take a break. Relax.” or “You work harder than anyone I know.” But I’ve never believed it. I think one reason is that while a lot of my hard work has been related to employment activities, it certainly hasn’t done much to generate financial security, and isn’t that how hard work is measured? (Actually, it probably has more to do with the fact that “business” is not my forte, but I digress.)
A great deal of my hard work has been physical and in the areas of home repair, maintenance and landscaping. And I work very hard at relationships, personal development, and spiritual growth. But whatever the arena, it seems my work pattern involves putting complete focus on the work at hand, with plans to relax or play “soon” or “later” or when the work is “finished”. (With physical work, I’ve actually driven myself to literal collapse because I wouldn’t stop even to take a quick break or get a drink of water.)
So I should just learn to chill out, right? It’s not so easy. The other day, for example, I had nothing on my calendar. Of course, like everyone, I have a list of things I “should” do – mop the floors, clean out the refrigerator, organize files, not to mention overdue yardwork, bookkeeping, and the ever-present “do something to increase my income”. The list is unending. But this morning my Angel Card said “Play”.
Now, if you’re not familiar with Angel Cards, they come in a little deck of 20 or 30, each containing the drawing of an angel and a word, like Play, Grace, Understanding, Love, Compassion. They were originally part of a New Age game called Transformation, but I use them as a reminder of important concepts. I pick one at random each morning to discover my gift or aspiration for the day.
Typically, I get a different card each day, but that particular week, no matter how much I shuffled the deck, I kept getting Play every morning. So, finally paying attention to what the Universe was telling me, I decided to at least think about going to the movies instead of working on my To Do List. But it was incredibly hard even to consider it! Not when I had so much work I should be doing. It felt wrong, bad, irresponsible.
Then I thought, For God’s sake! I’m 62 years old, it’s going to be a brutally hot day, many people would love to have the option of not working today, and here I am, with no boss, no looming deadlines, and no real commitments for the day, and I’m struggling with the idea of giving myself a couple of hours off in an air conditioned movie theater! How crazy is that?
Now, this is the point where I wish I could tell you that I saw the light and sat in the dark, watching an amazing and entertaining film that made me laugh and energized or uplifted me in some way. But sadly, no. I couldn’t make myself do it. I stayed home doing paperwork and paying bills (which could have waited), doing laundry (which wasn’t going anywhere) and stressing over how to generate more income (which didn’t help anything).
I’m not giving up, though. I’ll keep trying to stop trying so hard. But I thought it was time to finally say it: My name is Pat, and I’m a workaholic.