Mama M.’s Soul Advice: Trapped
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Dear Mama M.,
Help! I’m trapped in the lab ... because of myself! My advisor is really great and doesn’t pressure me to work in the lab 24/7. But when I’m not there, all I can think about is how I'm lazy and how I’m not getting work done.
It’s so bad, that every time I want to do something fun, there’s a part of me telling me that I shouldn’t waste time and that I should be at work. This guilt is driving me crazy. What can I do about it
Yikes! Your mind is working 24/7, both in and out of the lab, and you are still able to think of yourself as lazy?
Where did you learn to be so unkind to your hard-working self? Is it possible that you inherited some guilt? Guilt can be generational. Often it is a cellular hand-me-down … used clothing … recycled goods.
So, I would first explore the roots of your guilt and check out if it really has anything to do with you or the events of your life. What are the origins of your guilt? Many of us come from lineages of horror, and surviving horror seems to twist us up a bit. So, there is some honor in guilt, I suppose, but it is a buzz-kill, so you have to decide what to do with it.
I know that academic culture tells you that you are a lazy ass if you are not eating, breathing and sleeping work. But that guilt, coming at you from all sides, causes you to kill yourself with working too much and then feeling bad when you are not working too much. This makes for an unproductive and unhappy life, sugar.
Personally, I would start to put the guilt in the trash. You can dig it out later if you miss it. But, in the meantime, you need to have some friggin’ fun. Sans guilt! You need to know that joy begets joy, and that a relaxed mind is fundamentally more productive than a stressed one.
Get your Zen on, sweetie, and begin to understand the nourishment of Balance. There is a balance that you will need to find between work and life. Not just for now, but for always. Guilt is weighing you down, honey.
Take some time to explore guilt. What is it? Where does it come from for you? Does it run deep, or is it just a nasty habit? Are you actually trying to honor your ancestors with guilt? If so, honor them with love instead.
Another bit of wisdom: Joy-energy can infuse your work, so when you are there, you will be more productive. (If you need more support in this struggle, pick up a copy of “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass).
It seems ironic that the more fun you have in life, the more joy you bring to your work, and that leads to more productivity. But, trust me sugar, this has been studied and proven in so many arenas of work.
I don’t believe in wasted time, and I don’t think you should either. Time is what you make of it, and it is always useful, even if you are doing “nothing.” Time expands and collapses with a certain kind of magic and mystery. It cannot actually be wasted.
One last thing, about this balance thing: You will constantly struggle with trying to find and refine balance throughout your entire life. Start doing it now. It gets better the more you practice it and feel good about the practice.
With fun and joy,
Mama M. and her editor are health professionals at UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital, who understand the challenges that health professional students are confronted with. This column is a place where students can get honest, compassionate, humorous advice, wisdom and love. Send letters to MamaM.firstname.lastname@example.org.