December 21, 2018

Exactly enough hours in the day for the holidays

By Vega Subramaniam

Winter Sunset

Winter Sunset

I am behind on everything. Everything. Mala is more behind on even more of all the everything than I am. Everyone else I know is even more behind on even more everything than Mala and I are. And to be clear: we are behind on everything.

I feel guilty about how I am failing every single one of my coachees. Mala feels guilty about how she is failing every single one of her clients. Everyone I know is, as we speak, feeling guilty about how they are failing every single one of their constituents/teams/bosses/children/ancestors/houseplants.

The fact is: you and I are terrible human beings because, even though we have every privilege in the world, we choose to be utterly selfish, undisciplined, abject failures.

Oh no wait, that’s the 45th president. My mistake.

You know what I’d like to never hear again? Here is what I’d like to never hear again: “I just need more hours in the day!”

Let me ask you a question: how many more hours of work do you have right now than there are hours in a day? 4? 6? 300? OK, now add that number to the 24 hours we currently have in a day: 28, or 30, or 324. Now let’s engage in a thought experiment. Say you had 28, or 30, or 324 (dear god) hours in a day. What do you think you’d do with that many more hours in the day?

I’ll wait.

Right. Exactly. Yep.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

“And just like that, GOP discovers $5.7 billion for a wall.”

We don’t need more hours in the day. We don’t! We really don’t. What we need is…well, what we really need is a radical restructuring of our socioeconomic system toward one that is healthy, family-friendly, and just. But let’s just say: I’m not holding my breath for that happening tomorrow, Queen Alexandria notwithstanding.

In lieu of that, what we need is…before I go there, please indulge me as I offer you a glimpse into a typical hour of my workday: I fire up my laptop and resolve to write for at least 15 minutes before checking my email. I then immediately proceed to check my email. I start to respond to one of my emails and feel really good about myself because here’s me being productive! But, let’s be honest, it’s only because this particular email feeds my ego. In the middle of writing my email, I suddenly realize I am dying for a cup of coffee. I head to the kitchen, phone in hand, and start responding to a text. I then get distracted by the last few remaining dishes in the sink, and decide to just quick get those done. In the middle of washing dishes, my brain suddenly activates and screams at me, “Vega! Your priority right now is not doing dishes! Your priority right now is writing!” So I dry my hands and return to my laptop—at which point I realize I forgot my coffee and my phone in the kitchen. Meanwhile, I haven’t written, I haven’t finished that one email response, I haven’t finished my text, I don’t have my coffee, and there are still dirty dishes in the sink.

And there you have it: a typical hour of my workday.

None of that—none of that—will be fixed by adding more hours to my day. It’s not about having more hours. It’s about having more awareness of and intention about what I’m doing at any given moment.

And, dare I say, it’s about having patience and empathy for myself, given how stressed out I am, and cutting myself some slack. Allowing myself a little panic attack, and then taking stock. Breathing. Focusing.

And reminding myself that this f*ing nonsense frenzied breakneck pace of work is not human, and that “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

So, For This Holiday Season™, I am going back to the basics.

I’m going to slow down. The best—actually, the only—antidote to runaway stress-and-panic is slowing down. As my teacher Melvin Escobar reminds me, “just this breath. Just this moment.”

I’m going to keep my life purpose and values front and center as I start my day, because when I’m grounded in my values, I’m more resolute.

I’m going to remember to use tools like GROW and POMP to keep me focused and forward-oriented.

And finally, I’m going to keep forgiving myself, being kind to myself, being a friend to myself. Because self-compassion is everything. And god knows, during the holiday season, we could sure benefit from going easy on ourselves.

How about you? How are you going to soothe your panic, maintain your serenity, and be your most resilient self during this holiday season?

Would you please share your successes, failures, thoughts?


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