Guest Contributor: Naya Jones from http://www.root-work.com
(Especially for recovering overachievers and people who do too much)
This Saturday I woke up at 4 AM with a hefty to-do list on my mind. My body was tense. My head hurt. (But) I immediately grasped for my computer. I needed to check something off my to do list. I booted up my laptop, started writing drafts, and then, thank goodness, the Internet stopped working. Suddenly the connectivity just. . . stopped.
My forced departure from “productivity” came at just the right time.
I was hunching over my desk in the wee hours of the morning, on one of the few days when my calendar was actually clear. Like my spotty Internet connection, I needed to completely, utterly halt. I needed perspective.
As a meditation facilitator, I sometimes share these workaholic, overachieving moments with participants during classes or retreats. They look surprised. But if you were born and raised in the United States, or simply in a culture/society that equates productivity with hard work and long hours, you know that stopping is all too often censured. Time is money, right? To stop is to lose money, time, networking opportunities. Stopping delays progress.
Cases in point:
* My partner and I just bought a home. While buying some items for the house, we witness Lowe’s slogan: Never Stop Improving. (Message: Your house is nice . . . but is it ideal?)
* On a recent plane trip, a fellow female entrepreneur told me to always answer the phone. After all, you never know when a potential client is calling. (Message: Never stop being “on”).
* In the grad school hallway, I’m greeted with, “How’s the research going?” rather than, “How’s your summer Naya?” (Message: Graduate students should have no lives outside of research.)
Add to these signals stereotypes based on race/culture/gender/sexuality or more – and the messages thicken. The inner pressure can be immense. If I stop as a Black Latina, am I lazy? Am I proving my ancestors proud? Am I showing that we ( = all Black Latina women in the country) can succeed?
If you are overwhelmed, doing too much, or a (recovering) overachiever, I’m telling you and telling mySelf: Just stop!
Saturday morning I closed my laptop, gathered my drum and journal, and went to a nearby park. Sunday, Monday, and today, I’m still stopping. On campus I stop en route to my destination or slowww down (Why am I walking so very fast?!). At stoplights, I take deep breaths. Today after an inspiring office hour with a student, I decided not to grade papers. Not just yet. Instead, I took a long walk back to my car. I drove a long route home.
I’m also noticing how other people stop around me. My partner goes to the gym. On a deadline, he will still meditate for 5 minutes to refocus. (Yes, he inspires me.) A friend of mine who has two children and owns a business meets with girlfriends for coffee. She also takes a dance class once a week. As a more luxurious example, one of my aunts plans splendid Hawaii vacations for herself and family. She stops in two ways: by planning the trip and by taking it.
How do you stop? Is it time to take even just five minutes to stop, breathe, regroup? Is it time to do something – or be with someone- that nourishes you?
If you are a fellow (recovering) overachiever, I remind you, and I remind myself:
By stopping you are not lazy, unproductive, unaccountable, or irresponsible.
By stopping, you nourish yourSelf. You connect with yourSelf and loved ones. You gain perspective.
Stop! and be well,