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A lot of mindfulness experts and minimalists preach that mindfulness is about:
At face value, all of these ideas seem so simple, so easy. They're all super true—a lot of self-discovery and peace can come from slowing down, being mindful and learning to say no.
But what about doing work you love? Drive to do things? The urges to get shit done?
It's not all black and white.
There's nothing wrong with hard work
Over the weekend, I was taking a break from toddler-wrangling and was scrolling through Twitter whilst the monster napped. I came across this simple tweet from The Minimalists.
Heads up: this post is deeply personal and is difficult for me to share, but I promise there's an important lesson.
There’s nothing wrong with hard work, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of life’s more important areas: health, relationships, passion.
— The Minimalists (@TheMinimalists) December 16, 2017
It moved me so much that I shot up from my cozy spot on the couch to hand letter it right away. By lettering quotes, I find they sink into my brain better. Just like how copying notes while studying puts the ideas into your muscle memory.
Anyway. I really needed to hear this. The quote was so eloquent. It made me feel like there canbe a balance between hard workand a real, mindful life.
Mindfulness: Being in the moment
Mindfulnness may not seem prevalent on this blog since I don't really talk about it too much here. Overall, I'd like to be a zen master, but in reality I'm just working towards it.
All of this is to say: lately I'm erring on the side of being in the moment and prioritizing relationships and relaxation over pumping out work.
My previously undying work ethic
In the past, I've always had side hustles. And I mean hustles.
Before Beans, I had my various full-time day jobs. At night, I would also be working extremely hard to try to turn my personal passions into a full-time career.
In 2015 and 2016, the plan was for me to start to generate income through my own business so I could be a stay-at-home mom. I couldn't imagine being a mom any other way. So I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to try to make my dreams a reality.
During those times, I was constantly working, taking notes about how to work better, thinking about working, talking about working, and then workingsome more.
Any downtime I had was lived at an extreme: I was either working hard or I was zoned out in front of the TV (probably with an embarassingly-large carb-heavy snack). Even friend-time made me anxious because I felt like I should be doing something more "productive" in order to reach my goals.
During my Deep Declutter, I scanned in a lot of my old notebooks in order to digitize them. In those solo scanning parties, I re-lived those times when I was furiously TAKING NOTES and MAKING LISTS and ILLUSTRATING CHARTS and DRAWING OUT IDEA WEBS in order to organize my thoughts and undying list of to-do's that I wanted to accomplish that monthor that week or THAT MINUTE.
It was insane.
I clung to every single one of those passions and accomplishments as if they defined me as a person.
I worked like that up until Beans was born, and a little bit after.
Unfortunately a few weeks after Beans was born, things turned *literally* insane.
I haven't talked about this before in a public forum, nor will I go into too much detail here. But in summary, I was diagnosed with Post Partum Psychosis.
It was the worst fucking thing to ever happen to me.
It landed me in the hospital a few times and then I spent a year+ on heavy medication and treatments. It was terrifying. And we didn't even know such a thing existed until it was happening.
Very long and painful story short:
- It sapped me of my energy.
- I went from a results-driven momtrepreneur to a sloppily pajama-shrouded sloth who binge-watched every season of Grey's Anatomy in one year.
- I was a miserable person.
- I was lost.
- It changed me for the worst.
- I felt horrible. I ACTED horrible.
- It ended my relationship with Beans' dad.
While mindfulness was an interest to me before the illness happened, it became a necessity for me after it.
I moved out after the breakup. I made a conscious effort to see my friends and parents more. I got a job (out of necessity). I did, however, constantly think about my side projects, as said job made me miserable.
But I wasn't in a rush to start hustling again; I didn't want to force myself back into extracurricular activities that might overwhelm me.
Over the past few months I've slowly come back into myself. My friends agree I've recovered from the zombie-like state that I'd been in for over a year.
Above that, obviously I started this blog. I started lettering again. I started seeing the wonderful-perfect-hilarious-goofy-handsome-lovey Chris, and I'm still prioritizing time with people (tiny people especially).
In the end, I feel happier than I've ever felt.
I'm more balanced.
As I mentioned in my Instagram post, I'm lucky enough to be in a new job where I feel fulfilled as a constributing member of society, so I don't feel the need to come home and work my ass off in order to feel good about my life.
Considering all of the shitty, unfulfilling jobs I've had in the past, I know how fortunate that makes me.
Anything I work on in my spare time now is just a bonus.
My side projects are no longer my life force. And I'm working extra hard (emotionally) to make sure this fun stuff stays fun and doesn't become a chore.
We are not what we produce
One of my best friends has similarly struggled with productivity-as-a-personal-definition thing too, and frequently I find myself thinking of what she told me once.
The completed tasks on our to-do lists do not dictate who we are as individuals.
We are not what we produce.
Hard work DOES pair beautifully with mindfulness
To come back around full circle, let's examine the quote from The Minimalists again.
Even though our hard work does not define us, it's still okay to have big goals and to work hard. Just don't let those dreams bulldoze what really matters.
Mindfulness is an emotional minimalism: focus on what matters most to you and say no to the rest.
Thanks again to The Minimalists for helping to put some pretty important stuff into perspective.
Cover photo by Georgia de Lotz