reconciling the tension between productivity and presence

simplest joys exist in being


It will come as no surprise to you that the keeper of a master to do list and the completer of a weekly review gets things done.  If you ask people from moments across my whole life what defines me, on the list between “woefully accident prone” and “cannot carry a tune but nevertheless sings with gusto” would be “she takes care of business.”

TCB.  They might as well be my initials.

And, yet, what I am realizing more and more is that the me who takes care of business isn’t my favorite me.  I am proud of what I have done, of course.  And I am even grateful that I can look at a project and know what needs to be done and then knock it out item by item before the deadline.  But having to be that person over and over again—the person who prioritizes the doing to help a team or even myself individually exceed intentions– doesn’t really allow me to always show up the way that I want to show up.

Here is who I most like being:

the mom who will play whatever silly game Happy dreams up for however long he wishes to play it and then doesn’t stress about the time and, instead, moves peacefully into the kitchen to prepare dinner (all without looking at my cell phone to see what emails have come in since it’s not work time anyway).

the friend who always has time to make a meal when a friend is under the weather and then drive it to her, even if she lives 30 minutes away (as so many of my friends do since I am a small town girl and they are city girls).

the daughter who not only calls her parents every day but has the hour to let her mom go down memory lane.

the community activist who has time to call every single girl in Circle de Luz regularly to check-in on her and the time to thank every single volunteer every time (even if I am not at the event) profusely and personally.

the townsperson who with her little boy makes from scratch scones and chocolate chip cookies for the helpers in our community and then delivers them.

the creative who reads or grabs her watercolors over surfing the internet mindlessly with those small pockets of time that present themselves.

To be fair, these things happen now because, after all, they reflect the person I most love being.  But the truth is that, for me, they don’t happen enough.

When I think about what I most want out of my life at this point, I want it to move slower, for it to be a force for distilling as it becomes more and more apparent to me that my experience of time is at warp speed.  If I cannot literally slow time down, then I want to slow me down.  I want to linger.  And slowing me down starts by giving me less to do.

I don’t want to scratch one more thing off my to do list today at the expense of enjoying one more hug, a longer conversation in the driveway as I cross paths with our beloved neighbors, moving my body for my mental, emotional, and physical health, sitting on the porch with BF sipping lemonade at the end of the day, playing a frenetic smack talking round of Uno with my big and little boys before bedtime.

I want to wake up and not feel such an urgency about the emails I got overnight and instead go do my workout just as I had planned rather than bagging it because I cannot bear the thought of someone waiting a few more hours to hear back from me.

I want to end my work day and say “that was enough.  Well done.”  And then glide into the other roles that I have the honor of living—daughter, friend, mother, partner, community member, more- with grace and patience and-that all important word- presence.

I want to relax about the doing and really get into the being.

At the beginning of 2014, I choose Thrive as my word for the year.  Over the course of the year, I have learned so much about what thriving looks like to me and, at its root, it means that I am fulfilled in my being, that having the opportunity to be present is what allows me to overflow with feelings of joy, satisfaction, passion, and consciousness.  That breathing space is my fountain.  That I shine greatest when my flame can be deep and not broad.

In really looking at my professional and personal habits over the last few weeks, I can see where I make it harder for myself to be present because I am demanding productivity and I am even more aware of what habits I practice that keep me on the productivity hamster wheel.  So I am working on practicing different behaviors, not over-engaging in stuff that isn’t mine, not letting anxiety beat out presence, not letting getting things done be more important than being.  And just like embracing self-acceptance, embracing presence is about a choice.  I am choosing to behave differently.  Over and over again, as I navigate the tension between productivity and presence, I will remind myself that I have made a different choice.

This summer has been such a gift to me in being more present, in not sweating that master to do list, in remembering that I always get done what I need to get done and I am not going to start disappointing myself or others now so maybe I can just relax a little.  If my twenties were about giving up beauty and my thirties were about giving up perfect, then I want my forties to be about giving up production, letting go of the fury to always be making something happen.  Because here is what I know:  the most miraculous things that have happened in my life all started with just showing up, being, listening and feeling.

Here’s to experiencing life rather than always orchestrating it.

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