Why I'm Happy To Be Back At Work
Holidays and Relationships Can be Hard In Their Own Way
Oddly, I find holidays and vacations kind of hard. While they can be fun and relaxing, I personally like the structure, predictability and productivity of workweeks. I often find more flow in a clear pattern of required focus, and urgencies that create prioritization. Plus, generally no one is disappointed in you for ‘not being fun enough’. While I end up enjoying free time more than I expect to, I’m often happy for the normal routine to start again with school, work, exercise, normal meals, and normal everything.
Over the holiday, I’ve been reflecting on why I like working so much sometimes at the expense of free time. I wondered, “Am I really a workaholic? Where is the line?” I mean I do love more time to exercise, more time for friends, more time to putz. But I get this rush from accompishing things at work that’s sometimes more intense than the return I feel putzing and hanging. And also, I love the puzzles of work, the mental challenge - and those rewards are more straigtforward and immediate than some of the returns of spending time with other people — in part because relationships are hard.
When I think back on my life, I can see that work has often been a refuge from the complexity of relationships. I remember in elementary school, sometimes choosing to teach first graders instead of heading to the drama-filled playground. I remember doubling down on schoolwork when I had friend drama in high school and similarly in college when I had boyfriend drama. Even when my mom passed away, I felt some relief burying myself in work and just forgetting my sadness for a while.
Parenting isn’t a walk in the park. I changed my whole career to spend more time with my kids, but it’s intermittently rewarding and frustrating. Despite the many sacrifices I’ve made for their emotional, physical, and educational well-being, they are fairly unappreciative (and sometimes rude). It can be hard to connect as they pursue their own interests and independence. It can be hard to measure up against the Christmas present and holiday vacation arms race. Did you get a chance to teach them not to compare but to be present and enjoy what they have? I did! But they don’t quite appreciate that lesson yet, either.
Husbands are tricky. Despite being married for 20 years, I’m still learning how to make our relationship happier and more connected. It takes work. And thought. And effort. And time. Sometimes it’s really lovely. And sometimes, even when I do all of those things, he still isn’t happy. There are many things outside of my control.
And as far as holidays go, it’s pretty darn tricky to balance the preferences, activities, personalities, sleep schedules, and interests of many different people on one agenda, with all of their relationship baggage.
Basing my happiness on trying to make other people happy is a frustrating, fickle game. Holidays add a lot of pressure to be fun and happy no matter what.
So, while I LOVED sleeping in, exercising more, and visiting with folks from afar, I’m happy enough to get back to the work, and routine… the more straightforward puzzles where effort equals productivity, accomplishment, and reward. I actually crave it, getting things done that I can see, touch, and have immediacy. Plus, my colleagues are often much more appreciative of a similar unit of effort than my family (thank you!). It’s enough to make you a workaholic - BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD. I love work. I’m pretty good at it. It’s rewarding. I’m not sure if it classifies as a full addiction, but it’s certainly a rewarding escape from the complexities of relationships. (Okay, you’re right - relationships at work can be hard too)
So as I think through my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ll have to factor in continuing to lean into that which is hardest: the long game of relationships, unstructured time, being, not doing. I know I can do it, at least nights and some weekends and forced holidays : )
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