Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ugly American Seeks Ditch Digger


Dear Eve,

Help me!  I can't relax the way my family thinks I should and they are worried about my health.  I have a very stressful job and work long hours so on the weekends I like to catch up on house and yard work and it's the only time I have to exercise.  I can't sleep in or just hang out with my family or loaf around.  There are things that need to get done!  I have to be productive or I feel like I've wasted my precious time.  Getting things done is relaxing in my own way.  I like being productive.  Plus I do let off steam. I work hard and play hard just like most of the people I work with.  I get my drink on with friends and sometimes over do it -I'm not perfect-, but only after I've gotten my work done.

My family doesn't understand me and keep telling me that I'm going to burn out, or worse, if I don't start relaxing their way.  Are they right?

Dear Working Person,

What do you think?  It doesn't sound like you're convinced you're  on your way to a stroke or heart attack and you know yourself best, right?  A lot of people that work hard at work also work hard at life and that is awesome!  So you can't hang out in your pj's all day and watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy  while eating Geno's Pizza Rolls.  That's okay.  When a person is doing something they enjoy, that is their form of r&r.  No one should judge you on that.  If you enjoy digging a ditch all day on the south side of your property to get optimal drainage so that, in turn, you're almost guaranteed that your American Beauties are going to be prize-worthy, and even when you have to start over again when the trench is a few degrees off the ideal, but you don't mind because it makes you feel awesome and proud of yourself when you work hard and get it right, by all means, get to it. If afterwards, you reward yourself with a nice dinner in the garden and game night with the family, that's a bonus!  If you're happy and you know it, dig a ditch, ::clap! clap!::

However, if digging that ditch comes after your standard Friday evening unwinding session, where you accidentally get knee-walking drunk and smoke all of your neighbor's cigarettes, then get up early the next morning for a punishing 5 mile run because you did it again and now everyone knows you're not perfect, then all day you yell at your kids and spouse 'till a fly wouldn't land on them because they don't know how to dig a ditch properly and DO I HAVE TO SHOW YOU EVERYTHING NEVER MIND I'LL DO IT MYSELF, and this is a normal day off for you, then step back and look at yourself.  You're a mess.

If this is how you roll, relaxing is the least of your problems.  The I-Work-Hard-And-Play-Hard justification is usually the mantra of the binge drinker or the baby alcoholic.  Add a (not) healthy dose of anger, good old-fashioned verbal abuse, and, of course, major stress at work, and you are a good candidate for a stroke, heart attack, or a mental breakdown.  The scariest thing, though, is the chance that you're isolating yourself from your family and not loving them the way they need to be loved.  You sound lonely and will be lonelier if you don't take a honest look at yourself.

I agree with your family.  Re-evaluate your idea of relaxing.  Right now you're a walking cliche:  the unhealthy, over-worked, out of touch American bouncing from one stress to another, never stopping to smell the roses on which you've worked so hard to cultivate.  Don't give the French any more fodder, please.  We have it bad enough with the frogs.

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