Confessions of a Workaholic
I was under the covers already, but had to pick up her call. We caught up for a while.
“How’s your book on workaholism coming along?” I asked.
My dear friend was confessing some big things and needed an active ear.
“Well, I stopped working for the past year,” she responded. “I’ve been hiding out. Rethinking. Repairing. My body is healing. I feel so much better.”
We started talking about her recent collapse, how the stress she’d put herself under had caused some auto-immune issues. How she’d ended up in the hospital.
“I had to call you,” she said. “I heard what you were up to. I need you to know how much work some of your new ideas could entail.”
When we finished talking, I put my phone on the charger and clicked off the light. That’s when the real thinking began. Was she right?
My podcast has taken off lately and has enabled me to launch many accompanying podcasts, books, and more. I wake up energized, my fingers flying on the keyboard or typing DMs on my phone as soon as my head leaves the pillow. Sometimes, before. I seem to have tapped into some creative fountain in my brain and want to take advantage of it while the water is still pumping. I’m afraid if I stop now, if I scale back, the ideas will dry up or become irrelevant. But at what cost?
I used to have free time when the kids went to my ex’s every other weekend. I could really hang out with my husband. We’d travel to L.A., take long drives, try restaurants, shop, snuggle, watch movies. Sit outside with aperol spritzes in the summer. Sit by the fire with hot chocolate in the winter. Now, with both of us running our own start-ups and four kids around, we’re more like ships in the night.
I used to clear my calendars on those Fridays and Mondays when I knew it would just be him and me. Now, I use those blank calendar days as an opportunity to work 12 hours straight. I used to exercise often, regularly. Now, maybe I move my body twice a week for 30 minutes, usually in my pajamas on a stationary bike in the garage. I used to talk to friends on the phone. Hand-written thank-you notes. Call my mom. While I haven’t sacrificed time with my kids and am generally home and accessible, I don’t always spend concerted one-on-one time with each of them the way I’d like. I haven’t baked. Or written that memoir. Or slowly relished a book. Instead, I’m supercharging my way through everything. One day this week, I did five podcasts. It was energizing, but also depleting. To what end?
I’m not sure why I feel compelled to produce excess amounts of content that no one person could likely consume. But I do. I find myself wanting to do more, and more, and more. But I worry I’m starting to pay for it. When I sit with the kids, sometimes I itch to go back and get more done on my laptop. I don’t look up enough from my computer or phone, talking as I type, a fleeting glance tossed out instead of a deep stare into a loved one’s eyes.
I need to clear my inbox. Cross things off the list. It has become an addiction of sorts, this need to achieve and complete.
I’ve gained weight. I’ve developed aches and pains in new ways. When I wake up, I see new wrinkles burrowing across my forehead as if little gophers have been criss-crossing the lawn on my forehead all night long.
Before I take on another project that, on its own, could be a full-time job, I need to pause and ask: why? For me? For the beneficiaries? For what purpose?! I want people to be awed by all I can do, but I’m only human. And I have four little humans to care for. Plus a husband and an attentive black lab, always waiting patiently at my feet. I have to say no to some things, however tempting, so I can say yes to the things that matter most.
A little mental calculus: if I start another new project, whose time will that come out of? When will I find it? At whose expense? When will it be too much and how will I know? Perhaps, I do now. I don’t want to end up in the hospital like my friend.
So I’m pausing. I’m rethinking, planning, analyzing. Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Now, I’m too busy to write the column one publication has asked for, a longstanding dream. Now, I’m too busy to write the memoir a publisher wants, another dream. I long to read slowly again, instead of speed-reading. I want to write in a leisurely way, not frantically. I want to spend more time looking into people’s eyes. Perhaps now, the most boss-like move I can make is not becoming a boss at all.