This morning I was reading an article in the New York Times about dropping your kids off to school (bear with me, this article is not about that topic). As many children start going to school, they are introduced to a new world of structure and obligation that they will be a part of hence forth. One of the things that really stuck with me in the article was the point about how draining the day might be for children because they are expected to always be “on” and that’s new to them. The honesty of that hit me because yes, we are always expected to be “on”. To participate in class, to deliver at work, to be social in our free time. Where does the expectation come from that we feel we always have to be “on”? Every second that we are outside of our house, we are deemed to be wanting to deliver.
My first assumption would be that when you are happy it means your life or you in a good place. In a place where you are able to give to others. Looking at it from that perspective, of course the world would want you in that capacity. Society is extremely functionally driven. When in a mental health class the instructor asked what does it mean to function in a society having a job and getting a paycheck were the first things mentioned. We see getting paid and paying taxes means you are an integral part of society. You play your role. The more you deliver at work, the more successful you will become. The more friends you have, the happier your life is. Everything is presumed to function on the ability of you to be able to give – your energy and your time.
This leads to a dangerous fact – namely that it is not appropriate for people to be down, or sad, or just have a day where they don’t feel like delivering. Can you imagine getting called out in school and being like “I don’t feel like answering this question today I just feel low on energy”. Or at work asking to move a meeting because you don’t feel up for it and are worn out of being social? Its unimaginable. I wouldn’t have the guts, I would just say I am sick or pull it together. Which makes the world very black and white – either you are fully in and functioning to your max, or you are totally out of it.
The best approach would be to have it all more balanced. Do you find sometimes you start off the day on the wrong foot and by the afternoon you are full of energy again and ready to be social? Life is not linear, no matter how much we want it to be and comes with it ups and downs. You can be down, just as much as you can be happy. A life without any downs is not possible. Don’t even start with expecting that kind of life from yourself. Accepting that there are times you won’t feel like functioning, that there are times that you almost can’t is the first step to have a more balanced life. And that way you can save yourself some energy and not be drained by the end of the day like children after going to school on their first day.