The Imbalance of Productivity

Posted by Daniel Tipton on Jun 2, 2020 6:51:20 AM

April 23, 2020

balance wordle

I think I might have become a Hobbit since quarantine began.  Maybe I’ve always been one pretending to live a human life.  I had breakfast today.  Then second breakfast.  At 10:30 am I had my Elevensies…it was a potato chip sandwich.  Lunch was served at 1 p.m.  Then, around 3 p.m., just before a zoom meeting, I cracked open a tasty Oreo cookie pudding cup!  I also haven’t traveled very far from my Hobbit hole in the last few weeks.  I’m quite content nestled here in my Shire with my snacks, my puppy, and some trashy TV at the end of the day. 


I tell you all of this as if it’s a confession of sorts.  Somedays, when I don’t quite have the energy to create or the empathy to be present, I find it hard to be productive.  Or at least as productive as I think I should be.  I engage that part of my twisted inner voice that tells me if I’m to be loved, valued, or wanted, I need to produce something worth having around. 


That’s why my love language is “Words of Affirmation.” I feel loved when people tell me I’m doing a good job.  Every time you write back to these emails to tell me how much they mean I feel loved.  When people comment on my dinner pictures on my Instagram #dancancook I feel like I’m adding something to the world that makes my presence worth the space I occupy.  I feel justified in my existence and feel less burdensome to the world.


So when I’m feeling unproductive, tired, or empty, instead of looking for ways to fill up, rest, or reignite creativity, I force myself to make one more call, write one more email, go one more mile.  Eventually, I empty myself completely of all reserves and I become snarky, sarcastic, angry, and snippy.  Nobody likes a snippy chaplain! 


We’ve all heard the proverb “one cannot fill another’s cup from an empty pitcher” or some variation of this admonition to self-care.  Yet here we are, day after day, shaking dust and ash from our shriveled and dried up wells into the desperately needy cups clamoring for more and more.  We weren’t created to look the other way when people are hurting.  The needs others will never stop being important to us.


So here we are, desperate and depressed, defeated and flattened by both internal and external pressures to be productive.  Sure, we have obligations to keep.  Work still needs to be done.  All the work that filled our days before quarantine still fills our plates.  However there is something else at play here too.  Something else is pushing us off balance and throwing us off our game. 


That something is part of what makes us all good professional caregivers.  Our drive to succeed and do our best is why we are good at what we do.  It is our purpose in life to care for others. Somewhere along the way our driving purpose has become a drive to productivity.  We lost something in the translation and our passion feels like a burden.  So we martyr ourselves on an altar that demands us do more and more. 


In the drive to fill our days with quality work we tend to get lost in the minutia of details.  Our anxiety swells with every task added to our to-do list.  We fill our days with things that have to be done so we feel like we’ve produced enough to validate our worthiness and we exhaust ourselves. But what if we began each day with a different perspective? What if tomorrow morning, you woke up, poured a cup of coffee, sat down in front of your computer and closed your eyes for 5 minutes before you open your email?  What if tomorrow morning you remembered why you chose caregiving as your career of choice?  What if you became reacquainted with your purpose? Can you imagine how much you could really do if every thing on your to-do list was there to reinforce the purpose, the passion of your work, your calling?


So, it’s ok if you’re tired and worn down.  It’s what happens when we’ve replaced our sense of sacred purpose with logic driven, commodity production.  You’re going to feel passionless.  You’re going to feel empty.  You are empty! 


So, how can we begin our days with our purpose foremost in our minds? Am I brave enough to ask “what is my purpose for this day?” What are the tasks that will help me meet this purpose?  What might knock me off track and tempt me back to the dirty details of productivity? How will I promise to rest at the end of the day knowing I’ve fulfilled my purpose and passion today?


Beginning each day with purpose, on purpose is an act of love.  It is an act of appreciation and gratitude for a gift long ago given.  It is how we recharge and refill our pitchers and pour ourselves out over and over again to a broken and fearful world. 


I leave you with this thought by Arne Garborg: “To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.”


I hope you learn to love yourself.  I hope you learn your passion and your purpose.  I hope you reclaim the gift.  I hope you sing with joy the song buried deep in your heart! 


Love and Light! 


Topics: Covid-19, Grief Services