Among other things, I am a Cultural Anthropologist. I chose to study Anthropology at the University of Washington because the rhythms, rituals and perceptions of people and cultures fascinate me. I focused on religions, native cultures, nonprofits, low income families and more recently American single parents. As I have personal experience as a single parent, I have taken more of a coaching approach to my work lately.
Our American society is fascinatingly beautiful in many ways. And fascinatingly out of whack in others, if you ask me. For example, we have brilliance in music, art, dance…we have a network of nonprofit organizations helping those in need and empowering people/animals/the earth towards their greatest goodness.
On the flip side, we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Born perhaps out of the industrial revolution, we are constantly doing more, achieving the next great invention/internet craze. While achievement and progress is good and commendable, growth without balance is unsustainable. And so we find ourselves in 2012, with a 40 (or more) work week, 2 weeks of vacation a year, more children being born to single mothers than ever before, and our country is obese.
It is only common sense to me that if we are running at high velocity, and add new challenging factors, we short circuit. Perhaps that explains the rise in Postpartum depression in new mothers or PTSD within the military, I don’t know.
So what are people doing to deal with the out of balance work/life expectations we have? I watch people I care about handle it in different ways. Some run marathons, others overeat, some people talk with therapists, some dance, others take antidepressants, some unplug, others move to smaller towns, some choose religion, some choose mindfulness.
We all cope in different ways but to me the question is not how to cope, but why cope with something that I don’t think right? It’s too much America!
In the Little House on the Prairie days, people got up, fed animals, fed themselves, worked on their property to provide food, cooked, maybe sang and read and called it a day when it got dark. Now? Get up, shower, meditate, make caffeinated substance, cook, drive kids to school, go to work, sit in front of a computer, microwave your $10 lunch, drive home, stop at the grocery store to buy something in packaging, pick up kids, do homework and cook, eat, get ready for bed, don’t forget to floss, do laundry, pack lunches, pay bills, surf the web, drink bedtime tea, sleep and repeat. Oh and feel guilty for not parent helping enough, calling your friends, exercising, blah, blah, blah…
When are we going to stop? If this is a rat race… #1 I am not a rat. #2 Neither are you. Let’s choose differently. I hear people talking about the “American Dream” in new ways. The Center for New America has some thoughtful ideas.
I see a lot of people in our society moving towards a more wholistic lifestyle. Here are a couple of things I am choosing to make our lives more enjoyable:
Choosing local and organic foods. Try out a CSA (community supported agriculture).
Make sure to have time with friends. Laughter is essential.
Rethinking what I love and spending more time doing it. Art, cooking, playing on the floor with my children.
Talk about it. I enjoy talking with people about their perceptions of this life we lead and sharing ideas and resources.
Slow down. Easier said than done but you owe it to yourself. Take a walk at lunch, get up 10 minutes early and ask yourself, “What do I want in this day?”
I believe that inside all of us we have an intrinsic knowing. We are born with it and it develops with us over time. That is, if we continue to carve out the space to get to know it. As children, we naturally do this through play, especially in the natural world. As adults, with so much to do/achieve we can loose track of our own knowing just by keeping ourselves too busy/distracted as we attempt to function at the pace of today’s world. We find ourselves lost and turn to our favorite distraction to numb our discomfort at being separate from our knowing.
A favorite quote of mine from a good friend is, “Whatever the situation, our choice is our reaction to it.” So I can continue to plug along at the velocity that this society deems appropriate, or I can choose my own pace.
I choose a my own pace. Here is a little secret… Our knowing, our intrinsic right action and visions are within us all of them time. To access this space, is easier than you can imagine… just breathe. And repeat. And carve out a little time to get know what you already know.
If we all did that, they world would become an even more beautiful place.