Driven to…Wanting to be Distracted
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Love in the Third Degree.
One of the things I’ve struggled with all my life has been my drive.
I’m not sure when it started—probably grade school or before. It was definitely in play in high school and I was well known for it. By the time I was in college, it was work hard, play hard, put in the maximum effort and the maximum push in every direction. It was certainly there throughout my young adulthood, my Department of Defense career, my marriage, my writing. I was driven to succeed, to get things done, to make things happen. Even if that meant force-fitting everything into my life and working 100 hours a week to keep up with my career and putting the husband and kids to bed to stay up until the wee hours of morning to write and set myself up for a second career so I could leave the first one.
It’s hard work, being driven, and after a while, it’s expected and then you’re a little hamster on a wheel and can’t get off. Of the wheel.
I remember my older friend Jerry, in college, scolding me for enjoying John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels.”
“That’s not you,” he said to me. “You would never be content just watching the wheels go round and round.”
I wasn’t, but I liked the song anyway.
I hear the same of many people in their 20’s, soaking in ambition and lighting themselves on fire, burning the midnight oil and the candle at both ends and any other metaphor they can find.
I hear the same of many people in their 30’s, struggling to meet goals from the past and reach their pinnacles as early as possible so they can enjoy the epitome of their careers or social status and thinking that, in their early 30’s, they’ve reached it and have nothing left to learn as humans that networking at the right golf courses won’t teach them.
Usually by the age of 40, most of these people are re-assessing and either diving deeper into the mire or making major life changes. This is the point where they look back over the past 20 or so years and see where all the building and scurrying has taken them and whether they’re happy with it. Most aren’t. They see all the things they haven’t done. All the things they want to do with the next third of their adult lives.
As transiting Uranus leaves my natal Sun this week, I’ve noticed a shift in my perspective. Others may not see it, but I feel it within myself.
I have a tremendous push right now to re-order certain things in my life, but it’s not so that I can keep putting in 100 hours a week at work. It’s so that I’ll be doing only the things I want to do and work on only the things I want to work on, rather than fueling everyone else’s fire.
The big difference is this sudden feeling that I don’t have to get it all done today, or even this weekend. Instead of a huge list of 150 things I must get accomplished this weekend, it’s a slimmer list. Waaaaaay slimmer. I don’t have to re-build an entire website tonight. If I get a couple of pages done and make a little progress on understanding this new software I just bought, then that’ll be good. It’s okay if I need a nap. It’s okay if I take time for a movie with the girls without feeling guilty or that I need to give equal time to housework. I don’t have to get that book written this month, even if the inspiration for it is low this month.
I really don’t have to do everything at once. There’ll always be just as much to get done, and that will never end. The work, the dust, the weeds, the…whatever…will always be there whether I’m tending it or not. I know there’ll always be just as much because no matter how much I’ve worked and how hard I’ve tried, I have never caught up. It keeps flowing to me and I keep riding the herd instead of barring the gates or at least narrowing the flow a bit.
One of my previous bosses, when I left his office, told me that he always gave me the hardest, toughest jobs because I was his busiest person. He did it because all his employees had to be working on at least 15 contracts at a time, and I never let anything get behind so he kept giving me more work, and I always got it done. He had other employees who worked all year on the same 15 projects and left on time every day, but my projects turned over completely every few months and I had the highest productivity rating of the office, to the point where many people couldn’t believe my stats were real. He told me I was his “work horse,” and that’s how I felt, too. My productivity guideline was “Get it off my desk as soon as possible,” and he knew how to take advantage of my work ethic.
The work ethic is still there, but it’s shifting to what’s more important to me. And when I’m doing work that I feel good about and that makes me feel good, I may still be putting in 100 hours, but I’m doing it because it feels good, because it feels like play, because it doesn’t feel like work, and I’m enjoying it.
Maybe that’s where the shift is. I’m putting my energy more into the things that I really enjoy doing.