Perhaps it is just the delay of summer holidays, or maybe it is the unusually damp cold days that have filled so much of July this year, but sometimes it seems that life is hard work.

It is hard work to stick to my daily devotional practices. It is hard work to maintain a regular fitness regime. It is hard work to keep up with home maintenance. It is hard work to navigate the treacherous terrain of human relationships, hard work to keep the machinery of church operating, and to balance the demands and duties of family, work, and community life. Sometimes it feels like hard work just to get out of bed in the morning.

I was raised under the curse of Avis whose motto “We try harder” has blighted my generation. I was trained in the skills of determination, self-discipline, and getting the job done no matter what. I learned early that “When the going gets tough; the tough get going.” “Put your nose to the grindstone.” “The early bird gets the worm.” “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” “Some people dream of success; others wake up and work hard at it.” “People will remember you for what you’ve done, not for what you planned to do.” “You could do better if only you would work harder.” “Keep busy, someone might be watching.”

But, how much hard work is enough hard work? How do you know when it is time to let go of Avis? Is there ever a time when you are just trying too hard? How do you know when you need a rest?

The wise people in my life tell me frequently, “Listen to your body.” “Your body knows. Your body has a wisdom that will guide you if you only pay attention.”

But, most of the people I talk to who are over fifty tell me that unless they are asleep, their bodies are tired and achy. What is a perpetually tired achy body telling you?

I have heard it said that, “All burnout comes from the ego.”

Perhaps hard work is not the problem. Perhaps the problem is being attached to a particular outcome. Running 10k may not be the hard work. Setting my timer each time I head out on the trail and attempting to shorten my time each run may be the source of the challenge. Human relationships in themselves may not represent such a hurdle if I can only accept that they are frequently confusing, bewildering, and sometimes painful.

So many of the challenges in life diminish when I stop demanding that my life be different than it is. It is easier to get out of bed in the morning when I surrender the need to make my mark on the world and to manipulate my life to bring about a particular outcome that I deem desirable.

There are not many situations in which I cannot relax if I simply focus my attention on the task at hand and allow life to come to me rather than feeling I must construct my existence out of nothing. The work of life seems too hard when I take too much responsibility for the outcomes of my life and of the world in which I live. Life comes more easily when I accept the limitations of my powers.

Life is full of forces I cannot control and consequences I could never predict. When I open to those forces and receive those consequences without resistance they become a source of energy rather than a constant drain. Life does not have to be such hard work if I pay attention to the gift and the blessing of this moment. There is a flow to being that carries me when I open my heart to the deeper rhythms of life and allow the force of love to do the work.