I Don’t Want to Work That Hard

This week’s epiphany is brought to you by your childhood…aren’t they all? I am continually amazed at how even though I’m 44, I’m still allowing the 5 or 10 or 15 year old in me to run my life. I have an adult life with adult responsibilities and a 10 year old is running the show. Fantastic! Read the sarcasm here. I guess it’s hardly a surprise I’m not getting what I say I want.

I have always considered myself a hard worker. I’m proud of that. There were times during my marriage when my ex-husband would tell me I’m lazy. Probably because he knew it would piss me off. And it did. Lazy is a hot button for me. I am NOT lazy! Wow…good thing I’m not bugged by that. More sarcasm.

I know where that comes from. That drive to work hard; to not be lazy. My dad is an exceptionally hard worker. I could go so far as to say he’s a workaholic. But I guess that’s subjective since he probably wouldn’t describe himself that way. Honestly, I think he really likes working. I don’t think he can really grasp why people would do anything else when they could be working. He would rather work than do almost anything, including go on vacation. That’s his thing. And, at almost 70, I don’t think he’s likely to change.

I’m not saying working hard is a bad thing. It’s not. But I think it’s important to be aware of the motivation behind working hard. Let me be honest…I don’t work hard because I love working. I work hard, and this is the kicker, because at 44 I’m still trying to prove to my dad I’m good enough. You’d think after all this time I’d be tired of that…and I am. But I keep doing it. Old habits die hard.

The whole thing is really pretty silly when I step back and look at it objectively. For one thing, my dad has no idea how much I do or do not work. We’ve never talked about it. I don’t even think he knows what I do for a living. And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t really give it any thought. He’s far too busy working to think about anything else, really. But the 10 year old in me is still choosing jobs where hard work is expected of me so I can show my dad I’m worthy of his love.

I was in my last job for over 11 years. And there were many times when there was more work than could ever get done. I worked a lot. More than I liked. I felt like I had to, to keep my head above water. At least that’s what I told myself. I never felt like I belonged in that job…. I was like a fish swimming up stream. I had to force myself to go to work every day. I hated it. There was a time I had a complete breakdown and had to take a leave from work. But when the leave was over, I went back to the same job. And I kept pushing myself. Crazy, I know.

In December I took a new job. I was so excited…so proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone. I wanted something I enjoyed more, something that suited me better. It does. I like my bosses, my coworkers and our clients. I’m getting to interact with and meet some really interesting people. But I have to push myself every day. The workload is overwhelming at times and some days I want to sit and cry. I had such high hopes. I thought things would be different because the job is different, the people are different, the work is different. But…I’m not different. Damn!

What is comes down to is this. It’s not my dad or my job that are the problem. It’s my overwhelming need to prove I’m good enough that drives me to do what I do. The other day I was on the phone with my girlfriend. I was feeling exhausted and near the breaking point.  And then it hit me. I don’t want to work this hard. I don’t. I’m done being the 10 year old trying to prove myself to my dad. I’m done! Over it!

Wow! That was quite an epiphany for me. I don’t want to work so hard. Who knew? What a relief. Now what? I can finally relax, right? Well, don’t get ahead of yourself. The reality is I can’t quit my job. And I don’t really want to. But, what I can do is stop and be present in those moments when I feel that insatiable need to work more…work harder. When I’m tired and I keep pushing myself, I can take a breath and remind myself…I am good enough. Because I am. And maybe, little by little, I’ll let go of that need to prove myself. It makes me feel peaceful just thinking about it.

Though it’s sometimes hard for me to remember when I’m running non-stop through my life. But, truthfully, there’s nothing to prove. And when I take a moment to stop and get quiet, I know in my heart I don’t have to do anything to earn anyone’s love. I am enough…just the way I am.

Time To Go Home Now

My grandma passed away Friday night. The news didn’t come as a surprise to me…she was 84. In fact, she would’ve been 85 in a couple weeks and I can’t help but wonder if she just decided she didn’t want to be that old. She died in her sleep; quietly. No drama; no fanfare. Just done. I think that’s the way I’d like to go if I have a choice. One day I’ll just decide I’ve learned all I can from this life. I’ve done what I could to make the world a better place and prepared those I’m leaving behind to go on without me. Then, quietly, peaceful move on to the next phase of this journey. I like the way that sounds.

I’ve definitely been blessed in the grandparent department. Growing up I had three sets of grandparents and a great-grandma living within a mile of our house. My mom’s parents divorced when she was young and both remarried and stayed in the same small town. My dad’s parents lived on the property next door to us since I was five. My other (yes other) great-grandma lived further away, but we still saw her and my great-grandpa from time to time.

When I got married I was blessed with another set of grandparents. I am grateful they always treated me like their own granddaughter. A lot of people aren’t so lucky. Both of my great-grandmas were still living when Mitch was born. And I am fortunate to have two five-generation pictures from when he was about a year old. How cool is that?

It’s funny…as a kid it never seemed strange I had so many grandparents. I thought that’s the way it was for everyone. Obviously I have a lot of grandparent memories from my childhood as well. But my memories of my grandma who just passed are fuzzy. In looking back I realize I didn’t really know her all that well. As a kid, I guess it didn’t occur to me. She was my grandma…what more was there to know?

Growing up my grandparents owned the café in the small town where we lived. We spent a lot of time there as kids. Helping grandpa wash glasses behind the bar or riding with him and my uncles in his old panel truck to the dump. My favorite part was drinking the occasional milkshake that got made by mistake. When I think back, I don’t have as many specific memories about my grandma as I do of my grandpa. She was the cook and the kitchen was small. We weren’t allowed in there much.

After they sold the restaurant we would stop by their house to visit. Though I don’t remember my grandma being mean in any way; I also don’t know if she really wanted us around. Granted…four little kids can be a handful. But it seemed like it wouldn’t be long before she told us it was “time to go home now”. Funny I remember that exact phrase. I do remember every year we would stop by on our way to the Puyallup Fair and she would give us each money to buy something. But I definitely have more vivid memories of my grandpa who smoked cigars and collected stamps and coins. I often sat in the chair next to his desk to see what he was doing.

As an adult I have to wonder if my grandma was really happy with her life. She always had a smile on her face and she was loved by many. But I think sometimes that smile was a cover for something…sadness maybe. Though my guess is she would never admit that. And as I think about her life, I’m contemplating my own. If I should live to be her age, I have about forty more years on this earth. Pondering death always has me rethink life. Was she happy with the life she lived? Will I be?

Thinking about death also reminds me I have a choice in how I live.  And I sometimes feel like I need to make big changes when I contemplate the end. Kick more ass, make a bigger difference, care less what people think, tell the truth, love with abandon. The truth is those are all worthy pursuits and things I strive for. But I’m also working on being kinder to myself, more loving and accepting of myself. I don’t want to use those lofty goals as a way to beat myself up for not reaching them every day.

I think the lyrics of this song by John Michael Montgomery say it beautifully:

Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go

I really believe that’s the way life is. You never get it down perfectly…you learn as you go. So grandma, wherever you are, I hope you learned all you came here to learn; that you were happy with your life and you know you were loved. It’s time to go home now.