This is the first blog I’ve written in about four months. Most Mondays I think at least a few times “I SHOULD write a blog finally this week.” The words don’t feel like an invitation, they feel like a harsh expectation. They are pressurey and arrive with some shame and guilt and annoyance and frustration.
Today, as I remembered “relationship > task,” I was able to apply it to my blog writing. Instead of seeing my writing as a task, a thing I have to check off, a skill I have to perform, I focused on my relationship to my work, my relationship to writing, my relationship to how I am currently showing up in the world.
This lens helped me think about ideas that have been emerging and feeling interesting to me in my work. Instead of forcing myself to write for the sake of keeping my blog “current,” I checked in with myself and turned my attention towards the connected, present parts of myself, rather than the push-to-produce parts.
And now, here I am… writing about the exact tool that got me to my desk this morning.
What Does Relationship > Task Mean to Me?
Relationship > Task. This is a phrase I have written on my white board near my desk. It’s one I’ve brought into my work with clients— young people and parents. It’s one I return to often in my own processing. Major thanks to my therapist for introducing this language and co-creating a container for me to explore and embody this concept.
There’s a ton of pressure for us to do, do, do. Capitalism and other systems of oppression have required us to extract from ourselves and/or others in order to “thrive.” Even when we think we are giving attention to BEing, we are often putting pressure on ourselves to achieve a certain way or state of being ASAP. (Hello toxic positivity, perfectionism, and wellness culture. Yikes, so much has been commodified and forced upon us by dominant culture messaging!)
Let’s break this phrase down. To me, relationship means connection, community, togetherness, presence, showing up, being with, tending to, focus on process, making space for emergence and becoming, collaboration, and so on. I am using the term relationship broadly, and it can be applied to connections with people, places, things, or actions. In other words, how we relate to essentially anything! Task means agenda, rigidity, pressure, focus on outcome, pushing or forcing, extracting, prioritizing profit/winning, and so on.
Some Nuance, Because There’s Always Nuance
While I am using and comparing the concept of “relationship” with the concept of “task” in a binary way for the sake of illustration, the truth is that these ideas are not in opposition to one another. AND they can coexist. Furthermore, we need a different mix of each of these concepts in each different situation and context.
Some stress is natural, normal, and even necessary for movement, change, transformation. So, I am not suggesting we need to create a world with no pressure. However, the amount of pressure we face, which varies given our social location and intersecting identities, is TOO DAMN MUCH.
Additionally, this doesn’t mean letting go of values or boundaries for the sake of a connection, a person, a relationship. It means when we focus on relationship first, we make space to navigate and negotiate boundaries, needs, and preferences. We are creating the grounds to get shit done in meaningful, harmonious, and loving ways, even when it’s hard!
Applying Relationship > Task
I’m sharing other ways that this concept has come up for me lately. You might relate to all, some, or none of these situations. As always, take what works for you, edit what you’d like to, and leave the rest. I often catch myself defaulting to doing energy, putting the task first, and these are some ways I have encouraged myself to prioritize relationship:
- As I am dating, if I’m too focused on what the path looks like (read: should look like), I am unable to be present with the person in front of me. Thus, I set the intention to be with the other person, to see what our time together can reveal, and if and how we can build something together.
- When I engage in a deep or complicated conversation with a loved one, I notice that when I begin with a certain outcome in mind, I am unable to truly listen to them. It’s best for me to wait until I feel openness and spaciousness before jumping in.
- When I hold space for coaching or birth clients, if I have a “goal” for our time together, they might feel too confined and unable to name what’s really coming up for them. I focus on walking alongside clients and protecting the container for them to bring up what’s feeling real and true for them.
- If I have a spacious, unscheduled weekend, I can easily get anxious thinking about all of my free time and rush to schedule stuff, rather than allowing myself to organically decide what feels pleasurable, enjoyable, helpful, or necessary. When I can consider how I want to relate to my time– in other words, how I want to feel– I can fill in the blanks or not with people or activities that align.
- When I think of preparing and eating nourishing foods as an item on the ongoing to do list, it feels annoying and difficult, and quite frankly, I don’t want to do it alone. It’s helpful to focus on why preparing food matters to me and serves me; it becomes an act of care for myself, rather than a task I have to complete. (Also, shoutout to my dietician for support around this!)
Here with You
I’m just a human, humaning alongside you, sharing some reflections from my own journey. If you’re a teen, young adult, or parent who wants support in navigating this interesting, beautiful, and complicated experience of life, reach out. I’m here to be a witness and behind the scenes cheerleader. Reach out anytime!