For the last year, with brain chemistry and past hurts fairly well dealt with, my biggest obstacle has been my attitude–mostly jaded, with what felt like moments of clarity where I wanted to run away from everything. Rationally, I know that I’m in a waiting period as things like debt, savings, and my wife’s career realign themselves, but I was unable to shake the persistent notion that life has stagnated and I’m stuck.
My therapist focuses a lot on a good work-play balance, and the idea that if you don’t do anything rewarding you’ll burn out and dread living. My work-life balance is healthy, but I didn’t have any play in the life part of that balance. Between being cheap and wanting a brain break after work, I wasn’t really interested in taking on new hobbies–more things to “should” myself with. I already have plenty of leisure activities that I “should” do, how is a new hobby going to be any different than those?
He finally broke through my shitty attitude a couple weeks ago by asking what little things I enjoy. “Nothing in particular.” Really? You don’t do anything at the end of the day or the work week that just helps you chill out? “I mean, I like to have a beer.” How does that make you feel? “It doesn’t. It’s just part of my day.” He went on to ask if I could consider that a treat. For over 12 years, I’ve willfully fought the notion that I deserve rewards. Instead, I’ve believed that good things are earned through hard work and diligence, whether they’re vacations, gifts to myself, or my own happiness. “Do the things you need to now, so you can do the things you want to later.” It hadn’t occurred to me to think of my Friday afternoon happy hour as a treat.
That Friday, I went to the brewery nearby and got a cup of my favorite beer, but instead of just sighing with relief that the work week was over, I told myself “This is my treat for crushing it at work this week.” It felt really good! In that moment, I realized had just been using my end-of-week ritual as a way to pass time, as well as anything else that could be construed as fun. What does one do to “earn” a beer anyhow, or anything else for that matter? I realized I hadn’t been enjoying those little things before, and it flipped my perspective on “play.”
There are still plenty of things I need to work for and earn, and I’m still not on board with the notion of “deserving” anything. Maybe though, I can have small treats just because, and maybe all it takes to make them treats is to actively and willfully frame them that way. I’m still struggling with balancing meds and sleep health, and still feel more foggy and dull than I’d like, but in the last couple weeks my mood has elevated significantly!