When I came upon these bronze statues outside a tube stop in Melbourne, Australia, I, myself, turned statuesque. I couldn’t help it. To begin with I felt I had to represent the women of the workforce. We are mighty, even if invisible. This sassy thought was followed by the tumult of panic breaking out in my head. My eyes were the only thing that moved and they were laser focused on the bulged eyes of the statues.
I know that feeling.
I knew that feeling.
At the time, I shook myself out of my pose and reached for my camera. I wanted a reminder. I did not ever want to go back to that place again. And I do not mean Melbourne, Australia. I would happily go back there tomorrow, if it were not so dang far away. I mean those bulged eyes, that “wtf am I doing on this hamster wheel? With my life?” feeling that dripped from every long line of the metal figures.
I retired from corporate America in 2015 and reside in a state of transition. I am grateful for my current state of unemployment which has given me time to take classes and take care of myself. As a friend recently quipped, “I am not retiring, I am re-wiring.”
Truth be told, I did not dislike the work that I did, I actually miss it. Not seeing my co-workers on a daily basis left an enormous void of connection. What, pray tell did I need to retire from then? It was all just getting to me. Hours of commuting. The repetitiveness of my days. My feeling of hollowness. Trudging through 5, twelve-hour days, to get to the two sandwiched in-between where I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, preparing for the next five. The feeling like I was disconnected from my life and the people I loved. (Blog for the future, I promise.)
I thought if I just attained X, then Y would happen. If I just made X amount of money then we would be able to have all the things we wanted. If I keep making X, then I will finally be able to _____.
Suffice it to say the Y’s and the blank that did happen were nothing I had planned on. Eye-opening and life changing were not my desired Y’s. But I will take them, they have left me excited about my future.
When I look at the photo today, I can recall the two emotions the statues so violently stirred.
First was the fact that money as a pursuit of happiness does not work. Personally, the more I got paid the harder I worked; the more stuff we acquired; the more exhausted I became; the more distracted I was from the relationships that were important…
Research done by Ed Diener at the University of Illinois shows that money does boost happiness but only when it lifts people out of perceived impoverished circumstances. In America, the threshold is about $75,000. Beyond that amount the effect income has on happiness is limited. It actually flatlines, which is exactly how I was feeling.
Ah… but we did have more money.
Secondly, I robbed myself of joy. For the love of Pete, I had no time for joy. I was working my ass off for cry I. Saturday, do something fun day? Are you kidding me? Who was going to grocery shop for the week, pick up the dry cleaning, go buy all the “stuff” we need, take the dog to be groomed, do laundry, pay bills…This was Hotel Washburn and I was the maid service and I ran the restaurant. It was a 4-star f*cking hotel!
Do I sound like a martyr?
Oh, sweetie I was a master martyr. I could write the book on how to be a badass martyr.
And how was that working for me?
You know the answer. It wasn’t.
There. I admit it. This admission was a very long time coming, believe me. I had to forgive myself for robbing myself of joy. And my lack of self-joy stifled my ability to spread mad love, to myself let alone to others.
Brene Brown says:
“If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, and about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.”
“Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol.” Sweet cheez-it.
“Let go of productivity as self-worth.” Hallelujah.
Brilliant! Brene, where were you during my 40’s? No matter, I got it at 50, so thank you. Got what? You ask.
I finally got that I need to schedule play into my day. Every. Single. Day. That play is essential and I am worth playing with. (Go ahead, giggle. But it’s true!) Scheduling play is a form of self-love. If we don’t know what it feels like then how in God’s name are we going to spread it?
Amy Jo Goddard, author of Woman on Fire suggests play should be unstructured, done for the pure sake of doing it. Not a carrot once you finish all the other “stuff” in your life. She breaks play into four categories:
- Nature – Taking a walk, mountain biking in the woods, spending a day at the beach or sitting under a tree with a good book. Nature is a place that fills us up.
- Creativity – We were created. We were meant to create. Make something. Music, paint, scrapbook, write, pottery, _____.
- Connection – This is an area that many psychologists worry about, especially for our youth. What are the ways that you connect with other humans? Ok, maybe you are not the flash mob type. Do you volunteer? Make dates with friends for coffee? Write love letters to all of those people you cherish?
- Physical – Being in your body is grounding. Exercise is a form of play as much as it is a discipline. If it is your discipline find a way for it to be play. Did you skateboard when you were younger? Dust that bad boy off.
Take a moment and prepare your Top 10 Pleasure List. Then, I invite you to make time on your calendar, EVERY DAY to enjoy one of those things. It will help bring you back into balance. It will begin to stoke your fire within and then, then you can spread some mad love.
Just in case you need a little more encouragement I offer you this one last picture. I found this in a Goggle search trying to find out more about the statues. When this came up, it freaked me out even more than the bulging eyes. It is the work of Terry Allen and poet Philip Levine and resides in Los Angeles, California. To me it depicts a man disconnected from his life. His head submerged into the side of a concrete building, lost to the Man. The rest of him, his emotions, heart, organs, left behind.
Don’t let this be you. Connect to yourself. Make play a priority.