Saturday, May 31, 2014

Protestant Work Ethic, or, How To Relax.

My dearly loved brother is an economics professor at a university, and has an enormous workload, even though he's been tenured for years. Much of this workload is self-assigned; he does considerably more preparation for his courses than many other professors, who urge him to use materials from previous years, rather than start anew each year, trying to make his teaching fresh and interesting.

But he and I are much alike in that we both have trouble relaxing and doing nothing - we were raised with "Protestant work ethic" (hard work and effort are praised above almost all else.)

I'm 56, he's 57, yet neither of us is fully comfortable with the idea that we are allowed to have time in which we do nothing.

 Almost as soon as I was released from hospital this time, I was itching to get busy doing something. Accomplishing something. I have great trouble with days at the end of which I cannot say, "Well, at least I got ______ done, today." When I am asked, "What have you been doing lately?" and I can't reel off a list of things completed, I feel uneasy, and vaguely guilty.

My brother and I were laughing in exchanged emails recently: I told him about being two days out of hospital, but managing to get some sewing finished, and he told me about wandering around his place feeling slightly out-of-sorts before finding a fiendishly complicated economics book which he sat down to read. School is finished for the year, and with it, his obligations - and as a result, he doesn't quite know what to do with himself.

We're both nuts.


  1. I like to stay busy, but also realize that relaxing and meditating are restorative. Human being and not human doing is good for me. I have done and done for so long, it's now time to slack off a bit. Thinking of you.

  2. Haha very funny. Sounds like you have a good relationship with your brother. Reminds me of what I had with mine before alcohol clouded his mind. We still laugh though, and I will take whatever he has to offer. Love is powerful. Good to see you sharing. You are in my prayers.

  3. Sometimes I like to think of the sewing or the gardening as meditation; I've also seen it as somewhat obsessive at times, but if I don't overdo it, it's good for me. I enjoy the feeling of concentrating on something creative. One of the AlAnon readers has a good page on creativity and spirituality. I can identify with the work ethic, which my whole family absorbed in spite of the alcoholism. Of course anything can be used for avoidance!
    I just wanted to say too that your blog has been a total inspiration to me for years, and the fact that you are artistic and creative is part of that. Writing so clearly about the effects of alcoholism, and then doing all the creative things you've done too--both have helped me to see gifts from the disease, instead of total sadness. Would love to see your visual work.