It is easy for me to get caught up in the feeling that I always need to be doing something productive. Don’t interpret that as implying that I am always productive…I’m not. But when I feel like I should be getting things done, I tend not to plan anything into my life that would just be fun or relaxing, and instead I do nothing at all when I have free time (and feel guilty about it). I cemented this thought pattern a couple years ago when I decided to pay off my $30K in student loans, and worked at the equivalent of two full-time jobs for seven months. It was hard. That portion of my life is a blur. I’m also glad I did it.
Now it’s time to fully transition—I need to work more at not working, and having that be ok.
In the past year, I’ve met some people who have degrees in Art Therapy and related topics, and this intrigues me. I’m not artistic, but at certain times in my life, I have really wanted to make things. When I’d finish a school year (during HS and college), I’d find myself in the craft store wanting to Make Something, but not knowing what to make. Sometimes the things I made turned out good, and sometimes they were junk. The common thread, though, was that when school started again—I stopped making things and went back to school mode. I also stopped reading books for pleasure.
At my current point in life, I am really lucky because I work primarily for myself and at home. I also followed my Mom’s early advice of following my bliss and turning that into a career (talking about food and exercise all day? Sign me up!). The problem I have is that I don’t have times when I feel like I don’t need to be productive. Since I teach for several different schools, I never have a break from them all at once (except Christmas time), I can work while on vacation, and I have this underlying feeling like I should be doing something more.
Please don’t misunderstand—I’m not complaining! I love my life, and I actually like being productive. I just want to learn and practice doing things just for the sake of doing them—without thinking about what it leads to or what I really should be doing at that moment.
My current attempts at addressing this:
1. Simplify/Minimize. I am getting rid of Stuff (not kitchen gadgets!), papers, and cleaning out closets. It feels good–I’ve let go of some clothes that I was hanging on to for no reason (maybe someday I will fit into the skinny jeans from when I couldn’t swallow after my sister died, but they won’t be in style even if that does happen!). I cleaned out my inbox (down from 4000+ to 90 emails…if I need one that I deleted….oh well!). I want space, cleanliness in my space, and no knick knacks–it helps me feel mentally more clear and less cluttered.
2. Schedule my workouts, meditation, sauna first thing in the morning (before my work). That way it can’t get pushed out of my schedule.
3. Vacations. I scheduled 5 trips this summer (3 down, 2 to go). Work gets minimized into compartments automatically when traveling.
4. Saying No. Being social can be helpful for relaxing, but saying yes to things that don’t work for me at that moment has always been an issue for me.
5. Make things. Use time and materials to create something that does not have a real tangible productive purpose.
Lucky for me, Stephanie over at Love-Life Project, is hosting a Person Who Makes Stuff link party. I’m going to use it as motivation to make something happen…otherwise it’s easy for me to put it off indefinitely. My brain protects me by pushing it aside—then I don’t have to face whether or not I wasted my time by making some useless junk.
The useless junk I make may be hung in Matthew’s new bedroom in my new apartment (or not, if it’s really bad), and it will also play a role in helping me practice not feeling like I need to be productive all the time (and feeling guilty when I’m not).
Are you a Person Who Makes Stuff?
What was the last thing you made?
Do you take life too seriously? Or can you easily take time to relax and do “unproductive” things?