Take a Break

What if I took a break this year?

Took a break – broke myself of the habit of – broke out – for a whole year – of needing to achieve something?

What if I took a break from guilt?

What if I broke myself of the need to accomplish anything this year?

What if I just enjoyed myself, took pleasure in my life, relaxed in the moment, relished my children and relationships, didn’t face each day with the burden of needing to do something Big, feeling bitter and guilty by the end of the day that I had done nothing worthy?

See, especially as I approached my birthday this year, I’ve been struggling hard with the sense that my life is going by so fast and I’m doing nothing with it, and I’d better finish those manuscripts and get published and do some art and focus so I can finish projects to have Something to Show for Myself, some evidence of adequacy, some great career or good work begun that will use all my skills and maximize my talents and give back and balance out my negative footprints and contribute something to the greater good and fulfill all my promise…

Everyday I am mentally straining against the thick heaving tide of life to Do Something. It’s extremely tiring.

What if I just gave up?

What sweet relief – how decadent and indulgent and selfish but oh, what a delicious prospect. What if I just gave myself one year to live happily, without needing Make the Most of It?

Somehow, I feel that following my bliss, indulging in what pleases me, will somehow make me more productive in the long run. And there’s something very Taoist about not trying to do things (wu wei) that adds some principled morality to the idea.

But would it be a cop out? Would I be lazy, lacking ambition and follow through? Would it mean a wasted year? Is this an excuse to not believe enough in myself to work hard to achieve things?

Could I do it? Give myself permission to just raise my kids and do my work and love my husband and weed the garden and read books and watch movies and swim in the sunshine and be myself?

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4 Responses to Take a Break

  1. Sean Tubbs says:

    Yes, take a break. You’ve earned it. But, keep in mind, we need you to work at least a few hours a week on things.

  2. Maiaoming says:

    I actually don’t mean a break from doing income-earning work at all – I mean taking a break from worrying that I have not become a famous writer or a worthy activist or a mission-driven community icon or anything Important. It’s stupid, really. It’s just about ridiculous ideals.

  3. ChrEliz says:

    I think there are two kinds of people: 1. People for whom stopping and smelling the roses comes easily, and so who may benefit sometimes from challenging themselves to set goals and try to accomplish things, and, 2. People for whom challenging themselves to achieve the next big thing is a natural state of life, and so who need to explicitly give themselves permission to stop and smell the roses and just be.

    I am actually more of the former than the latter. This might surprise you, because I do take on a lot of stuff, but it’s just stuff I do, it’s not Stuff I’m Trying To Achieve.

    I think you are probably more the latter, or even if you’re not, or even if you don’t fit into my goofy dualism, but are some other hybrid person (which of course many of us probably are), the mere fact that you’re thinking that you DO need to take a year off from goal-setting and achievement-oriented living indicates to me, anyway, that this is precisely what you ought to do! So, go sista. Sounds great. May the Force be with you.

    I, on the other hand, have had plenty of years like that in my life and what I really need is to stay on my little roll of goal-setting and goal-accomplishing. I’ve never really set goals and accomplished them before, not things like what I’ve been doing lately. So this direction I’ve been heading in lately has provided nice life balance for me to my usual go-with-the-flow, in the now, utterly lacking in goals or ambition, type of lifestyle.

    I think striking the balance, overall in life, between striving and Be-ing, is key. When we see that we have too much of one and could use a little more of the other, we change tacks. If we go to far, we tack back. Balance.

    I loved just be-ing when daughter #1 was born, up til she was about 18 months. I was too stressed out and befuddled to know what the heck I was doing when daughter #2 was an infant, but I sure as heck know I wasn’t goal-setting. I don’t think I was very zen, either. I think I was just a sorry stressed-out mess. You probably remember better than I do. I’ve blocked it all from memory. Good lord, thank goodness daughter #2 is two now. And thank goodness you’re handling the transition to two kids with way more grace and aplomb than I did. How did you ever put up with me? I’m a lucky girl.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Sean is so practical. =)

    I wrote most of a response to this, and then ran out of time and had to get to work. So oh well. Mostly it was about guilt and how you are never going to get completely away from it. I don’t mean big guilt- it can be the little things too. I just don’t think you can live a completely guilt free life (mostly because of the kids). There’s always *something*- no matter how minor- to wonder if you made the right decision about and may wind up feeling guilty about. I don’t mean feeling guilty for days- but even if it’s just for a minute it still counts as guilt.

    Also, life is a marathon… do you really need to do something So Important TODAY? Or this year? Keep in mind that you ARE doing something worthy/worthwhile- you are creating (or many of us hope we are creating) future productive members of society. It’s not like you sit and eat bon bons while leaving the SUV running while all the lights are on in the house and you toss your aluminum can out the window.

    I totally think you should give yourself permission to do all of these things without having an agenda, or an Important Mission in mind. In the marathon of life you will get where you need to go. A big part of that is being okay with the journey and enjoying it.

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