Relax and Lose Yourself

“You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself.”
― Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

I was asked to present a workshop on family history blogging for a genealogy group. Normally I write an outline, incorporate material from past workshops, then turn to PowerPoint to put it all together. Instead, I opened PowerPoint and asked myself, “What do I really want to talk about to this group? What would interest me?”

I realized that I’d spent most of my life focused on pleasing others and not myself. What do they need? What will help them? For the first time in years, possibly decades, I asked myself “What do I need?”

As a genealogist-in-training since I was 10, I’m quite passionate about family history. I’m also very passionate about blogging and web technology. In my mind, while these could be related, they had little in common. I felt divided between my two passions.

The key phrase in that last paragraph was in my mind. I realized that I was my own worse enemy. I was getting in my own way.

I put the first slide into PowerPoint. Then the next. And the next. Over 200 slides later, I looked up and realized that the hour I’d allotted for this first draft slideshow had slipped into four hours, and I still had more to talk about. I was on fire. I worked for another few hours, ignoring other deadlines and client commitments, and woke up early the next morning for another four hours before my nagging sense of work ethic brought me back to those deadlines and clients.

The same thing happened, day after day. I’d steal time from everywhere in my life to keep working on that workshop slideshow. Chores piled up, but client work was completed, and rejected. I started to turn away client work, sticking only with specialized projects that brought me joy, referring clients to other qualified web developers, designers, and trainers for the general work. I became more selective about what I would say yes to, and improved my ability to say no to others. It was exhilarating.

I lost myself. I began to relax. I felt more hopeful, excited about the future. A road opened before me that was clear, focused, bricks laid firmly in my path a mile or two ahead rather than at the moment my foot stepped down in the fog. I could not only see where I was going, I was there, in the future, sure of the journey, map in hand.

It was extraordinary.

For several months, I gave myself permission to lose myself in this project. I had time before my workshop to play, and I did, discovering new interests, new angles, new perspectives on old ways of thinking. When I passed 1000 slides in PowerPoint, I knew I couldn’t stop. I think the total today is near 1800 and there is more to do, more to say, more to learn, more to share.

I found a way to link my two passions together, combining my vast experience with both in a fresh new way, and I’m loving it.

When was the last time you gave into your passion, relaxed, and just enjoyed yourself?

As Ken Kesey wrote in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” we could strain to see through the fog, or explore it with a different perspective. Relax. Enjoy it. Become lost in it.

I’ve found that when you become lost in something, it can embrace you.
Today, I’m embracing my passions more than ever before. Take a chance with me, and embrace your own. Get lost in them.

What would it look like it you could truly relax and lose yourself in something?