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Constructive laziness part 1: the origin story

Tada! A video series! This is the first of a gaggle of posts digging into a practice I developed called (deliciously) Constructive Laziness. Part 1 digs into how and why I created such a thing and who CL can really benefit. Up next: the six steps of a Constructive Laziness practice. Enjoy!

P.S. Full text of the video is below.

The history of Constructive Laziness

I started developing something I call Constructive Laziness in response to my own, terrible, creative practice. I brought all my anxiety, all my perfectionism, and my tendency to overwork into my practice of making theatre—and not only was it ushering me toward early burnout, but it was generating constipated, airless, and inflexible art.

I would kill myself to make something, over-rehearse the juice right out of it, demand way too much of my collaborators, and never be satisfied with the results. Something had to give.

So, Constructive Laziness was born.

I didn’t know what ‘constructive laziness’ meant or what it was, but I knew I needed it. I started by injecting a ridiculous amount of ease into my rehearsal process, and when I started a new work, into my creation process.

But, just a couple of weeks into these investigations, my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Hormonal upheaval, shock, and grief overshadowed everything. But, I had a job and a season of scheduled showings for this new work I was making. So, Constructive Laziness became way more than an approach to creative work. It became a survival strategy.

The practice refined itself and was put to the test as I dealt with three further pregnancy losses, a complete mental/emotional/spiritual breakdown, a job that kept needing me to do it, several creative projects, and, over the past eight-plus months, the wild ride of an almost-full term pregnancy.

I have put Constructive Laziness through the wringer and it keeps proving itself to be amazing and applicable to a bunch of different contexts.

Who it’s for

So, who is constructive laziness for?

This practice is for perfectionists. It’s for anxious people. It’s for sensitives and intuitives.  It’s for overwhelmed, overachieving overworkers. It’s for those of us who feel like we have to prove ourselves every single day, whether we actually do or not. For the people who put both feet on the gas when our bodies, minds, and souls are begging us to pump the brake.

Constructive laziness basic principles

This practice can be applied in a lot of directions, which we’ll get into in future videos. But the basic principles are very simple:

  1. Inject an absurd amount of ease into what you do.
  2. Do less as a means to accomplishing more.
  3. Process is more important than outcomes.

If you are an overachieving anxious perfectionist, your sense of what is “enough” is completely skewed. What you think of as lazy is what most folks would call “doing a good job.” So what we’re doing here with Constructive Laziness is working directly against your habitual tendencies to work way too hard, cut yourself too little slack, and expect way more of yourself than is reasonable.

You never let yourself come to a complete stop. Your engine is always running and it’s revving way too high. Because don’t let yourself rest, you get tired—and not even because you’re necessarily working so hard—just kind of by being alive, you tire yourself out.

But here’s where things get complicated: the more exhausted you get, the more you demand of yourself. Nothing is ever good enough. Which creates an impossible dynamic. So, you never feel like you’re moving forward as much as you want and it leads to things like burnout, procrastination, and giving up.

Constructive Laziness asks you to rest early and rest often. It asks you lower the stakes and by doing so, get more done. It asks you to acknowledge that this is a process, not an all-or-nothing gun-to-your-head one-shot deal that determines your value as a human being.

Next up: the six steps of a Constructive Laziness process

Losing your lower self

Dreams are a lot of work.

You’re outside your comfort zone—raw, naked, vulnerable. And you’re working your ass off for something that’s a risk. Maybe it’s utterly new or scarily costly or dangerous to your physical safety. Maybe it’s not supported well by your friends or your spouse or, say, a consumerist, productivity-obsessed culture that eats human souls for tapas.

You’re dangling in the wind and hustling like a mofo all the livelong day.

That shit? Is taxing.

That’s not quite all, though is it? It’s tax season. Your lease is up in a couple months. Your bathroom sink just sprung an objectively fantastic leak. You have to bake 26 gluten-free, peanut-pristine cupcakes by 7:35 a.m. Your boss is crawling directly up your butthole. Your internet connection sucks, and you slept approximately 3.7 hours last night.

You’re TIRED, man.

Ah. But, wait, there’s more. You’re a perfectionist, albeit a recovering one. You’re introverted and sensitive. Your self-esteem could be better (thanks, childhood trauma). Your recurring back injury is threatening to recur, along with your recurring alcoholism. And today, at some point, a subtle or unsubtle combination of the world’s shittiest trifecta—capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy—will come over and slap you in the mouth.

Have we hit exhaustion? Oh, yeah. I think we’re there.

So, does anyone blame you for making out with a pint of chocolate ice cream and six consecutive episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine?

No, we freaking don’t.

It’s just that you do it every day. Or, at least, more often than you’d like. Enough that your Internal Okayness Monitor is on orange alert. We’re not at red, yet, thank god. But we’re way beyond that peaceful, lagoony bluey-green right now.

When pushed to the limit, we take refuge in our lower selves.

We do the things we know aren’t healthy or helpful. We skip out on self-care. I have been known to actively resent the things I know will help me, like meditation or exercise or looking on the bright side. Sometimes, I just want to be angry and blamey and victimy for awhile.

Sometimes, my pain and rage needs to be heard. And seen.

And sometimes, I need to eat an entire pie. (Pumpkin. With whipped cream. Screw you.)

There’s a subtle connection here with last week’s post on surrender, and I think the common element is that vibrating tension of rage. We work so damn hard on so many levels, and it doesn’t get acknowledged. Not really. Not enough.

So, let’s start with that.

I acknowledge you.

I see you girding your loins and stepping out of safety every single day. I see the risk you take in being who you are. Fighting to use a public bathroom. Doing what’s best for your kids amid judgement and ridicule. Dealing with bullshit microaggressions while launching your new career. Walking the tight rope of “wellness” and the razor’s edge of paying rent.

I see the battles you wage and the risks you take on behalf of your highest, most divine self. And I see the world undermine you and tear at you with its claws.

I see you. I hear you. I feel you.

And even though you feel terribly, desperately alone, and like the hits come from all directions at all times, I’m with you. We’re with you. There’s a whole lot of us. We’re here and we’re watching. Allies. Fellow travellers. Wounded healers, all.

We don’t see you as a freak making life harder on yourself. We see a valiant hero, slashing through the tangled woods.

Now, let yourself rest.

We’ll watch over you while you sleep. Trust us. Imagine that we’ve formed a circle around you, facing out. This is your protection. Here, we’ve gathered some lovely soft leaves for you. Your only job, and I know it’s not that easy, is to let yourself rest.

You know the effects of chronic stress. Of a body always in a state of fight or flight. You also know, intuitively and implicitly, that you can’t go on like this indefinitely.

So, in whatever form that takes, explore the experience of deep rest. Let down your guard for a moment. Sink into it. Like the softest blanket. Rest.

And, when it’s time, eat a piece of fruit.

Something bracing and alive. Like grapefruit or a cold strawberry just from the fridge. Something with that green, awake flavor that seems to contain all of life vibrating inside it.

Now, drink a glass of water. Drink it all the way down until the glass is empty.

Let these things cleanse you from the inside and trust that’s what they’re doing because they are.

See this not as a “healthy snack” but as a sacred ritual. A freshening. A conscious newness. An intentional act in the face of the world’s ridiculous, random folly.

This small offering is a link connecting you with Life and Earth. That which you are. Pure. Unfettered. Part of the larger organism of oceans and plateaus, one-celled creatures and herds of elephants. Fellow travelers. Wounded healers. The heartbeat that started when you were a tiny secret in the womb. Part magic, part carbon, part electricity.

And now, you rise.