Monday, April 12, 2010
This last week I have been beating the heck out of myself over my lack of productivity in the last few years and I find that I've allowed myself to buy into a family fallacy. If you aren't producing something (whether it's a clean house, organized bookshelf or a newsletter or written article - it can be anything from the mundane to the esoteric), you need to explain yourself.
There was no sitting around when I was growing up if Dad was in the house. Fortunately for all of us, Dad was a busy man and gone a lot! The exact opposite of that behavior was found in my mother. So, we lived in a strange dichotomy. If Dad came home, we found ways to be busy. The moment he left we dropped all pretense of productivity.
If he found us sitting down, his eyes would drift around until he discovered something that we could be doing and remind us to get busy with that. Life was not something to be frittered away. But it was his approval that we all sought, so being productive and getting a nod from him was important.
Saturday mornings were a riot. For years, there was a chalkboard hanging on the wall behind our kitchen table. When we got up, there was a list of things to be accomplished before the day was ours to squander. He wasn't about to have a household with idle hands. Consequently I laugh about the fact that I have absolutely no idea what Saturday morning cartoons were - I never watched them.
When my report card came in the door, Dad was always there to check things out. Straight A's would bring a question (with a bit of a smirk) about where the A+s were. Yes, the smirk was there, but the intent was also there. Dad expected me to always achieve more than I had before and do better than I thought was possible.
All of Dad's insistence on productivity was balanced by Mom's pure and utter ... well ... laziness. The woman was beyond brilliant and could do things well in incredibly short amounts of time. When I look back on her shortened life and realize the many things that she pulled off in that time frame, I'm overwhelmed. But, she did them in short bursts of wild, creative energy and then simply stopped. I discovered a picture of her lying on the couch with the animals at her feet and a book in her hands. That's a strong memory I have of her.
I spent the first 30 years of my adult life being insanely busy. When I worked in a job, I poured everything I had into it. I can't stand to have tasks unfinished or projects undone so those would get accomplished as quickly as possible and then I'd move on to something else. But, I always knew that I was desperately missing those quiet moments when I could let my mind be creative and allow myself to actually think through an idea.
So, given the opportunity, I eliminated the frenetic activity from my life and finally had the time to bring my brain online again.
It's been amazing.
But, you know what? I don't feel successful or productive or like I've done much of anything with this time. Now ... stop ... don't try to contradict me ... I'm not finished yet.
I need to come to the realization that being productive is not the best part of my life nor is it the measure by which I will be judged on earth or in heaven.
My life has changed and transformed in these last two years. I have done more writing than I ever imagined, I have read more and taken in information that I would never have thought possible. I have readjusted my outlook on who I am, learned things about myself that I assume everyone else knew and I just ignored and I'm learning how to focus on the things I want to achieve rather than trying to do everything. I can't be everything to everyone and I finally figured that out. That was hard for me.
I will always want to be productive and busy. I will never stop beating myself up when I don't do all that I think I should be able to do. These things keep me from being complacent.
But, when I find myself disappointed rather than motivated, I need to recognize that the fallacy is at work again. I don't have to be busy every time Dad walks by. Sometimes I can be reading a book.