On being lazy

Lazy catFirst, I’ve made a video offering for you today: watch me here and then maybe buy a copy of my new book, ‘What Helps: Sixty Slogans to Live By‘ for someone who could do with a little direction, inspiration or consolation. (That might be you.) Now – laziness!

I have always strongly identified as Someone Who Works Hard. When speaking to friends, I catch myself complaining about how busy I am. When I look back at a day crammed with work, I feel good about myself.

Recently I’ve also noticed that I am Someone Who Wants To Do Nothing. To hide under a furry blanket and watch junk-food-TV. To put off the difficult jobs or get someone else to do them. To stretch out in the sun until I feel muzzy.

Sometimes I am lazy. The word ‘lazy’ implies excess, like the words ‘greedy’, ‘mean’ and ‘arrogant’. Lazy is when I over-indulge in rest. Greedy is the second bowl of ice-cream I eat after desert, and mean is when I don’t put any money at all into the donation bowl. These activities have a compulsive element, which means that they are being employed as an emergency measure. They are our best attempt at giving ourselves some of the comfort we’re desperate for, of dealing with our exhaustion, or of keeping us from feeling something.

Of course, there is a middle way in here. A place between workaholism and avoidance, a healthy balance of doing and not-doing. I inhabit this space too, and I manage it more and more as time goes on.

I suspect that what helps me to find this middle way is owning my laziness. I have been in denial about being lazy for a long time. In order to sustain my high output of work, it was necessary to force the lazy part of me into a back room. I was taught that laziness was BAD, and so I disowned it. Unfortunately, we can only force parts of ourselves into back rooms for so long. When the lazy part is finally allowed out (or smashes through the door), it goes to town. It keeps me pinned to the sofa for most of the day, when I’d actually rather be having a gentle walk in the park or doing a bit of weeding.

If I can acknowledge the lazy part when it arises and be kind to it, it seems to pass through more quickly. Oh, I feel lazy this afternoon – it’s possible for me to take a long nap, so I will. Oh, I really want to over-eat tonight – okay, it’s not the end of the world. It helps to be curious about why I might be feeling lazy or greedy – have I overdone it? Am I feeling sad about what happened last week?

It also helps to get to know the part that pushes me to work really hard. A really good question is: what does this part think might happen if it stopped doing what it was doing? That people would stop liking me? That everything would fall apart around me? I can acknowledge that part’s fears, remind it that it’s not on its own, and encourage it to relax.

As we get into conversations with the workaholic part and the lazy part, we help them to live alongside each other with more harmony. These parts of us become less polarised, and there is more ease in the system. Sometimes I work too hard, sometimes I get a good balance, and sometimes I am lazy. That’s okay. So how can we all get along?

Which of your qualities are you shoving into back rooms? What are the words you most often use to judge others negatively? What is the cost? How would it be to say ‘Sometimes I am…’?

My name is Satya and sometimes I am lazy. What a relief.

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