Exhaustion as a Status Symbol
"The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat,
at the point of exhaustion,
when nobody else is looking."
Recently, I was listening to a podcast by Krista Tippet, when the words "Exhaustion as a Status Symbol" rang in my ears over and over again, like a church bell striking its way to noon o'clock. Exhaustion is weirdly satisfying to me - and that phrase made me wonder why.
I don't consider status to be something someone else gives me. Instead, I think of it as something I've earned through hard work. When I was young and on fire with ambition, my folks told me I could have anything I wanted, so long as I was willing to work hard for it. Taking that information to heart, I have worked hard most of my life. Even when the phrase "work smarter, not harder" was popular, I kept working hard- because, well, it's what I do. At the core of my being, I accepted and lived into the idea that hard work - works!
In addition to status, hard work also leads to exhaustion much of the time. In fact, exhaustion is the way we measure hard work. When someone say "Ahriana is a hard worker, " the statement reflects the status I have come to claim over the years. I take pride in my work. However, as I get older, I can't help but ask myself a question; "Do I really want to work this hard for the rest of my life?" Clearly, the answer is no.
Much of what comes as a result of hard work, I have already created...a loving family to care for, a job that I find purposeful and satisfying, a cause I give time and energy to in order to affect the future, a few hobbies that give me something new to learn. These are cornerstones of my life - but I am finding that they are not the whole structure.
I am missing the feeling that comes when I am NOT working. Peace. Tenderness. Beauty. Ease of mind. It seems to me that these are feelings that come to us when we allow space for them, rather than things we work hard to create. I want and need more of these feelings in my life
My summer sabbatical has given me a bit of practice at "not working," but I am far from mastery! Its easy for me to step back into work. Work is "broken-in-shoe" comfortable for me. I can wear it all day and well into the night! Not working is quite a challenge for me. When my sabbatical time ends (August 28th) and I return to my job, how will I create more balance in my life? How will I do everything that needs doing, without measuring my success in levels of exhaustion? Its a very important question.
How do you make space for the softer side of life? What comes to you when you are not working? I'd love to know your thoughts and hear your suggestions for maintaining a life where work and "not work" is in balance.