What do you get when you have a workaholic who abruptly agrees to change? Most likely, a workaholic, still. :) Or at least, that's what happened to me.
Most likely, the most serious strain of workaholic has literally lost herself. She may have known herself at one time, but depending on how early the workaholic tendencies set in (mine started in high school), she may not know herself at all. So, when the workaholic decides, "you know what? I'm going to try to relax!" She literally doesn't have a clue what to do. She doesn't know what she'd rather be doing than working. Her identity is wrapped up in, and is given meaning by work. Sure, this is admirable, but how sustainable? And how happy is the workaholic really? I don't want to try and make assessments on anyone else's life - so I will focus on me. I wasn't actually happy and very rarely relaxed. So I set off to cut back and cut up.
This is my theory. Workaholics don't know how to relax with purpose. Because the concept of relaxing was so foreign to me in the first place, I didn't know how to relax purposefully. With purpose? Ok, that sounds intense and counter to the point, I know. Isn't the goal of relaxing that you have no purpose? Well...that's what I thought. And that's exactly why it didn't work for me.Getting to the purpose, was for me, the root of it. "...with purpose" is a running joke that I have with a friend at work. It started because she was teasing me about the ferocity with which I type. If you've ever been in the same room with me and a keyboard, you know about this. My response was, "Yes, I type with purpose." That's my way of explaining away the force that I use. I have tried to tone it down in the past, but it's just how I type, so my lucky cubicle neighbors get to test their patience and powers of concentration with my TAP-TAP-TAP-T-T-T-T-T-TAP in earshot. Everyone gets used to it, and some even take pride in being able to guess what kind of email I'm writing based on speed and force (i.e. "It sounds like Jen's putting the smack down"). True. Though this started as a joke, I realize that this is how I try to do everything. With purpose. I always try to work with purpose, speak with purpose, write with purpose. It's actually become a defining phrase.
So why have I never tried relaxing with purpose? Well, I thought I had...in that I purposefully made myself relax, but what I thought was relaxing was just someone else's conception of relaxing. It was this:
- Body: Going limp. Sinking into and becoming one with the couch.
- Eyes: Losing focus. Glazing over. Slightly watery.
- Mouth: Either agape to match the glazed eyes or chomping mindlessly on some unfulfilling snack with 0 fat calories.
- Mind: Empty. Except for the occasional question, "Jen, why are you doing this to me? I am so bored."
What I have learned is that the purpose of relaxing is just that. To feel relaxed as a result. To restore yourself - your body, your mind. And what I realized is that what gets me to that restored state is not necessarily what gets someone else there. Typically, if left to my own devices, I'd rather not sit and watch tv. This works for some, but it's not relaxing to me. And that's the point. Each person defines relaxing/restorative/rejuvenating for herself...or should. I know this sounds obvious, but one man's "duh" is another man's "a-ha!" :)
Ever since I figured this out, I've been spending my weekends taking long walks on the sunny side of the street, writing (so you'll hear more from me), reading, meeting good friends for leisurely meals, and planning out my menu for the week (hopefully getting a jumpstart by cooking on Sunday afternoon). Some of the things on this list probably sound torturous to some (and NOT like relaxing), but that's why it's my definition of relaxing.
Most of the people with whom I surround myself are amazingly driven and committed to their work. People who are working for tremendous change. When you are working for social justice, it sometimes feels like resting is out of the question. Frivolous! And maybe even selfish (this is how I felt for a while). I hope that we can all figure out and stick to our own versions of relaxing with purpose. The better we take care of ourselves, the longer we are able to sustain ourselves in this important work...it's a marathon, not a sprint, right? :)
Off to plan tomorrow's dinner...happy Sunday!