Shuffle the Deck

+ deck of cards Oct 2010 5258853_sMy son, Charlie, recently suggested to me that I should have more fun. He has a point, though I hope Charlie also feels that we have had some fun together, that I’m not an “all work/no play” person. He’s had a lifetime observing me working hard – cooking real meals, keeping the house clean, having a professional life, and being a parent who needed at times to hold a serious Mom vibe. But, I appreciate his comment. It is true that I am pretty good at working, do it a lot of the time, and maybe don’t relax quite enough.

My ability to work – to be organized, to stay with a task – is an aspect of myself that I value and that some of my friends wish they had a little more of. One friend and colleague (who is actually a very effective worker in her own way) worked with me on a project for the non-profit we both serve and commented, “I’ll hitch my red wagon to your organizational skills any day!” She and I make a good team, balancing our work skills and talents in a way that brings good results.

I’ve also learned something from her about taking breaks. She has two dogs who need fresh air and play, so she’s outdoors in woodsy nature with them several times a day. I don’t think I need a dog, but I know I need/want more time just being outside, doing nothing – not even reading a book – just being! I want to dial up my other senses: look at the sky, feel the sun on my face and my feet on the ground, smell the air and the proverbial roses. I would also like to find a hobby or a new interest, because sometimes I’m not sure what to do when I’m done working for the day but not ready for bed. Yikes! I don’t want working – even if it is something I’m good at doing – to overtake my life.

Years ago, the father of one my piano students described the study habits of his daughter, Eliza and her brother. Eliza was an incredibly hard worker and a very conscientious student – to the point where the father would have to remind her to relax, not to worry so much, not to take things so seriously. His son, on the other hand, was a little too relaxed and needed the occasional prompt to give his assignments a little more effort, to take things a little more seriously. The father was enjoying the irony of the two ends of the spectrum each child represented and said, “I just wish, sometimes, that I could kind of shuffle the deck, give each of them some of the other’s qualities!”

I enjoyed this analogy and have applied it to myself. Since I’m pretty good at working hard and organizing things, I have to be careful not to overdo this and ignore the other end of the spectrum. A strength can turn into a detriment all too easily. Work needs the balance of play; organization demands a little mess and chaos (the seat of creativity!). I need to shuffle my own deck at times!

It has been revealing to bring awareness to what is a strength, and to consider whether it might be something I rely on too much. Years ago, I found myself starting to feel irritated when people would comment, “Oh, but you’re so nice…” The implication I heard was that I really wasn’t very strong or tough. Being “nice” is a strength, but not if it isn’t genuine and is masking real feelings and responses that might not be so “nice.” I began to look at whether I was expressing what I was really feeling. I didn’t need to be impolite about it, but I didn’t have to be nice all the time either. So, I shuffled the deck – not with the “mean” end of the spectrum, but perhaps with the “authentic” end.

So, today, my focus is on work/fun. Interestingly, an angel card I picked this past weekend was “Play.” To be honest, I didn’t play all that much over the weekend. But there were a few minutes on Saturday, when I put my book down, sat with a cup of chai in my hand, and just looked out my sun porch window at the sky. It was pretty nice.

There’s hope for me yet, Charlie!

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