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We've had to trade our health for our financial or professional well-being, choosing between getting adequate time for rest, exercise, and socializing and logging enough hours to get by. Tragically, many of us do this not out of paranoia but because we know just how economically vulnerable we really are. An international disaster like COVID-19 only convinced Michael he was smart to have overworked as much as he did in the past. If he hadn't, he would have had an even smaller financial nest egg to survive on. Chronic overcommitters are experts at ignoring their bodily needs. Jack Canfield, a co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, says in a documentary titled The Secret, that everybody has stuff going on and that's just called 'so what! You'll never know the experiences another person has endured that become a part of their behavioural makeup and actions. On the flip side, if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of definite anti-social behaviours (bullying, prejudice or pretty awful treatment dressed up dozens of ways) remind yourself that it's not actually about you (unless of course you've behaved poorly in the first place by acting nasty, toxic or hurtful). Environment and conditioning influence who we become. Some people live in countries or communities where long-standing traditions and expectations inhibit their basic right to be who they really are. Others have been fed prejudicial ideologies as a toddler. Those uncontested beliefs from formative years, like parents or generations before, may fester and become a part of who they are. Unless, of course, they consciously elect to be open minded and exploratory. I have learned from my own father's death that often the things we miss the most are seemingly small and insignificant and yet so emblematic of who that person was and always will be within us. When I am eating something delicious, when I am wiping my plate clean with a crust of bread, when I learn a new joke I know he would have loved but can't call him to make him laugh, when the lilacs bloom on his birthday each May, when I raided the neighbor's lemon tree during the Covid-19 crisis because the grocery store ran out, when I am listening to someone arrogant tell me what he thinks (I can hear my father saying in Yiddish chochem [wise guy], with a knowing wink), when I am walking in the sun--no one I know has ever loved the sunshine more than my dad. These are the moments when I miss my dad the most. Finally, I ask what I think is the most powerful of all questions because it gives voice back to the deceased, allowing him or her to complete the story. I have always believed in giving the last word to the dead. Let's assume for a moment that he was here with us during this entire conversation. In a way he has been, because we have brought him to life with these stories, but I mean this literally.

Let's assume he was hiding over there underneath the desk listening to our entire conversation. Then we finish, you leave, and Dad steps out from under the desk and says, 'Rabbi, I heard what everyone had to say about me and I don't dispute a single word of it. Our economic system and culture have taught us that having needs makes us weak, and that limits are negotiable. We learn to neglect ourselves and see health as a resource we can trade for money or accomplishments. This brings us to the second tenet of the Laziness Lie: that we cannot trust our own feelings of exhaustion or sickness, and that none of our limitations are acceptable. Eric Boyd is a successful fiction writer, but he struggles constantly with the fear that he's going to screw up and lose everything. His fear comes from a very reasonable place: before he became an author, he was in prison. He knows, more intimately than most of us, that the comfort and security his work has brought him could dry up at any moment. As someone with a prison record, he can't dive into the workforce with the same ease that many of us can. So even though his schedule is filled with speaking engagements, teaching opportunities, and paid writing gigs, Eric keeps signing up to participate in paid clinical trials and other side hustles. He never says no to a writing or performance opportunity, even if it means traveling in the middle of the night from one city to another. Some people have limiting beliefs, assumptions and even fears that hold them back for years. They are 'meaning-making machines', anchoring definition to experiences. The situation acts like the tiny piece of grit, an annoying irritant that an oyster might coat with layer upon layer of nacre to protect itself. In this case the wisdom we anchor as definitive, creating blueprints for thoughts or future patterns of behaviour, may not be quite so precious as mother of pearl. Human beings are hardwired with some common natural limiting beliefs or fears such as: While many of us share the commonality of some of these fears, the vast majority we hoard are born from experiences of our own lives. Fears and limiting beliefs are not necessarily always a bad thing. They serve to protect us from making a dangerous or reckless decision and are a key reason for the survival of our species. This 'fight-or-flight' hardwiring has proven to be a great device in the armoury of human tools.

The problem is that our fight-or-flight mechanism these days kicks in for scenarios or situations that are not as dangerous as our amygdala may suggest. But this is what I want you to say tomorrow to my family and friends and their friends who will be at the funeral. In other words, I ask the family, If he could be there tomorrow with all of you, if he could stand up there and look out at you and say something, what do you think it would be? There is almost always a still moment of silence followed by someone saying, I know exactly what he would say, and then everyone chimes in. When I write the eulogy I often choose to end with those answers, which in a sense brings the deceased back to life again at his or her own funeral for a final spoken goodbye. And those imagined last words are always an exquisitely beautiful, brief truth--the crystalline distillate of a person's story, a legacy of love. A family's storytelling before a funeral always creates an amazing transformation--from tears to tears and laughter; He still fears that if he doesn't keep pushing himself to the limit, he will descend into laziness and never recover. I've talked to dozens and dozens of overworked people, and this fear is one almost all of them share. The people who log the most hours, who run themselves the most ragged, who say yes far more often than is actually sustainable for them are the ones who most suspect that they're lazy. They seem plagued by the fear that deep down they're selfish, needy, and unmotivated. It may sound like a paradox, but it's a core part of the Laziness Lie--perhaps the one with the most dangerous consequences. The Laziness Lie tells us that we're all at risk of becoming slothful and unaccomplished, and that every sign of weakness is suspect. It has many of us convinced that deep down we're not the driven, accomplished people we pretend to be. That the only way to overcome our selfish, sluggish instincts is to never listen to our bodies, never give ourselves a break, and never use illness as a reason to slow down. This aspect of the Laziness Lie teaches us to fear and loathe our own basic needs. A difficult looming conversation with the boss is not a battle for survival with a sabre-toothed tiger. Dealing with issues in our relationships is not as dangerous as being pushed out of a tribe into the wilds of the savannah to fend for ourselves. These fight-or-flight responses may also become a core part of who we are. They are why, when you get intimate with someone, the idea of vulnerability can create the urge to run, or when crammed into a crowd heading through a darkened tunnel you have this almost uncontrollable urge to scream.

Among 'the everything else of life' there are hundreds of labels for emotions but laid out on a see-saw they are weighted on either side by the two most powerful emotions: love and fear. As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist said, 'All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear'. When your fears, learned from prior experiences, are restricting your world, perhaps it's time to tackle them head on. A eulogy reveals the truths of a person's life, a person's true story. The eulogy I felt most privileged to write was the one for my own father. The ten years he battled Alzheimer's gave me a lot of time to think about what I would say when he died, because in a way I was watching him die a little each time I visited. Each time I traveled from Los Angeles to Minneapolis and to the nursing home where he lived, I found him more diminished. As the man he was evaporated, that diminishment revealed not only what I missed and would never have again, but also the remaining beautiful essence of who my father really was underneath the topography and details of his life. I knew the well-meaning young rabbi of my parents' synagogue would someday gather our family together to tell him my father's story. I knew we would cry and laugh and journey back to who my dad was before the Alzheimer's took him away. I knew the rabbi would then go home to write a handful of paragraphs about my dad to follow whatever I had to say at the funeral. It's not because you're distracted and overwhelmed, it's the opposite! You actually need to be taking more on in order to keep yourself sharp! You need to push yourself harder to overcome how shamefully unmotivated you're feeling. When we buy into this belief system, it becomes very difficult to identify our needs and advocate for ourselves. Back in 2014, when I was debilitatingly sick, I found myself doubting my illness at times. I'd wonder if I was somehow making the fevers up in my mind and secretly manipulating my friends and loved ones into feeling sorry for me. Fear is the saboteur that prevents you from making positive changes. Love is the superhero that makes everything possible. Every life event is an opportunity to choose love over fear.

People often ask me how I manage the difficulty of writing a eulogy for someone I didn't know. They are usually surprised when I tell them that writing a eulogy for a person I didn't know is much easier than writing one for someone I did. If I never knew the person, I need only structure the memories of his or her family and friends into a narrative arc. As long as I organize and accurately reflect their perspectives, they feel the story has been well told. But if I really knew a person, then I also know if I am getting the eulogy exactly right or not. It is much more difficult to be accurate when you know the full truth. Writing my father's eulogy was going to be the singular, hopefully beautiful moment I had spent my life preparing to embrace--every writing class, every speech class, every school play, every family stew of stories, and every eulogy I had ever written for others was preparation to tell the truth of my father's life and of mine. When my father lost most of his ability to speak, he would smile when I walked in the room. I have to remember to tell people about how his eyes seem even bluer when he smiles, I would tell myself. When I would push him in his wheelchair on the path surrounding the lake near the nursing home, we would pause to watch a kid reel in a fish. Even my doctor doubted I was as sick as I said I was. He made me record my temperature every evening, in a little journal that I brought to his office. We both discovered I'd been running a fever of 103 degrees nearly every evening. Even then, I still felt guilty about being such a bother. I couldn't understand why willpower wasn't enough to make me well. Our bodies and minds have many early alert signals that warn us about oncoming colds, hunger, dehydration, or mental fatigue. If you wake up with a sore throat or a sour taste in your mouth, you can plan ahead, rest up, and nip a virus in the bud. If you find yourself distracted by persistent thoughts of food, it might remind you to grab a snack instead of waiting for full-blown hunger pangs to come. According to the Laziness Lie, however, these are not useful warning signs--they're deceptions. You don't need a snack, a cup of tea, or a languid Sunday in bed.