It should not have been a surprise to me that I've been addicted to hard work and struggle. Yet that realization was like a plot twist at the ending of a book that made perfect sense.
GROWING UP ON A FARM MEANS HARD WORK
My mother tells stories of pushing a chair up to the kitchen sink to "help" her wash dishes. I was probably two or three years old. At twelve years old, I was driving the hay truck while my older brothers and dad tossed hundred-pound bales onto the back. I also started babysitting for neighbors at that age. In school, I was an over-achiever. Didn't need anyone to wake me up in the mornings or remind me to do my homework. Got pretty much straight A's, was on any sports team offered in our small town, and started working at a local restaurant part-time when I was fifteen.
HARD WORK WAS MY TICKET OUT OF A SMALL TOWN
Working hard to earn money was my ticket out of that small town and an often painful childhood.
As a young adult, I worked hard and learned quickly to be promoted as fast as possible.
HARD WORK = SURVIVAL
When I became a single mother, working hard and earning money meant survival for me and my two sons. Buying a house meant more responsibilities and hard work.
I cut back on work and played for a while after I "retired," but a couple years of that dug me into a financial hole. I went back to working harder.
So the belief of hard work equals survival has been engrained and reinforced pretty much all my life. Along side that belief was a self-righteous attitude that I was better than those who were lazy or--egads!--scammed welfare benefits so they could sit stoned in front of the television while their kids shrieked in the streets and generally raised havoc.
I DON'T WANNA!
I'm finally at the fortunate stage in my life that decades of hard work are paying off in retirement pensions. Yet I still am driven by the feeling I always need to be doing something--interrupted by the two-year-old in me throwing a tantrum and insisting, "I don't wanna." Perhaps a subconscious protest to helping my mother with dishes at that early age?
But heaven forbid I fall into the gutter with those who expend more energy avoiding work than finding something worthwhile to do.
THE TRUTH OF MY ADDICTION
Finally, this morning the truth I have been addicted to hard work and struggle quietly occurred to me. No 2x4 up-side the head this time. Just a realization this was true.
After nearly fourteen years of working at self-improvement, this wasn't an overnight, light-bulb moment. But what took me so long to see this?
I've been working on changes to myself long enough to know these realizations come with choices. What do I do with this knowledge? Staying the same isn't really an option for me, but sometimes forming new habits and thought patterns is a struggle. The ruts of old thinking and doing are still there and it takes a steady hand on the wheel to avoid sliding back into those well-worn tracks.
This is especially true when I don't want to give up work completely. I want to be productive. I want to feel the satisfaction of accomplishment. However, I don't want to work in a panicked, you-gotta-do-this-or-die mode.
I want to love what I do and take the time to celebrate a project well done.
Guess that sums up my choice, doesn't it?
WORK WITH JOY AND PASSION, TAKING THE TIME TO RELAX AND CELEBRATE WHEN IT IS DONE!