Less Depressed, Still Annoyed

So I managed to knock two major items off the mile-long to-do list, and it’s an accomplishment in no small part because (1) these were the two things that I most dreaded doing, and (2) they were the most pressing things on the list. (1) + (2) = major guilt paralysis; my inability (or perhaps lack of desire, or flat-out refusal) to complete these two tasks prevented me from moving on to anything else on the list, because I knew that what I really ought to be working on were these two things, and if I wasn’t doing that…

But: paralysis overcome. Mood improving, at least slightly. I still find myself pretty cheesed-off, however, at the fact that only productivity can make me feel any better. I mean, for god’s sake, I’m Catholic; how did I get saddled with such a heaping helping of the Protestant work ethic?

And this brings me back to a chicken-or-egg conversation that my pal Tim and I had this weekend: are people with quality x (in this case, an over-developed work ethic and a sense of self much too bound up in accomplishment) drawn to the profession, or is that quality something that is produced in them by the profession? I suspect it’s a little of both: something in my goal-oriented nature drew me into grad school, and then that part of me got fed by the culture I found there. The end result is a severely stunted ability to be happy unless I feel like I’m accomplishing something.

All this is part of my annual (or perhaps semi-annual; I’d have to check the archives to be sure, and frankly, I don’t really want to know how frequently this has come up) grousing about how tired I am of being unable to enjoy my life apart from my work. This is something I clearly need to work on, though, because while work can sustain me when it’s going well, I need another form of sustenance during the periods when it’s just not, when I just feel like chucking it all and running off to Tahiti…


  1. Maybe, just maybe, there is some pleasure in the jeremiad?

    Let’s split hairs: concern about time management; guilt about the items on the ToDo list; guilt about the guilt about the items on the ToDo list; feeling sad or blue; guilt about feeling sad or blue.

    If one begins by indulging in the blues … a nice hot bath with soothing tissane for a set period of time ….

    If one continues with applying time to task without worrying about completion of task…

    … does the guilt, of whatever brand, dissipate?

    Yes… or so I suspect. The nature of guilt is to fixate on the finish. The nature of enjoyment is to live for the process. Peace but a breath away.

    Someone in my recent blog reading indicated that The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh was one of their inspirations to remember to exhale.

  2. Hey – but I thought you were feeling better because you did something that you’d told yourself that you wanted to do and that had been anxiety provoking. That’s good, right?

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