Holiday Balancing Act
As December comes around I’ve always felt the holiday spirit beckoning me to abandon the routine – schoolwork and chores as a kid, homework at college, and family tasks plus paid work as an adult. All through my life and up to the present I’ve felt the holiday pull to make Christmas crafts and get an early jump on gift shopping. Recently, the familiar tug of war went on all this week, as I resisted working on editing a book chapter where I was stuck. I kept looking out the window, distracted by the holidays, not getting through my blind spot. By Thursday, I was feeling guilty and grumpy.
This is when I paused in order to consider my dilemma and thought of these three Freudian aspects of the self: The id, the ego and the superego. The id is like the kid in us, who just goes toward bodily pleasure, aka “the natural child”. The superego is the parental aspect of the self that holds our values and reminds us what we “should” do. The ego is the adult aspect, which respectfully weighs the needs of the child with the voice coming from the parent and creates a reasonable and acceptable conclusion. This is like taking two arguing parties and compromising on a solution that is acceptable to both. My “kid” wanted to Christmas shop, my “parent” wanted me to work on the book, and they were at war. My “adult” heard the kid resisting work because she wanted to play and heard the parent imposing pressure and guilt. My “adult” came up with the following solution. She said, “Since discipline to work is hard right now, schedule a strict window of time with no distractions in order to focus, then promise that when you get through the stuck part, you will reward yourself.” So I took that plan and ran with it.
On the last day of this week, Friday, I ramped up the discipline by spending time in the library to stay focused. On Saturday, after a walk at the lake, I resumed work on the chapter at home. As soon as I made the breakthrough, where I felt satisfied with what I wrote, I heard a crash, like glass breaking. As no one else was in the house, not even the dog, I was alarmed. A framed photo had fallen over the balcony, broken into pieces, leaving shattered glass on the living room floor below. I swept up the mess, wondering how the frame fell. I heard a noise upstairs, went up to find a song sparrow loose in the house, flying around, upstairs and down and trying to leave by a window, but none were open.
“Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the shutters
And threw up the sash…”
NO, I opened all the doors to encourage him to fly free, which he finally did.
If you are ever stuck between worlds, one foot facing toward work and the other insisting on play, consider letting these three aspects of you talk to each other. Have your “adult” listen respectfully (no shaming allowed!) to both sides, the needs of “parent” and “child”, and then abide by the “adult” solution. As soon as you do, the dove of peace may enter your abode, or as in my case a song sparrow.