A therapist friend recently asked me for advice. (No this isn’t the opening remark at the American Psychiatric Association convention.) She was feeling remiss about starting, and not keeping up with, a blog. What with her practice and her actual life, her energies didn’t seem to be directed into blogging. I actively listened (until she took a long breath, I’m only human after all) and asked her “why do you want a blog?” “I guess I don’t, I just thought I should” she replied. I assured her that no one is watching.
Doing things that have no (positive or negative) impact on anyone else because you feel you should is exhausting. Time and energy is in fact finite, and to habitually spend any of it on activities that simply don’t resonate for us seems rather self-sabotaging.
Of course I don’t mean to suggest the key to a self-actualized life is to only do what one wants. Not at all. There will always be things we must do (i.e., teeth cleanings, insurance wranglings, tax filings, etc.) There will always be things we do because doing so means something to someone we love. We will attend partner’s high school reunions (and duck out frequently to text friends back home) we will be by the bedside of a sick and frightened loved one, we will babysit a “I have a permanent marker and I’m not afraid to use it” toddler so his mother can get her hair cut. Relationships by definition are two-way streets, and no doubt people similarly treat us with generosity.
There is a difference between engaging in the world and with our loved ones and reacting to trends or external pressure. The tricky part is that the only way to detect what actions resonate for us personally is to listen very closely. There are some people who love nothing more than staying up until midnight making 60 homemade cupcakes frosted with each classmates’ initials. These people no doubt love the sense of creativity and accomplishment that comes from such an activity. But the person next door might be doing the same thing because he/she thinks it is expected.
By whom this activity is expected is an interesting question of course. No one is watching. Do we project an exacting parent’s expectations onto strangers? Maybe. Do we really think that the world cares that much about what we do or don’t do? Maybe. Do we look at the world in a very critical manner ourselves and therefore assume everyone else does as well. Perhaps.
Not much good can come from living one’s life as if on stage. Humanity is far too wrapped up in their own lives than to sit and watch ours. If you find yourself dragging your feet or having a gastrointestinal disturbance when faced with an activity; take a moment. Are you going to book club or yoga because you love the experience, or because you feel ‘this is what I should do?” There are enough built-in “should do”s in grown-up life. Read whatever book you want. Find a physical activity that makes your heart soar (literally) and blog only if all the words in your head desperately need to get out.