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The Filp Side of Workaholism: Pursuit of the Elusive Free Time

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Happy 2016! Wishing you a happy, healthy, prosperous, and enlightening year ahead!

For me, this is the year to learn how to take the pressure off myself. Having time off over the winter break revealed to me how tired I am. And I don't mean the kind of tired one feels after grueling physical labor. I mean tired from feeling the pressure of stressing myself out through unconsciously buying into my fear and anxiety.

I started to see how I have created the new economy of time. Rather than fantasizing over having more money, I am now fantasizing about having more time: more time to relax, more time for myself, more time to exercise, more time with my family, more time with friends, more time to travel. I have created the illusion that if I just had more time then I would be happier. I would be more comfortable. Life would be more pleasurable.

I go into reveries of peace, tranquility, and quiet, and think about how to change my life to get more of those experiences, but the truth is I would be no different than the lottery winner who is bankrupt in five years after winning 100 million dollars. Even if I won the lottery of time, with my current thinking and understanding, I would find a way to fill up my time and stress myself out. I feel rushed now, and I would feel rushed then. The question is, how do I shift my understanding so that it no longer makes sense to have a habitual pattern of pressuring myself? How do I not believe the voice of doom in my head telling me that if I don't work hard my world will fall apart? How do I see my fearful thinking as illusion and experience the peace and tranquility that is present? How do I experientially know the only time is now so I can feel the present moment more intimately and deeply?

The solution is actually quite simple. I am the only one who makes my irrational thoughts feel credible in the moment. I am the one pressuring myself to do more and achieve more. I am the one bullying myself to get just one more thing done. I am the one buying into my anxious and fearful thoughts and relating to them as if they are real. Unfortunately, when I am doing that, I am often not aware that is what I am doing. I am most likely unconsciously reacting to my emotional experience of pressure and discomfort. Rather than pausing and reflecting on what is happening, I am cow-towing to my fear to get a brief reprieve from the pressure before the next impulse to do more comes along.

My current mid-life crisis is to realize that just as I am addicted to doing. I am also addicted to not doing. As I approach 50, instead of buying a corvette, or falling in love with a 20-year-old, my seduction is nothing -- doing nothing. Like either of the other two options, I am sure there would be a honeymoon period of loosing myself in the nothingness, but this would be temporary, then the thoughts would come back.

The real opportunity as I see it, is to fully accept my craving for more time. See it as just another thought that I don't need to do anything about. Yes, the craving feels uncomfortable, but it will pass. My personal discomfort is not something to get worked up about. Feeling good all of the time is not a reasonable goal. When I try to pursue it, all I do is waste my energy on a utopian fantasy and wear myself out.

I don't need to be deeply present all the time. I don't need to always be in the flow and experiencing the oneness of all existence. Life is not one peak experience that only keeps getting better. The beauty of life is in the mosaic of experience that includes all of the human emotions from bliss to piss.

So that is where the real pressure comes off. Surrendering to what is -- no matter what -- is the peace. Not expending energy to try to make myself feel more comfortable when my ego gets all worked up about needing more pleasure -- is the shift. I don't need to abandon my life, my work, or my family. Instead, I can embrace where I am on this journey, have compassion for my frazzled self, be amused by my neurotic behaviors, and know that no matter how much I feel I need to compulsively do, no matter how tired I am, no matter how anxious I get, no matter how much pressure I put on myself, my true nature does not care. My ego might crave more comfort, and think it will come in the form of more time, but my Authentic Self doesn't need it. Now that is a relief!