Not doing, and the national obsession with ambition, not to mention trashing

Recently I’ve thought a lot and blogged a wee bit about “un-doing.” I first came upon the concept when reading a book by a diet/nutrition and heart health guru, who said we grow up with so many bad messages about food and eating, that the process of becoming more healthy is a process of “un-doing.” I got it!

Learning to un-do for me today, comes out of my year-long lessons in the Alexander Technique. Today I was completing my book, The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford (2015 publication). I also “got it” about why un-doing is so tricky and difficult to learn.

He was talking about the coming robotization of most if not all, jobs. One way to address this difficult direction our society is taking, is a guaranteed income. Of course, some would drop out of the labor force completely and live on this government dole. In response, Ford says that “in other words, they will generally be among the least ambitious and industrious members of the population” (at page 269.)

Eureka! Anyone who does not do a “typical” or “normal” job to earn money, or chooses “not to work” for a while or permanently (like when a mom or pop decides not to be breadwinner and stay home to raise the children–certainly a job!), is considered to be “unambitious” and “not industrious.” That’s especially true of they want to sit and paint, or go bird watching or fishing, just travel, or  sit and meditate.

We are a society programed to strive, struggle, suffer—and work in government offices or with corporate bosses, or perhaps for the lucky or unlucky few, work for Silicon Valley-like tech start-ups and established IT firms. If we don’t elect to follow that typical career pattern, then we will be looked down upon in society, as unambitious.

How can we, then, ever stop a moment to learn to “un-do” bad physical, emotional, job or family habits that no longer serve our needs or changing priorities in life? How can just sitting and smelling the roses, or contemplating our navel (meditation) be tolerated, before there arises an unsettling, deep-seated anxiety that we are not being useful and productive like mom or dad taught us to be?

When I walked out of a 16-year litigation career to open ROMANTASY boutique, a sexy lingerie/toy shop for “romantic singles and loving couples” in 1990, most thought me to be strange at best, self-destructive at worst.  Maybe I was both. Hardly anyone could understand why I would give up a staid career, feeding at the public trough as I used to call it (having worked my entire legal professional life for the State of California and never in private practice). I was so worried about doing it that I never told my mom until months later, and then of course, never shared with her the intimate details of precisely what kind of lingerie shop I had opened!

I was definitely un-doing a whole helluva lot of programming, but also un-doing an enormous amount of job stress in a very toxic environment. Toxic to me and my spirit, if not to countless others who can tolerate or thrive working in a very difficult, angry profession, and working within the penultimate bureaucracy of government.

Today I continue to practice not doing every day. I ask myself the question my AT teacher Elyse asks me:  “How can I do less?” That’s a curious concept related to un-doing. First, you have to not do something you always do, in order for the question to arise. Second, you have to scan your body, mind and heart to identify what is not needed at the moment, and only then can you let it go.

I often say that Alexander Technique is like biofeedback for the body and soul. It is that and much more. It gives one techniques and a chance to stop, reflect, and then choose something potentially much more beneficial.

Our American value system rewards production, as Ford says, but it also rewards striving and struggle. “Work hard” said my mom and dad (implying that rewards will come)–but maybe not the rewards they were thinking of.

I wonder if we didn’t follow that advice, would there be fewer burn-outs and flare-outs? Would there be less conflict and hostility we see on the streets and certainly, in social media discussions these days. I was surprised/not surprised to learn on the news today that Congresswoman Maxine Waters of SoCal received many death threats after she recently urged folks to suit up and show up to protest/speak out about abhorrent behaviors by our so-called president and his elite Wall Street gang, even to any public servant found in public places or at home. She’s urging us to exercise our legal, First Amendment rights, and she gets death threats for doing the same?

Let’s stop for a moment and go back to basics. There is nothing in the First Amendment or any other document for that matter, that I know of that requires peaceful protest to be conducted outside of government buildings. There simply is no “right” time or place for protest, so long as it is a peaceful expression that does not interfere substantially or moderately with public or private passage or places by anyone. I don’t know about you, but it’s one of the basic reasons I live in America.

Let’s not do for a moment and let passions subside. Let’s wait a moment  longer before we rush off, so that our better selves can come to the forefront and guide our behavior. For my part, I’m going to set typing aside to get ready to go find The Most Awesome Cat in our local shelter today, where I volunteer to socialize kitties once a week. It’s my day of therapy and happiness. Most likely I’ll create nothing new in the world be it corset-related or not. No addition to the gross national product. No struggling. But I know I’ll bring a bit of cheer and/or comfort to a number of lonely cats and kittens who are also not doing anything while they wait for a fur-ever home. (Check out your local animal care and control, or SPCA, if you are in the mood to help out a furry friend! The unique little “old man” grey “Gus Gus” is still available at our San Francisco ACC!)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Not doing, and the national obsession with ambition, not to mention trashing

  1. Bettina

    Another great post Ann. Growing up, I had “no ambition.” All I wanted in life was to marry and keep house. I didn’t mention this of course because my mother expected me to become a doctor. After high school, I spent the next 15+ years doing what I thought would make me acceptable to others: I became a nurse, a teacher, a real estate agent, a sergeant in the Army. What I got for it was a lot of stress and health problems. When I did dare to take up something that I enjoyed (dance, volunteering) the question was always “when are you going to get a real job?” I’ve now come full circle to the thing I’ve been doing since childhood, writing. I’m seeing some small successes, but the question still comes up. I don’t want to go back to pleasing others. I may not be earning what they think I should, but I’m happy in what I do.

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