"Cultivate rest and play. Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth." – Brene Brown*
I was brought up to believe the harder you worked, the better person you are. It wasn’t about who you were. How kind you were. How caring you were. What you did to help others. It was purely how hard you worked and what you achieved whilst working. That’s it! You could be a complete tosser but as long as you were a hard worker you were someone to admire.
This has played out for generations within my family. My grandmother was a single mother who had to work her butt off to feed and clothe her 4 kids. Even so, once they were all grown up with their own families she still continued to work hard, starting her own business in the early 1970’s when she was in her fifties.
My mum followed suit. She joined her mother in business when I was a small child and worked non-stop. My childhood was all about playing in the workroom, pretending to be a ‘worker.’ Or being at home from a young age, alone with my brothers whilst my parents worked. When we were sick, mum put a sunbed – you know those ones from around swimming pools – at the back of the workroom and we slept whilst she worked. My mum was doing and being the best person she could be and that was what she was taught by her mother - to be a hard worker.
It’s my turn now. I’ve worked my butt off for many many years. And like my mum and grandmother before me, at the expense of my family. Even more than that, it’s at the expense of my own health and happiness. Both my mother and grandmother had total breakdowns. They worked themselves beyond what was good for them and their bodies finally said ENOUGH and forced them to stop. Because that is what happens when we don’t listen to our inner knowingness. If we stay busy, we don’t have to listen to what’s going on inside. What our bodies and inner-self are trying to advise us. We think we know better because we have this belief system that all we have to do is work hard and everything will be okay.
Well, it won’t and it isn’t. This week I’ve taken a week off my day job to play catch-up with my personal accounts, my business, the housework and fifty million other things I never seem to get time to do. I’ve taken holidays so I can do more work!!! How insane is that? And as much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m proud of it. I’m boasting around town about how I have to take a week off work to catch up on my accounts etc. Look at how important I am. Look at how busy I am. Look at how much stress I’m under. I’ve bought into this belief system hook, line and sinker. Is this what I’m now teaching my daughter? That work comes before everything? Even her?
Thank you Brene Brown for putting into words so succinctly my entire life and that of my family before me. Generations of us working away at the expense of actually having a life, of connecting with our loved ones, venturing out and exploring this world. Of making new friendships and taking the time to have fun.
I need to let go of this belief system that you MUST be a hard worker at all costs and embrace one of Balance. Bring some fun and joy into my life. To learn to play and know that is just as important as work. My sneaking suspicion is that by leading a more balanced life, I will also lead a more productive one too. That I will have the energy to be more creative with my time. That I will discover aspects of myself that have never been expressed before. To become a better role model for my daughter.
I will be reviewing my heavily scheduled diary and prioritising it differently. There will be more use of the word ‘No,’ in my vocabulary. And a new section in my diary for R&P – Rest and Play. To switch my sense of self-worth from what I achieve to who I am. To genuinely become a better, happier person. That Play is a priority. That Rest is a priority. That work is not. Work is an essential part of life but not at the expense of everything else. To take the time to smell the roses and really truly live a life full of love, play and happiness.