Thursday, January 28, 2010

Down but not Out

Life ran me over this week, like a Greyhound bus. And I had been doing so
well, too. Truthfully, I have been pushing hard to make some very cool
projects come to life and then yesterday my body just rebelled. Not an
all-out mutiny, but certainly a loud uprising that got the aging
dictator's attention. (Okay, I know that was an awkward metaphor.) So the
question remains, how do you build healthy boundaries into your life?
Those polite little caution signs that tell you, "This much I can handle,
but this is too much and might kill you." My way is generally more
extreme. My thinking tends toward--"If 4 hours of rehearsing at the piano
is a good thing then 6 must be better; and if 30 minutes on the elliptical
machine at the gym is helping me, then 45 would be so much better; And of
course, if two cups of coffee are great in the morning. . ." Well, you get
the idea. So yesterday, the body told me that it was time to slow down. I
will spare you the narrative of my gastrointestinal saga, except to note
that by midday I was at least three pounds lighter than I was the night
before—enough said. With some rest, the worst of the symptoms subsided and
by evening I was feeling human again. I was able to do a little bit of
productive work along the way, and I doubt there will be serious
collateral damage from the internal attacks. Still, I wonder about this
cyclical yin and yang of my work patterns.

The odd thing I am learning about the ebb of flow of my creative energies
is that I am very poor at predicting how things will work, or even what a
certain project is really costing me in terms of my time or physical
capacity. I really do believe that creative work is essentially
regenerative, meaning that inspired work has the ability to create energy
rather than sap it away. There certainly is work that is soul killing and
unfortunately I have experienced enough of that. However, in the language
of "flow psychology," there is work that serves to feed us at that soul
level, and in turn, it serves to make us more alive. This is, of course,
what we yearn to spend our time doing, and there has been some
enlightening work produced recently about the amazing benefits of choosing
to invest one's energy in purposeful work. Still, there is a boundary line
at a certain margin of our daily lives that distinguishes healthy
productivity from either maniacal dysfunction or rusting decay. As one who
regularly cycles through intense seasons of pushing hard, today I see that
I want to pay better attention to what that boundary line looks and feels

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