Was it during the economic gloom of the 1980s that the question was asked, or is it a query that is much older? It went along the lines that, if I am what I do, then, if I do nothing, does it mean that I am nothing? In days of mass unemployment, it was a reasonable question; thirty years later, it retains its validity. How much of the perception of what we are is determined by what we do?
Perhaps the fault sometimes lies as much with the person as with the perception; unconsciously, what one does can become what one is. Occasionally, the absorption of the person by the role is something more unconscious.
Picking up my coat, I thanked the doctor for his advice. Taking a moment to wrap my scarf around my neck, allowed the GP a few further words. ‘Exercise and relaxation are important’.
‘But my work is not stressful’.
‘That doesn’t mean you have to do it all the time – you ski’.
‘I do, but I enjoy my work – it’s what I am’.
Walking back through the morning frost, I wondered what I would do if I ever stopped work. Not working would mean what? Life would seem very empty. Even if money was no object, one can only spend so much time skiing, and what about the rest of the time? Of course, there are rugby matches to attend, but that’s only a couple of hours a week. Anyway, I wasn’t stopping work.
Of course, if the doctor said I should relax more, I should take him seriously. After all, what’s the point of paying €50 for a consultation and not listening to what was said?
Yesterday afternoon was the first that seemed like spring, the cold edge had gone from the air and the car was warmed by sunshine alone. The day’s calls were completed earlier than anticipated and there was the unfamiliar experience of having an hour to spare.
Driving into the Laois village of Ballinakill, there was the urge to stop and enjoy a moment’s quietness. The passing traffic was a solitary car and a tractor. The lady in the supermarket smiled as I paid at the counter.
Sitting in a village square with the week’s edition of the Irish Farmers’ Journal and packet of Softmints on the finest day of the year was a moment of sublime contentment.
‘The doctor will be pleased I am taking this relaxation thing so seriously’, I thought.
Of course, the next thing to be addressed is the exercise; next time, I shall park on the far side of the car park.