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Mindful : June 2015
I wanted to have a life where I could throw a ball for my dog and delight in his joy—and not be simultaneously on the phone taking care of business. dishes, learn just about a nything, have our groceries delivered—it has also gotten easier to work more. We communicate with coworkers at all hours of the day and night in person, by phone, text, and ema il. Instead of starting work at 8 a.m ., we start at 6 a.m ., when we switch off the alarm on our smartphones and check the ema ils that ca me in overnight. While it’s true that new technologies can save us a lot of time, often it doesn’t matter, because we fill “found” time in ways that heighten neither produc- tivity nor happiness. I understand this paradox both intellectually and personally, especially when I look back a few years. I had work I really loved—as a par- enting a nd life coach, as a sociologist at UC Berke- ley’s Greater Good Science Center, and as a keynote speaker, author, a nd blogger—but the sheer logistics of my single-pa rent, triple-job life were leaving me dead tired, and, if I’m honest, often snappish with the people I loved the most. I never rested anymore, never just sat down to watch a movie or read for pleasure, and I never saw my friends during the week. Every minute of every day, I needed to ma ke progress answering emails, checking things off lists, driving the kids around, and arranging things on one of my multiple task lists and Google calendars. The low point for me came at a time when my business was really picking up a nd my life as a single mother was chang ing. I was launching an online class platform, had just moved to a new town, and was traveling a lot for speaking engagements. Consta ntly crisscrossing time zones (a nd a rra ng- ing care for my children while I was gone) left me beyond exhausted. I caught every virus on every airplane, a nd one autumn morning I found myself in the ER, dehydrated, in excruciating pain, with a 103-degree fever and a kidney infection. To make matters worse, I was scheduled to deliver a keynote address at a large conference in Atlanta at the end of the following week. I knew I couldn’t do it. I found myself hoping that the doctor would insist I stay the night in the hospital. I was having my first “hospital fantasy,” something I’d heard other women had. I knew I’d be okay soon, but I had simply been too tired for too long. I emailed the conference orga nizers once the IV a ntibiotics kicked in. They were furious that I’d emailed instead of calling, that I hadn’t given them more wa rning, that I hadn’t called before I was so sick that I needed hospitaliza- tion. They would not be booking me in the future. I was devastated. As a lifelong perfectionist and overachiever, I found that disappointing the con- ference organizers was in ma ny ways as painful for me as the infection. That short stint in the hospital (in the end, I didn’t even spend the night) prompted me to begin a series of life experiments. Could I bring joy a nd rest back into my life? This felt risky, as though I would have to give up financial reward and professional success for time to rest and play. But I wanted a life where I had enough ease in my day that I could stop a nd chat with my neighbor, throw a ball for my dog and delight in his joy (and not be simultaneously on the phone taking ca re of business), spend entire weekends ma king art and reading for pleasure and hanging out with my kids. I wanted to go back to cooking as a hobby, making real food for my family, rather than just warming up frozen stuff. In the Sweet Spot or Not I needed to get my groove back, to live in my sweet spot rather than on a ha mster wheel of busyness. The sweet spot is that point of optimum impact that athletes strike on a bat or racket or club, the place where an athlete has both the greatest power and the greatest ease. Playing tennis, I can feel it when I hit the ball in the racket’s sweet spot—the ball launches easily and powerfully over the net. When 36 mindful June 2015 resilience