On Martyrdom and Abundance

No matter what I do, I never seem to have enough time.

I’m exhausted.

I’m unfulfilled.

I have escapist fantasies of abandoning all my responsibilities and lack-of-time-based frustrations and moving to a cave in the middle of a mountainside forest. I want to go on sabbatical.

These thoughts have characterized much of my anxiety this year (and, tbh, the past several years).  I’ve often felt that I cannot work on my creative projects, my health, my relationships, and my Life Admin*--much less do things just for unproductive FUN--given the time constraints and obligations of modern life. It has left me feeling burnt out.

I’ve already sorted my priorities re: time v money. If you want some guidance on this, I recommend starting with this Oliver Burkeman piece and doing some introspection. As for myself, I know that what I value most is time and that I ache for much more of it.

So I’ve begun taking time by force. I am committed to creating abundance in my life, even where I feel like it cannot possibly exist. I’m stealing time back! Like Carmen Sandiego! But much less lucrative.

When I catch myself trying to meet the expectations of others, rather than prioritizing my own needs, I stop. I take a breath. I remind myself that I have a right to my own time, even if I’m technically selling it for 8-9 hours each day.  I have the right to live my life by my values; I have the right to feel abundance and create it for myself. I walk slower now, breathing in the mornings more. I’m taking non-cognitive breaks throughout the day and trying to maintain mindful awareness and acceptance of the present moment. I’m creating more. I’m refusing to go through life not feeling my life, forever striving.

This is an act of resistance in a society that asks us, especially women, to martyr ourselves.

I work in the nonprofit sector, where the martyrdom mentality is especially prevalent.  And while I know working from home and/or becoming an entrepreneur may resolve some of my problems, it’s not something available to me in the near term (still working on that student loan forgiveness y’all). I need to make things work for me, now. Happiness can’t exist only in the future, aka when I can begin my cave life.  

So, how can one resist martyrdom, the mental chains of the scarcity mentality, and generate abundance in a practicable way? Here are just a few things I’ve been working on/suggestions:

  • Pretend to be Swedish and work for 6 hours/day max (especially if you work an office job). Even if you have to be physically at your desk for longer, you can use the 2 other hours to attend to personal needs like banking, emailing your mom, commenting on this blog or doing something creative! I strongly discourage filling this time with social media unless you find your community and deep connections there.
  • Get up earlier. I personally give myself two full hours in the morning from the point at which I wake up to when I leave the house for my commute to work. I LOVE my routine. Each morning, I meditate, eat breakfast + drink coffee, journal, and get ready slowly--with self-given permission and with an intentional sense of abundance. Sometimes, if I’m feeling especially sassy, I sit on the couch and read a few pages of a book. You can use this time for similar self-care activities, or use it for creating. For example, I want to incorporate daily illustrations in my morning routine! Again, try NOT to fill this time with social media, email-checking, or other internet rabbit hole/time-sucks. 

  • Walk to work. Slowly. Observe and absorb the sights and sounds in your neighborhood. If walking to work is feasible for you, you may also be happy to know that a 20 minute walk is more awakening than a cup of coffee! But don’t let productivity be your motivator--the point is to actually reject productivity as a top priority.  

  • Know that you are not belong to your job. Stop martyring yourself! It’s not good for you, your loved ones, or even for your colleagues. Make sure you’re building a life outside of your work and that you value it as much or, better yet, more than your job. This is so key. I will write more on the work-life balance/blend topic in an upcoming post.

  • Go with the Flow. I’m an INFJ (and a strong J at that), so this is particularly challenging for me; it’s also a critical trait to develop. The more autonomy you have over your schedule the more easily this will probably work for you. To start, I recommend brain-dumping all your tasks and projects on a single list, but then tackling the items in a way that flows, and without pressure. Try not to do more than 3 major to-dos a day. Jess Lively discusses this concept several times in her blog/podcast, and this is a great episode to check out.

  • Ask for what you need. What better way to feel abundance in your life than to accept help and generosity from others? Asking for help may make you feel vulnerable, but remember that vulnerability actually reflects strength, not weakness.  Asking someone for what you need is brave af.

  • Know that the capitalist cis-hetero patriarchy does not define abundance, or what makes a good life

  • Be like this lady! The Nine of Pentacles, or Nine of Coins as the card is sometimes called, is characterized in the original Rider-Waite-Smith deck by a lady who has created a bunch of abundance for herself and is enjoying the shit out of it. Beth Maiden's interpretation of this card is also a great read

 Tarot card, Nine of Pentacles (Illustration by Pamela Coleman Smith)

Tarot card, Nine of Pentacles (Illustration by Pamela Coleman Smith)

What are some ways you make time and create abundance in your life? Do you work a 9-5 or some other shift, or are you your own boss? Are you your own boss anyway, even if you’re not an entrepreneur? Did you also pull the 9 of Pentacles this morning!?! Leave your comments and recommendations below.


*I define Life Admin as tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning my goddamn apartment, making necessary phone calls and setting appointments, buying other stuff that I need to live, working out, shaving my legs, etc.