Week one of rest and recovery is already behind me. It’s an interesting thing to tell yourself you have two weeks to do only what you feel like doing. There’s a certain restlessness that ensues. Voices in my head tell me I’m supposed to be doing something productive. This has led to signing up for a couple of online classes–one for my future work and the other for enjoying life.
But which class have I spent time on? Well, it’s not the one on enjoyment. Ironically, the topic I’ve been procrastinating is separating self-worth from exhaustion and productivity.
I suspect the idea of not exhausting myself through productivity is scary.
After all, what’s one of the first questions we ask one another when we meet in a social setting? “What do you do?” How many times have we asked that question? How many times have we answered it? How often do we answer with our jobs?
“What do you do?” has all kinds of implications. We don’t ask “What’s important to you?” or “What do you like the most about yourself?’ or “What do you most want to be remembered for?” Can you imagine someone asking you something like that upon first meeting? It would feel far too personal. Instead, we ease our way into finding out what really matters to a person by asking them about their career.
Yet, what do we actually learn about a person by asking about what they do? I think about the mothers and fathers I’ve known who have chosen to stay home with their children in favor of a paid career and their discomfort with this question. Whenever I have blundered into asking a stay-a-home parent what they do, they have usually answered with a self-conscious, “Well, I don’t work. I stay home with the kids.” To which I have inevitably replied, “Well that’s certainly work! There’s nothing easy about your job,” in my attempt to make them feel valued.
Yet even this response points to our cultural expectation that hard work is what makes a person valuable. Acknowledging that parenting is hard work may be accurate, but it still values work first. Imagine if someone said, “I try to do very little. I spend most of my day just being.” Wouldn’t we immediately want to know how to “do” being? What does that even look like?
I have spent the past week spending more time relaxing, but this tends to mean a combination of being more active and then vegetating. I’ve ridden my bike more, walked more, hiked more, done more yoga, done more shooting, and laid on the couch more. I’ve also played a lot of euchre (it’s a card game) on my iPad and napped.
The paradox of letting go of my career identity seems to be that I find other things to do instead. Is this progress? Or am I just distracting myself from deeper truths that can only be revealed in stillness?
“I’ve also played a lot of euchre (it’s a card game) on my iPad…” I think euchre is illegal south of the Mason-Dixon line.
I remember reading something along the lines of “a person’s career is highly predictive of their attitudes on a multitude of subjects.” Asking what somebody does merely helps the conversation along. The question is a way of making them more interesting.
Hah! You would think given how few people here have heard of Euchre! But, New Yorkers mostly have never heard of Euchre, either.
That’s very interesting. I wonder what is predictable based on career?
I can think of several examples: (1) a fellow who works for a large corporation involved in electric power generation tends to be rather fanatical about global warming being a myth; (2) professional military types believe that the solution to any particular problem on the world stage involves more defense spending; (3) folks involved in research on a particular subject tend to feel that their area is more worthy of funding than others.
I could go on but you get the point.
I see your point. I suppose that would be statistically true, but statistics can cause us to forget that even if 80% of the employees of an electrical company think global warming is a myth, we may be talking to someone in the 20%. That said, it is a socially acceptable question to ask to get a conversation going.