We live in a world that is rushing, rushing always rushing. Always busy, busy, busy. We feel as if every small segment of our lives should be scheduled. In America we glorify the workaholic. Many people even brag about how many years they have gone without a vacation, wearing their stress illnesses like a red badge of courage.
We live this lie that it is possible to have it all. We can work 100 hours a week, and be good parents, spouses, and stewards of our community and suffer no consequences with our health.
Recently I read CBS Steve Tobak’s blog about Marissa Mayer. Yahoo scooped up Mayer to inject new life into it’s lagging business. For those unfamiliar with Mayer, she is the hot-shot from Google. Her workaholism is legendary and various articles have cited how Mayer was known to work 90-130 hour weeks with as many as 60 meetings. And Mayer proudly proclaims that 130 hour weeks are doable if one is willing to shower strategically and sleep under one’s desk.
Ok. Yeah, I’m right on that.
I confess that I have a hard time not feeling lazy in the face of this. Granted, I look at Mayer logically and think, Is she out of her MIND? Yet, I admit that I have a hard time relaxing and I feel guilty if I am not doing something productive. The fact that my mother is Scandinavian does not help.
Scandinavian women are legendary for their ability to properly clean a sink.
A Brief History of Me
When I was little, my mother ran our home like a well-oiled machine. It was not uncommon for me to come home and see my mom on a ladder painting or wallpapering. She cross-stitched everything. She baked cookies for my school and made homemade lasagnas for the church. One year, she sewed dozens of dolls by hand to give to underprivileged kids in our community.
On Saturdays, my mom would play The Best of Dolly Parton as my brother and I wiped all the doors, cabinets and baseboards with wood oil. To this day I can’t hear the song, Jolene without feeling the need to dust something.
Then, in about the mid-80s my family was torn apart by a thief. We owned a small custom furniture shop. We made beautiful tables, desks, chairs out of fine hardwoods like cherry and African teak. The secretary and one of the craftsmen embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars, bankrupting my family. Of course there was a lot of blame. Everyone felt betrayed, humiliated and foolish they hadn’t caught this woman earlier. My parents began to fight and then a couple years later, divorce.
We lost our home and had to move, then move again and again and again. My mom was trying to make it through nursing school and I was put in charge of running much of the house, including the cooking, cleaning, laundry and helping little brother with his homework. I remember being eleven years old, still finding comfort as I mopped and sung along with Coat of Many Colors.
Those years were hard for all of us. We lived hand to mouth, crammed together in rental homes far too small for us. It seemed that if I kept busy, I could keep looking forward and not mourn what had passed. But now I feel like all that hard work, while good for me, created some bad habits and I need to relearn some vital lessons for a happy life.
Fun Should Be a Priority
I find it very difficult to just have fun for fun’s sake. I am really happy I have a job I love, and that I get to serve all of you because it is a great joy. Yet, I know I need to work on just having fun. Not having fun while I work (though I think we all need to learn that), but just playing.
Ever notice how little kids can sleep anywhere? And they sleep so deeply and are always rested? Yes, well it is probably from all that playing. Many of us would do well to learn to just play. Play is good for the spirit and recharges creativity, something all humans need but most especially writer-humans.
I know I am working on playing more.
I feel as if I am always on the go. Even though I was gone almost all of July on the road, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to take time off. I panic that everything will get too out of control.
There is just too much to do!
Granted, I do have to multi-task if I have any hope of not looking like an episode of Hoarders. I have a toddler, and society frowns on you crate-training your kids.
Often, when I take a break from writing, I call my mom or a friend and talk while I fold laundry, do dishes, etc. Yet, lately, I find myself multi-tasking to the point of stupidity.
True story. I was talking to my mother, cleaning the kitchen and then I felt a tickle in my throat. Well, I didn’t have time to be sick, so I grabbed the Vitamin C (while talking and cleaning). I grabbed up some trash to throw away…and tossed the Vitamin C in the garbage…while keeping the trash. I can’t count the times I’ve ended up with keys in the freezer, cell phones in the cabinet, or ice cream in the pantry.
Yes, I know. Madness.
I think this country values the Marissa Mayers a bit too much. I don’t know if people who work 130 hour weeks are good heroes to have. So today, I am declaring a new hero. Johnny Pocket. He has no trouble playing and no trouble resting. Rest is good for all of us. It gives us time to refill and refresh. Johnny is always refreshed.
Learn to Be Realistic
I know this urge to multi-task is coming from my own unrealistic expectations. I live each day believing that I am going to have a clean house that looks like a magazine and that isn’t real life.
This thinking is grossly flawed. Just like women can’t expect to look like airbrushed 22 year-old poofy-lipped models with the body of a prepubescent boy, we can’t expect our homes to look like a print ad from Good Housekeeping.
One of the biggest challenges we all face is learning to play, to give ourselves grace, and to learn to be realistic. We don’t have to have perfect bodies and perfect homes and we don’t need to write 5,000 words a day to be real writers. The theme of my teaching is always we are not alone. We are all imperfect. We all struggle, even me. Every day is a new opportunity to start fresh and give it another go. We all judge ourselves too harshly and we all, likely, need to learn to lighten up.
SO I commend Marissa Mayer for her work ethic, but while she is rescuing Yahoo…I will be in the bounce house :D.
What about you? Are you too hard on yourself? Do you place unrealistic demands on yourself? Do you have a hard time resting and playing without feeling guilty? How do you make sure to get enough rest? What ways do you play? How did you overcome your perfectionism? Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do you think we value workaholics too much?
To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of August I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.