Where in history did the American dream turn into never being able to say no and always having to show up? Why are we a culture of doing something until it breaks us? We have been socially conditioned to show up to school, sports, work when we are sick and we were not given the opportunity to be okay with needing a day off.
This is something I have written about before but after two conversations yesterday on this topic I decide to write about it again. This thought pattern is a poison that feeds us and deteriorates our bodies and energetic levels in ways we usually don’t realize until it is too late. It is a poison we were taught to drink over and over again over the years. You are not throwing up….you need to go to school. Unless you are dying, you need to be at work. Yes, you can do hard things, but make sure you are doing them for the right reasons. Pushing through and being in-denial and feeling like you have to do something or you will lose something are two different things.
This is the extreme that shows up when we are sick, but do we realize how conditioned we are and that we are doing it on a daily basis? We poison ourselves, when we get into the rhythm of thinking we have to overload ourselves with work because it may not be there tomorrow. Or the idea that things cannot wait.
I try to think about when I conditioned myself with this behavior and it was in my 20’s. My ex and I wanted to own a nightclub. I worked three jobs to make all of the ends meet and he could save his paycheck to make this happen. Then when we did get the nightclub it was constant 24 hour working. I had two cell phones. One was the clubs and one was mine. I wasn’t allowed to miss a call from the club phone. What if that was a potential booking? The tables needed to be sold out every time we opened the doors to make money.
And that is when it happened. This idea that if someone left a message, we could lose the sale. So, I was at the mercy of a club phone for the next 8 years of my life. When I was breast feeding my babies, at dinner with friends, even during holidays… a slave to the phone and the potential money that could be lost if I didn’t answer it.
I didn’t realize what a pattern I had created until I was a single mom. When I first separated from my ex, I still had responsibilities at the nightclub. One of my responsibilities was to answer the phone. I had asked him to give the phones to someone else since I wasn’t even working in the club, unless I was djing at the time, but that unfortunately didn’t happen until the divorce was finalized.
So here I am, for seven months always answering the phone like usual and my son gets upset with me one day. Remember, I have just separated from their dad and all of the sudden I am only with them half the time. He says to me “daddy is never on the phone all the time when he is with us”. My heart is crushed. If I don’t answer this phone, then I am failing my job (remember I was conditioned to feel this way) and at this point I am scared this can be used against me in my divorce. Plus, I am trying to build my own graphic design business so I can support myself, because the nightclub is not going to be there to support me in the future. What am I supposed to do?
I always felt like I couldn’t miss an email or phone call. What if I lost that sale? Then I had one those conversations that you never forget because it was so pivotal in your life. My cousin’s wife, Brianna, gave me the best advice that I have ever gotten. She suggested I set up a system with my kids. She said you need to do "Red, Green, and Yellow time" with your phone. She said you tell your kids that green time means I can always answer. Yellow time means I sometimes have to answer. Red time means I absolutely will not answer. She said. “When it is red time, you have to honor this though and allow the kids to say to you it is red time.”
This was so hard for me! But I did it. And I listened when they said, “Red Time”. I honored and respected them and in turn they honored and respected me when it was green time and I had to answer. This also allowed me the space to realize I wasn’t going to miss anything; I can be unavailable sometimes. We still use this today in our household. I now have gotten to a point where my phone is nowhere near me during red time. This is a big step for a girl who was at mercy of two phones for years. We need to un-train ourselves from the poison of thinking we have to work all the time!
I do love working for myself. Two weeks ago, my son was home sick, then my daughter was sick and then of course it hit me. It is impossible to have a sick child cuddling with you night and day and not get the germs. I am totally okay with that though! That is what is important! Those cuddles and crawling into their bed when they want comfort when they are sick. I will do that forever if they let me.
So here I am already behind on work and now my head feels like it is going to explode. Trying to put together a rational text message feels like running a marathon. Rather than just sinking into the fact I am sick and message my clients this, I fight through the bare minimum, trying to work because I “need” to. I do need to financially, don’t get me wrong, if I am not working there is no money coming in and there are no reserves left at this point in my family’s life. But I am not allowing myself to heal by keeping my body in constant stress and distress.
Yesterday was day 3 of being sick and I finally succumbed to lying in bed, watching bad tv and not trying to make my brain work. Being self-employed is hard and it becomes even harder when suddenly two weeks of work have been lost in a blink of an eye. All I can do is be honest and do my best. Being honest also means being honest with my body and mind, and paying attention when I need a break. I have gotten much better at this in the last year but there is still a lot of work to be done.
I do love being self-employed so that does mean more work hours at times. That also means more freedom most of the time. I do think we need to teach our kids it’s okay to be sick and miss school, sports, or other engagements to just rest. This also relates to mental stress and not just physical sickness. If you or your child needs a break, teach them it is okay to take it! They do not need to push through. Let’s break this cycle of not knowing how to rest. It is okay if they don’t show up once in a while. We call it a MENTAL HEALTH Day in our household. This is by design on my part because I want my children to know mental health is just as important as physical health.
We are a society of people conditioned to feel like we always have to show up. I was a survivor, I always showed up. That was how I got here today. That doesn’t mean that was always healthy. There comes a time where you have to LIVE. In this moment that means I curl up in my lover’s large t-shirt, grab a cup of tea and watch bad tv (my brain can’t even handle reading right now!). I check the mom guilt at the door. I realize another paycheck or sale will come and I do NOTHING.
This is me telling my body and mind I give you permission to do nothing.
- Amanda @luxhealingarts 💕