You know the drill, it is splashed all over Facebook and instagram memes:
work hard – play hard
But I am calling B******t on this, and taking a stand for women (and men) everywhere who are TIRED, BURNED OUT, FEELING LIKE A FAILURE and just want to pull the covers up over their heads and hide for a while.
For the last year I have been working harder than I ever have, and have played less than I ever have. The reason? I’m trying to “get ahead”. But how has that worked out for me? I am now reduced to a shadow of my former vibrancy because I have glandular fever / mono, and my body and mind is completely exhausted.
So what is the problem? The problem for me is that this motto of “work hard, play hard” is not actually true for me. It isn’t congruent to my values and certainly does not fit my lifestyle. It is not part of my wants, only part of my perceived “shoulds”.
From an energetic perspective “shoulds” drain my energy and always leave me feeling like I am lacking somehow. Have you noticed that in yourself?
After falling into a heap and thinking I had the worst case of tonsilitis ever, you can imagine my surprise when I was diagnosed with an illness that doesn’t just put you on your arse, but flat on your back in bed, unable to think clearly – and without the desire to think clearly! My body had taken the years of abuse (being pushed, late nights, thinking, planning, strategies, worrying, etc) and had slammed me as a final last ditch effort to get my attention!
I used to be a single mum. I have three kids. I was told by my ex husband to “work harder” when I asked him if he would cover some extra curricular sports the kids wanted to do and I wasn’t sure my budget would stretch for. Those small words, delivered such a punch to my gut, that they then became the driving force behind my determination to work work work and earn as much money as I can.
I never started my own business for the money. I started it because I have a particular technique that works and I wanted to help as many women as I could and work my own hours around my kids. The problem was that when I was single and had three little mouths to feed, it became about the money – and that’s where the internal conflict began to show its face.
In hindsight I can see very definite stages in my decline into this tired and worn-down version of myself, but it is hard to stop the momentum gathering when you are being pushed from behind by the words “work harder”.
I used to say “I will be successful just to spite him” and so I kept on pushing, letting this bitter energy feed itself over and over again at the cost of my vital chi or prana.
Okay so the lesson is learned, but my physical body now has a long road ahead to catch up to the spiritual lesson. When will it be over? Well my impatient soul wants to get on with it now – “yes lesson learned, now can I go back and earn money again”. Me thinks there is still a few months of healing to go yet (possibly more!)
What if we were to “work softer” and allow our internal guidance to speak to us? Middle aged men have epiphanies like this all the time – we call it a Mid Life Crisis and laugh it off, but it is happening at an increasing rate to middle aged women (oh god now I have this title too) who say “ENOUGH!!!” They have reared their kids to primary school or early high school. They have taken hardly any time off when the babies were born, for fear of financial strain (me) or sabotaging their career (many of my clients). They convince themselves it is fine “women in China give birth and go straight back to the rice paddy” (NO my dear, this is not good for you!) They also convince themselves that they can do everything “I don’t need any help, I got this!” and then they wonder why their zest for life has gone (or their lust for their partner.)
It’s our chi my love. Our chi is draining away in hours at the computer, deadlines, planning and improving our career. We aren’t taking the time to water the seeds in our seasonal garden. Did you know you have seasons in your life that need to be tended to in a different way? Without acknowledging the season we are in, and giving it all the love and attention and nutrients it needs, we can find that the harvest (sometimes years later) will not be as plentiful or impressive, or just plain rotten.
And that my dears is what is happening for me right now. I didn’t give myself time to heal after my babies were born. Out of fear I went straight back to work. In my case my work involves lots of giving out of my energy. Gladly I do this, but it has drained me. When I get home I give it out to my kids and partner. If it is not returned, or nurtured or replenished then what am I left with? I will tell you – I’m left with no chi! I’m left with a draining of my energy that leaves me cranky, easily irritated, short tempered, argumentative and a bit low. (Do you recognise these early warning signs?) Then I get more coughs and colds. I get intolerant to skin care and foods. I get more headaches. I feel sicker more often. I am exhausted by the end of a moderately busy week…and so it goes on.
SO what would have happened if I recognised my warning signs before they took hold and created the symptoms for a commonly known condition called glandular fever? (Because that’s all illnesses are – a collection of symptoms). I wouldn’t be in the dramatic predicament I find myself in now. I would have slowed down and rested more. And I would have realised I was spinning out of control earlier and got some help. That’s my big thing though – I don’t ask for help (or take it easily either). So there is a learning in how I choose to recover as well. I need to ask for help more and realise I am not weak, but allowing others to be strong for me. But that is a blog for another day.
So ladies (and I guess gents, if you are reading this far), I urge you to listen to your body when it is talking to you and saying “I don’t want to work harder”. You will no doubt find that you just need a few weeks of “working softer” to then come back into balance. You won’t lose your job – your boss probably won’t even notice – because working softer is a mindset. It’s an attitude adjustment. It isn’t about slacking off, it is about honouring self.
Which brings me to another point…..honouring self….lets discuss that next.
Until then, practice working softer, rest more often and laugh more.