April 14, 2008

Good morning, team,

April is National Poetry Month, and the occasion reminds me how important it is to pursue interests other than work. When I was young, I wrote poetry.  I’m not sure why; somehow poetry spoke to me very early on, and I started making up rhymes in my head and then writing them down. Once, I woke in the night with a poem that was so anxious to get written down that I wrote it on the bed sheet. My supportive mother cut the poem out of the sheet the next morning and remade my bed with a new one. When I came home from school that day, there was my poem, written with pencil on a piece of rumpled sheet. From then on, there was always paper and pen by my bedside.

My poetry muse continued to influence me until I was in high school. When I was a sophomore, I began to be very critical of my poetry. I worried what other people would think, and the satisfaction I felt after I’d written a poem was quickly being replaced by embarrassment. One day in English class, I wrote a poem about our beagle, Charley. We all had to read our poems out loud, and although mine was far superior to many, when a boy I had a crush on teased me later and told me how stupid my poem was, I didn’t write another for almost 25 years.

By the time I was in my early twenties, I was working in Washington, D.C., in a crazy, fast-growing business, and all my available time was taken up by my job. I worked incredibly hard during the week and then tried to recover on the weekends. Hobbies and extracurricular activities went by the wayside.

It wasn’t until I was approaching middle age that I began writing poetry again. I had forgotten how good it made me feel to use words to create pictures and to be able to express my most intimate thoughts in poetic form. I also realized that it had been years since I’d engaged myself in any activity that wasn’t work-related.

The experience I had had as a child when I wrote poetry began to re-emerge. It was so satisfying to sit and write for a few hours and then go back the next day and read what I’d written. The critical part of my brain had matured and was not so anxious to jump in and tell me everything that was wrong with the poem. Or perhaps those thoughts were there, but I just didn’t take them as seriously any more. I was finally able to do something for pure enjoyment that had nothing to do with my work or my family: It was just for me. And every time I wrote a line it energized me and made me feel good.

Your challenge this week is to identify your interests that are not work-related and cultivate them. In my husband’s case, he plays keyboards once a week with a drummer. They don’t do it to perform or to record, they just get together every Wednesday night and play because they love it. This pleasure keeps him balanced and healthy. When he plays, he’s not thinking about anything else, he’s just enjoying the music.

If you already have something in your life that you do for pure enjoyment, be sure you continue to make space for it. If you find that most of your time is taken up by obligations, carve out some time for yourself when you can re-energize, recreate, and renew by doing something you love. Maybe it’s quilting, (how many women do you know who have a room full of crafting materials that never get used?) or knitting or painting or gardening. Perhaps you enjoy carpentry or boating or dancing. A game of golf can often restore all the energy that an entire week of strategic planning meetings uses up. Find your special hobby or interest and don’t let a week go by without making time for it.

Remember the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Find that thing you love to do and do more of it.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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