Different lives; same struggle

– Contributed by Big L

How do we learn to be as laid back as these two?

I realized recently that a few important woman in my life are in strangely parallel places right now, myself included.

Wee C has been reflecting on the importance of unconditional love and is starting to discover that the most important person you can give it to is yourself.

My dear friend and mentor Maggie has been blogging about being on the road to contentment. Again, seeking peace and calm within herself in a way she never has before.

My wonderful friend Krista is trying to learn how to focus on being instead of doing, another version of the same uphill battle.

And next? Enter my Mom, Valerie. A woman who is even more focused on outputs than I am. A woman who, just like the ones mentioned above, has been working hard since she was a kid, pleasing others, serving others, and being better than average all of the time because, well, there is no other option. A woman who has multiple reasons to give herself permission to be, nurture, breathe, and self love, but has no idea where to start.

Wee C, Maggie, Krista, my Mom and I are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. From the outside, the stories of our lives are very different. On the inside, our struggles are very much the same.

In today’s post, my Mom shares what this struggle looks like for her:

I woke up today with the intention of being very productive. But then again, I wake up every day with the same intention. That’s what I do. I DO.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when I am totally unproductive. But the thing is, I feel guilty about being unproductive. Being unproductive = wasting time.  And just to be clear, journaling (or blogging), reading for enjoyment and/or self-improvement, exercising, chatting with family and friends does NOT qualify as productive. Not for me. I can’t even enjoy a long bath for God’s sake! I need to read, or plan, or solve. My entire life is based on productivity!

AND to add to the weirdness: I have coached business owners, students, and busy Moms; I have delivered workshops and seminars; I have facilitated support groups…all with the same goal: to encourage others to find the time to look after themselves, to be with family and friends. I often say, “Time Management is not about doing more, it’s about doing what is important”. Big sigh. It’s not that I don’t know this shit; I just don’t practice what I preach.

The only time I ever give myself permission to be unproductive is when I am not well. Which, coincidently, is often: I have experienced debilitating migraines, cancer, mono, long bouts of radiation-related colitis, fibromyalgia, etc. etc.

But, why can’t I give myself permission to be unproductive and healthy at the same time? I am 54 and I have worked since I was 14. To be honest, I didn’t always have a lot of choice. I had responsibilities. But my life is different now. I don’t have to put in a 60-hour workweek. My Girl is all grown up; she doesn’t need Mom like she used to…she is in a loving, stable relationship with a wonderful young man who is always there for her. And I am in a great relationship too, with a man who actually encourages me to only work part time! He wants me to look after myself!

But how do I change a lifetime of productivity and hard work? How do I do all the things I enjoy, like reading, and writing without the guilt? I want to blog! I want to write a book! I want to spend more time looking after me; to rest, meditate, eat better, cook instead of buying frozen meals, exercise, practice Qigong everyday! I want to work part time and be OK with it. I don’t know how to do those things!  I don’t know how to change “My Program”!

My Girl tells me I need to just start. So that is what I am going to do. This blog post is my jumping-off point. I woke up this morning with the intention of being productive. But instead I am sitting here at 3:00 (in my jammies I might add) writing my first blog; something I have wanted to do for months!

I am surrounded by boxes (I just moved and should be unpacking), I have no clean clothes (I should be doing laundry), I have emails to send, and client work that’s due, my bed isn’t even made (gasp!) but for the rest of the day (and evening) I am going to be unproductive and be OK with it. Not because I am sick, just because I choose it. I will read. I will call my aunt to chat. I will snuggle with my cats. I will drink tea. I will watch Oprah. I will be unproductive despite having work to do, and I will be OK! Damn it!

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how it goes.


3 responses to “Different lives; same struggle

  1. I loved this blog post! I always feel guilty when I am not being productive!!! I often look longingly at “pleasure” books while I am running in and out of stores picking up necessities. I wish I could just grab one and read it without the terrible internal dialogue running through my brain, ” I have so much stuff I should be reading, how can I possibly think of reading something unrelated to one of my papers, classes, research, etc.?” Even things such as a nice bubble bath or a quick cat nap are directly linked to my productivity. I often set an impossible to reach goal regarding my productivity and then am so disappointed when I don’t earn my nap or bubble bath. I cannot wait to hear about the journey Big L’s Mom goes through to rid herself of the guilt of being unproductive:) Hopefully, I can follow suit!

  2. Congratulations Mom of Big L on your first blog post! And what a great post too. Really well written (you should definitely write a book! check out: http://www.nanowrimo.org/) and personal and effective. I can relate to the need to be productive ALL. THE. TIME. You’ve obviously done some amazing things in your life (Big L for example), so pat yourself on the back, believe that you deserve it, and keep inspiring us with more writing!

  3. Mama V, it’s taken me a bit to respond to this, but I can’t tell you how proud I am of you for this post. It’s what we all think about and wrestle with, but just aren’t honest enough to admit to. In fact, I bet we admit it to others better than we admit it to ourselves. Perhaps what that really means is that we can’t OWN it. But through this post, you’ve OWNED it. And what I can tell you from my own blogging journey is that embracing your pain points, loving them and nurturing them is the only way to defeat them. Kill them with kindness.

    Can’t wait to have you back for another post soon!

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