You Deserve It.

“I don’t deserve it.”

What is with deserving something?

Where is the subconscious scorecard that dictates whether we are worthy... worthy of a vacation, or a gift, or any experience or object imaginable.

As I write here on the fine flour sand of Nyang Nyang island in the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia, this thought admittedly creeps into my mind.

The light turquoise waters lapping the coral fragments strewn along the shore, a month in picturesque paradise… why do I deserve this? 

I once told a woman after a Ram Dass retreat in Hawaii that I wanted to move to Hawaii, but didn’t feel like I deserved it yet. She looked at me with compassionate pity, horrified really. She stared me in the eye and asked, “How do you not deserve it?”

Where did this concept of deserving come from?

In the 9-5 world, we are rewarded with vacation; it is something we earn, not something we deserve. Paradise is a special treat, reminiscent of honeymoons and retirees. Reserved for “special” moments and the “end of our days”, once we’ve put our work in. We are told we must earn time off, vacations, paradise. We get days “off” because we finished our work, no longer because they are our right as human beings. Last year I often found myself working 7 days a week at my 3 part-time jobs, never feeling like i “earned” or “deserved” a day’s rest.

Is this concept a byproduct of capitalism, as my collegiate self claimed all woes were?

When we are raised in the US to be productive, all that counts in society’s eye is our doing. We are praised for our performance, our achievements, the products of our doing. We are asked at parties, what do we do? As a sideeffect, to be unproductive is not worthy of praise, not valuable in society’s eye. The cultural emphasis on productivity is drilled into us from schooling to the workplace. “What can I do for you? What did you do today?” How often do you hear those phrases? How often do you say them?

There is an illness I saw around me in San Francisco, and near my childhood home in New York. It is suble, but abundant. The Doer Syndrome. I see over-tired friends and neighbors, addicted to caffeine, to finding the next big thing, to making a name for themselves, to living up to “their potential.” When tired in the afternoon, it is no longer seen as a time for a nap or a sign of an overworked lifestyle. It is time for coffee. There is even a granola bar with cacao and caffeine called the 3pm bar. When exhausted on a Friday, in order to have energy and some personality back, in comes the booze. When so tired from weeks of work and weekends of parties, to the doctors they go, confounded that they don’t have the same energy they used to. They feel depressed at the thought of getting old. And they accumulate things. Friends with things. Then have kids who are raised with things, and alas, there is no way out. Or so is thought.

How else can this story go? How can we start with the concept of deserving and end up someplace else?

Why don’t you deserve leisure time? Does the construct of deserving come as an evolutionary adaptation, necessary to your survival, or is it a sociocultural construct? Traveling, interacting with other cultures clearly shows that it is not an evolutionary boon to forego leisure… but quite the opposite. Europe takes a month off a year, Spain has siesta, France has a fixed and respected number of work hours/month, and Indonesians thus far seem to have no problem chilling out. It is not something they earn; it is their right. Indeed, it is their evolutionary adaptation to survival. 

Rest and leisure time allow the parasympathetic nervous system to do its thing, your rest and digest powerhouse. It allows space for creativity to flourish.

OK. I think we can all agree that leisure time feels good, prevents disease, and is obviously important. But that doesn’t mean we accept that we deserve it.

After 2 weeks of vacation, do you not feel that it’s time to be productive again? That you no longer deserve your rest?

If so, I present a new friend. The Be-er. Not the beer.

I propose that we consciously cultivate an appreciation of the Be-er. That we re-value the ability to just Be. To not need to be productive, or Do Something, but to remember how to relax into our Being. People rush to yoga and pay thousands for Transcendental Meditation lessons for a taste of this forgotten Being, but you do not need to work on your muscle flexibility or pay money to make this shift. You are a Human Being. Not a Human Doing. You know how, you’ve just forgotten. You’ve forgotten that you Deserve it. 

Challenge this feeling of not deserving. Decide you do. Practice taking time to not Do anything. This doesn’t mean vegging out and watching Netflix. This means going on a walk without earbuds. This mean giving yourself the gifts you really need, nonmaterial gifts, gifts of the soul. A Saturday alone dancing in your room. A slow cooked recipe followed. A walk on your lunch break, or before work. 

You know what you need. What you really need. You just have to be brave and decide that you deserve it. Enough of the “but I…” because you are enough.

Otherwise, you will end up working your whole life sacrificing for others who end up just like you. Or else you’ll end up working for you retirement only to find hat you have no purpose. That you never learned how to Be. So Be Now or forever hold your peace of mind captive from yourself. 

Accept that life is giving you just what you need. Accept the gifts that come your way. Accept the notion that you are worthy, you are Deserving. Of whatever present, leisure time, vacation time comes your way. You deserve to Just Be. Before you forget how.

I am not encouraging not working. I love work. As Kahlil Gibran writes, “You work that you may keep pace with the heart and the soul of the earth…Work is love made visible.” I merely propose that we lose some soul when we define ourselves by our doings. That we need some Being time to save us from becoming the baker of bitter bread. The cake that awaits is far to sweet to keep on with the heartless Doing.