Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness in the office

Where’s mine? That’s an important question…and this is me ranting about the underlying frustration with finding real ‘work:life balance’. You can skip this one if you prefer the lovely pictures and focus on day-to-day mindfulness and search for balance and stillness. This… is not that. ūüėČ

Perspective matters.

Perspective matters.

If I am over-extended, over-committed, over-worked, and rushed to a point that I more easily overlook needed medication, appropriate breaks for self-care, measured healthy calories to sustain good health and cognition, I can’t sustain emotional balance, physical wellness, and maintain all those logistical quality of life details that matter so much… rent…bills…vacuuming…showering… Just saying – how about we all take a nice deep breath and take a step back from being dicks to each other all the fucking time? That other person over there, that didn’t meet your expectations this time, or that time, or some other time – still human. Still having their own experience. Still entirely worthy of common courtesy, consideration, and patience. How about showing some? If we make a collaborative effort on that, culturally, the whole fucking world improves just a little bit. (This is a reminder for me, myself, as much as anything. I could do better on this.)

Raise the minimum wage? You bet – paying people appropriately is simply the right thing to do, and it is pretty ugly that we can say ‘he works full time’ and ‘he doesn’t make enough money for rent and groceries’ about the same person. Any person. And guess what? We’re all people. The same thing is true of time – we’re all human. People. Beings of emotion and reason, creative, romantic, philosophical beings who live and laugh and love – and need time for those things. No one needs time to be employed by some other person on some other agenda; we do¬†need an exchangeable form of our life force to pay for the goods and services required to support our desired quality of life. That so many¬†are not being paid what our human¬†life force is worth as human beings is tragic. That anyone at all would argue that the life force of some human beings is worth more than others is… yeah. To be approached with caution at best. Go ahead,¬†tell me how the average CEO is truly worth more money hour-for-hour than the guys who built your roads, your house, who pick your produce, who sweat over ensuring you have power after a storm, who work in factories manufacturing the goods you want so badly. I’m ranting. Sorry. This matters to me. ¬†You matter to me. People matter to me. Even in my most solitary least social moments, I still value human life, and struggle to understand why it so often seems that many people just don’t, not even their own.

It makes me ache to see people tear each other down to somehow excuse modern-day indentured servitude:¬†pay so minimal there is limited potential to survive, and no real hope of actually thriving or ‘bettering oneself’. I’m spitting into the wind. Job crisis? No problem; reduce the standard work week, refuse to allow salaried employees to work more hours than that, and insist businesses go ahead and hire the staff it actually takes to do the jobs they want done. Pay people to retire earlier in life if they choose to (so they can afford to). Ensure wages are adequate to live on, and stay so. Job crisis over. Yes, I am saying that businesses take the hit on the bottom line – less profit, more labor cost.¬†Human labor is worth far more than we make it out to be.¬†I’m not afraid to say that; businesses are building their success on the backs of those employees, capitalizing on the limited mortal lifetime of individual actual real human beings who might very much enjoy living their actual fucking lives doing something they truly enjoy and thrive on. So… not fast food, probably. Not a call center, probably. The reason jobs are work is because businesses¬†do actually have to pay people to do them. We don’t all wake up and just go to call centers, food service jobs, or gas stations just because we totally love the fun of it; we do it as part of an agreed to exchange of our precious life force for cash money to use as we may. We have so much more to offer ourselves and the world than 40 hours of grinding unrelenting tedium for employers who are (in some cases) actually destroying the world (or just up to no good).

If you do work you love, I applaud you. If you have found a way to love the work you do, regardless what sort of work that is, or whether it benefits you beyond a paycheck, I applaud you, too. I haven’t figured that one out yet. I earn an adequate living doing something I am very skilled at, and most of the time it’s enough that it be so. Tonight… I am tired. I hurt. I’m struggling to understand why I choose to spend so much of my limited mortal lifespan on something that has no potential to nurture my spirit, or build memories of wonderful experiences, or deliver real value to my life… beyond that infernal bottom line. There are bills to pay. This is such a limited and precious mortal life… what is appropriate¬†compensation for the irreplaceable minutes with loved ones, or hours spent walking in the forest, or… yeah, the entirety of a lifetime we can’t replace once spent?

My perspective on work:life balance is very different at 52 than it was at 25. Maybe that’s as it should be? There’s more to understand here, and some hard questions to answer for myself about what matters most. Maybe for you, too? Perhaps the answers are as individual as we each are as people? Does the man or woman of 70 who is angry about ‘forced retirement’ have any less right to their experience and will than does the man or woman of 45 who would prefer to retire from the world of day-to-day hourly wage employment to write the novel they have within them?¬†Does it matter what drives that preference?¬†I don’t have answers – but¬†I’m pretty sure cookie cutter solutions aren’t the solution, and falling back on what my grandfather found right and proper will likely not work for me. We are not ‘one size fits all’ in life.

Autumn becomes winter; there's only so much time, and all of it is 'now'.

Autumn becomes winter; there’s only so much time, and all of it is ‘now’.

I am more questions than answers. Tonight I am also tired, in pain, and feeling rather terse with myself ‘for even bringing it up’, as¬†if¬†ignoring¬†a wound has any potential to heal it. So, I take time to take care of me, meditation is a good practice in this head space, a healthy meal, a good night’s rest. There is time to consider, to wonder, to contemplate – there is time later to ask questions, to make choices, to figure out what works and do that thing. Tonight it is enough to slow down, and take care of me.

This is primarily a ‘well, obviously’ sort of parable, I’ll warn you now; there is no¬†new information¬†here, you already know this. It is a cautionary tale, a reminder, and a warning – like any good parable, a teachable moment being snuck into the day¬†by way of storytelling. ūüôā This one is also ‘work related’, and very specific in that context. This is The Parable of the Wheelwright.

A beautiful morning for a journey.

A beautiful morning for a journey.

A man of vision preparing for a long journey comes to a famously skilled wheelwright to order a covered wagon for his great journey. He has a vision, and shares his needs clearly and simply. The wheelwright takes his order, and asks questions about finishing details like color, and fabric, the size of this feature or that one, and the extras her new customer may want. It is a reasonable order. The wheelwright is a busy one, serving multiple customers in the community. She provides the man with a receipt for his order, and advises that his wagon will be done in one month – four weeks from that day.

The wheelwright is skilled and orderly, and lays out the work for the new wagon so that each detail will fit the others, and the work will be assembled smoothly, efficiently, and be ready when the man comes for his wagon in four weeks; this is done in such a way that all her customers will each receive their orders on time, completed with the great skill for which she is known. The work commences in the ordinary way. The wheelwright loves her work.

Before the end of the first week, the man of vision returns to the wheelwright agitated, and eager to get started on his journey. His wagon is not ready, and will not be ready for 3 more weeks – as agreed to. “Can I just get a wheel today?” he asks excitedly. The wheelwright observes that a wheel is not a wagon, and will not serve his purpose well, but the man insists he must have a wheel that very day, well-made and able to be affixed to a wagon. The wheelwright does have a wheel ready… made for a different wagon altogether, for another customer, but she is reluctant to give it to the man – it’s not made for his wagon at all, and giving him this wheel now, it may not fit his wagon when it is ready. The man insists, and takes the wheel that she has made, over her objections – he is sure it will be just fine, and departs contented.

Nearing the end of the second week, the man returns. He eagerly requests another wheel. He inquires if perhaps he could also have the canvas wagon cover as well. The wheelwright explains that a wheel is not a wagon, and that having just two wheels would not serve his purpose well. She points out that a canvas cover made for another wagon may not fit the wagon she makes for him. He is unconcerned and urgently wants what he wants, and insists on having a second wheel and the canvas cover that very day. The wheelwright explains that while she does have a wheel and a canvas cover on hand that she could give him, they were made for other wagons Рand that taking these items from other jobs will put her behind on her work on those jobs (which have due dates much sooner than his wagon) which will delay completion of his wagon Рwhich will not be ready now, until 6 weeks. The man is annoyed that his wagon is delayed, but insistent on having the second wheel and a canvas cover that very day.

At the end of four weeks, the man returns for his wagon – which is not ready. The wheelwright reminds him of the two wheels and the canvas cover which he received ahead of schedule, and how these choices delayed completion of his wagon. The man seems surprised that these actions would change the outcome of his original order, but agrees to return in two weeks for his wagon. Over the next two weeks, he sends several small changes to the wheelwright by messenger, requesting different fabric for the canvas cover, and a different style of spoke for the wheels.

When the man returns in two weeks for his wagon.¬†He is surprised to see other customers waiting at the counter, angry that their orders are not ready on time. The man’s requests had delayed other jobs than his.¬†The wheelwright did not seem to be enjoying her job anymore; she felt as if she could not work efficiently or skillfully with the frequent¬†interruptions and changes, but the man only sees his own vision, and does not see the unhappiness of the wheelwright. When his turn at the counter came,¬†he requests his wagon. It stands on blocks, with only two wheels and no cover, and he is angry and disappointed. The wheelwright reminds him he has taken two wheels ahead of schedule, and the canvas cover – and that if he will bring them in, she’ll attach them to the wagon.

When he returns with the wheels and the canvas cover, the wheelwright attaches them to the wagon. It doesn’t stand level; the wheels are three different sizes. Only two of the wheels have the sort of spokes the man requested, and the canvas cover is a very different fabric than he had decided on after the work was started. The wagon appears quite poorly made, and insufficient for the man’s great journey. The man is angry, and disappointed, and taking receipt of his wobbly wagon he departs grumbling about the poor workmanship and wondering how this wheelwright ever came by a reputation for being extraordinarily skilled, concerned that his journey would now be a failure ‘due the lack of skill of that damned wheelwright’. The wheelwright watches the man leave and considers taking up some other work altogether, finding the making of wagons frustrating and unsatisfying.

The¬†very same week¬†as the man of vision submitted his order for a wagon to the famously skilled wheelwright, another man had submitted his order to a wheelwright who had only recently set up shop in the community. This other man submitted his order with great care, having never ordered a wagon but certain of his needs on his upcoming journey. He listened with care to the recommendations of the wheelwright, and departed on her promise to have the work finished in four weeks. In four weeks he returned to take receipt of his wagon, and it was ready. Other customers had arrived ahead of him, and were receiving their wagons with great satisfaction, each wagon completed and beautiful. When his turn came, he received his wagon as well, completed, beautiful, standing level, and looking precisely as he had requested in every detail. Even the interior was well-finished, with handcrafted comfortable seats and cushions, and little details to make the experience of using his wagon extra nice. He was delighted with the perfect beautiful wagon and left with it exclaiming to all he passed that indeed she was a brilliantly skilled wheelwright… including to his friend, a man of vision, who would submit an order for a wagon the very next day.

I enjoy a good change of perspective.

I enjoy a good change of perspective.

Is this one a tad over obvious? Ah, but here’s the thing… the punchline… the plot twist; the wheelwright could have said ‘no’.

There’s a lot to learning about taking care of me. It’s a nice evening for it.