Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

Learning to Call it Life

on November 17, 2014

broken heartIn my last post, I talked about my recent heart episode: Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a misshaping of the heart that causes symptoms similar to an infarction. Also known as broken heart syndrome and stress cardiomyopathy, it’s caused by…stress. High stress. High stress with a kicker event. That’s what happened to me.

I’ve mostly recovered physically. I’m still working on lowering my activity levels. During the month I spent convalescing, my ridiculous, overloaded schedule was spread out amongst (many) others. Recently, I’ve noticed the load shifting my way again. It’s partly my fault, as I’ve actively taken things back. It’s partly not my fault, as others send their work my way.

Actually, that’s incorrect. Truth is, it’s ALL my fault, both the items I’ve reached for AND the items that are handed to me. It’s my responsibility to say ‘no’ – both to others and to myself.

That’s not easy. It seems there are too many tasks and too little time in this busy world. Shouldn’t everyone, myself included, just buck up and take on a little more? The answer is NO. If we have too much to do and too few hands, then some tasks just shouldn’t get done.

Heresy! Blasphemy! Horror! That’s not the American way. We’ve built our country on hard work and a willingness to attempt the impossible. But our can-do American spirit has gone awry. We’ve moved from stepping up for a brief time to get a job done to viewing an impossible-to-maintain-pace as the norm. We’ve become a society that runs on cortisol, to the detriment of our bodies and minds.

The average American works 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more than British workers, and 499 more hours than French workers. Every European country mandates a minimum of 20 paid vacation days every year; we are the only country that has no mandated vacation. Our breakneck clip isn’t the norm: it’s grossly abnormal compared to the rest of the world.

So I’m learning to pay attention to my pace. I’m learning that a time of increased effort must be followed by a longer time of leisure. For every hour of activity (work or play), I must allocate an hour of inactivity. Reading. A movie. A leisurely stroll. Playing on the floor with my dog. Something that requires no goal, no measuring stick, no reward for doing it faster. Some may call this sloth. I’m learning to call it life.

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