I grew up in the Midwest. I started working at 12 detassling corn in the hot summer of 1987. I arrived at the Beloit Memorial High School at 5:45 a.m. with a bunch of other flannel clad, jean wearing 11, 12, and 13 year olds. We loaded up into two school buses a farmer rented and bumped along country roads to the corn farms where our skills and need for cash took us. Ever since then I have held a job of some sort: babysitter, house cleaner, dishwasher, McDonald’s employee, gift shop clerk, yard worker, dog walker, editor, teacher, tutor…..
What is interesting to me as I grew older and started a family, is that each little thing became more work. It was difficult to sit down with my baby, comfort him, put him back to sleep because the dishes needed washing, my thesis needed attention, the laundry was piling up too high. I allowed the things that needed to be done to fill with anticipatory dread and unnecessary heft. I have watched myself become angry over the very things that I love because of the work they generate: children, husband, work. Long ago, I realized that this was no way to live.
Slowly, I have started to unravel this strict notion of work and the unnecessary weight I assigned to each little thing that needed my attention. Much of this is perspective. A lot of this has to do with where I have landed in any particular moment and what is living inside my chest. I started to ask myself:
- What am I feeling in this moment?
- Where is the stress sitting in my body? In my mind? In my heart?
- Am I in my own skin or am I inhabiting someone else’s notion of what I need to be doing right now?
- What is the most important thing in this moment? Who is the most important “thing” in this moment?
- When I walk away, what will allow me to fully walk away with a sense of completeness?
I am now able to play Legos with my eight year old son while I have emails waiting for my attention, laundry to be put in the dryer, clients to call back, words to write…. on and on I could list. But who is the list for? These responsibilities are important and they will get attention, but in this moment the most important thing I can do is: breathe, check in with what is important, and sit down to fix an arm on a Hoth Trooper.
“If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about
cultivating rest and play,
and we must work to let go of exhaustion
as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.”