Archives for posts with tag: work life balance

…Home…work…home…work… Back and forth, pretty much continuously, distractingly interspersed with a couple days off, not quite convincing me that I have ample leisure. lol Omg – fuck this. I sigh and sip my coffee. I breathe, exhale, relax… And remind myself that the bills are paid, and this home is comfortably warm on a chilly morning. I had hot water – and indoor plumbing – and sweet smelling shower gel in my morning shower. This cup of coffee? Work was involved in that, too; coffee beans aren’t free. The electricity that ran the burr grinder? Paid for that, too, with money I worked for. So…okay. Work is thing, I guess I’m stuck with that for now.

…I’m so ready to get off this treadmill. Have been for a long time. It aggravates me to see articles about the need to “raise the retirement age” – let that shit be optional, voluntary, and self-determined! Damn – you think I want to be “gainfully employed”? Um… no. It’s just that our society is built on the exchanges of goods and services made possible by the additional exchange of currency. Currency that represents our labor (and in a most bitter and unfortunate additional bit of truth, the “exchange rate” of life force for currency is neither “fair” nor “equal” and some human beings are most definitely paid too little for their time, whereas others are paid far far more than any real value that could be assessed based their life or humanity). So… work. Home to enjoy. Work to pay for it. Back and forth.

It really does bug me when “retirement ages” are set such that they only account for those who wish to work longer. Of course, it would also bug me if the agency of adult human beings was undermined such that people who are capable and eager are forced out of the workforce solely due to their age. Either way, it’s the lack of agency I’m actually objecting to; we are not machines, we’re not all identical in appearance – or intention. Some people earnestly want to work in their later years – I’ve met a few. (Keeping things real, I’ve met far more who felt they had to continue working because they needed the money and were not financially prepared to retire.) I’ve also met people who are looking ahead to retirement before they were 30. (I’m one of those, but I’m also likely going to be someone who has to keep working due to not being financially prepared to retire.)

Sipping coffee thinking about the work-life treadmill on a Thursday. Of course, I have choices, and I mull them over now and then, fully aware I could, perhaps, paint full time (and be creatively contented and probably below the poverty line), or go into business in my working profession as an independent consultant, or do some other work I’d never considered but is incredibly lucrative – people who have freed themselves from the treadmill do exist. I just don’t happen to be one of them. lol This morning I’m tired, and I woke with a headache from a dream that I was commuting to work driving my car backwards. lol Too many late-ish nights, not enough sleep? Another sip of coffee, and an internal commitment to going to bed “on time” tonight, is the only result of my fatigue-y cynicism.

The truth is, I’m good at my profession. I’ve chosen to continue it a couple times after attempting to escape it. I’m pretty skillful at the “going to work every day” thing, in a way that quite a few people I know are not. I support myself, loved ones, and creative endeavors through these skills, and I feel satisfied with all of that. I’m just tired this morning and yearning for a freedom from routine that I not only don’t have – I’m neither comfortable with, in fact, nor skilled at managing well. lol It is what it is. (This sort of thing is specifically why I don’t make major decisions while deeply fatigued or stressed out; my thinking changes when I am relaxed, and able to face challenges from an emotionally neutral, practical perspective, and I make very different decisions.)

Choices. Verbs. The things that are. The things that are not – or are not, yet. The wheel keeps turning. If I don’t like my circumstances, there are alternatives. If I don’t like the person I see myself becoming, I can make changes. If I don’t like the conversation going on around me, I can walk on. Hell, even when the conversation I’m not enjoying is the internal “conversation” going on with myself, I can definitely “fix that” – I can begin again. 😉

I only just noticed I was already “at the office” and working, rather than fully here in this place, in this moment. I left the office with an important piece of work completed, but with room to take it further, to correlate more details, to consider more variables, to increase the complexity… and was so deeply involved in it that my day ran well past the usual time, quite by mistake. I spent last evening continuing to think about work, barely aware that I was, but I certainly wasn’t fully in that moment, either. Eventually, I went to bed. This morning I woke from dreams of working, and filled my head with further thoughts of work. An hour after waking, I notice. Coffee cup is empty, no recollection of drinking it, half-finished email to myself (addressed for my work email address) with some notes for further work waiting to be sent. I take a deep breath and step back from the work, and make a second cup of coffee.

This mindfulness thing takes practice. 🙂

Another couple deep breaths, a few minutes spent pulling my consciousness from the sticky mud of this enticing work assignment. A second cup of coffee. Time spent becoming awake and aware and present here, now. I notice, too, that I’m still in my jammies and fuzzy spa socks… how have I not showered and dressed for work?? I am startled by the realization, and spill hot coffee on my keyboard and in my lap. Some fun time with swear words, and then it’s off to the shower to properly get ready for work…

This self-care thing, this adulthood thing… yep; they take practice, too. lol

Once the morning routine is back on track, I sit down to write, and catch up on things-not-work-related. The weeks seem to race by since I took on the new job… 7 months in, I guess it doesn’t count as new so much any more. lol I smile, and sip my coffee. I chuckle to myself – how fast was that shower? What’s left of my coffee is still warm.

I sit quietly sipping my coffee, and thinking about life, generally, and feeling rather content with things as they are. The house hunting is just dreadful and although I am taking a patient approach, I am entirely made of human and have some moments when I feel very discouraged. Yesterday was an example of how that can so easily develop; I noticed a listing that had sat without much interest for quite a while. Okay, why? I noticed it is listed as a HUD home, which generally means it is a fixer that my VA loan won’t be suitable for, and I don’t even go so see those… this one, though, was in fair shape, and my inexpert eye just couldn’t see a reason it wouldn’t qualify for a VA loan, so I asked to see it. It was definitely (and comfortably) in my price range, good location, and met all my minimum needs… we arranged for me to see it after work. Within an hour of firming up plans to go see it, it went pending. LOL This has happened a couple times, in a way that seems to defy likelihood. It’s every bit as irksome as making an offer on a house at several thousand dollars over list price, just hoping to have that offer considered at all, and find out later it sold to another buyer who could afford to pay not only thousands over list, but offering tens of thousands over the appraised value, which is tens of thousands of dollars over list price. I try to avoid being angered by that, but also struggle to understand why that buyer wasn’t looking at nicer homes they could afford at a higher price point? I find myself beginning to fuse with that other emotional experience, even though, here, now, everything is calm and quiet. I take a deep breath and let that go.

Being present in this moment, takes practice. 🙂

I smile over my coffee and think about going to lunch with my Traveling Partner and a friend, yesterday. It was a lovely break from the day-to-day routine, and I definitely needed a break from that work project. I laughed at the end of the day when I noticed my departure from work was delayed from my usual time by almost exactly the length of my lunch out. I felt a moment of satisfaction, as that seemed to me to be exactly as it should be. 🙂 Pleasant recollections definitely feel better than fussing and feeling discontent and aggravated by the frustrations of house hunting. Then, I notice the time. The work week is not yet over, and here it is, time to go, already.

Today is a good day to be present. Today is a good day to be and to do. Today is a good day to begin again. All of that takes practice. There are verbs involved. 🙂

I am struggling to find balance this morning. I feel it most as I fight off the impulse to rush into the office ahead of schedule, even before the building is unlocked to all the staff. I recognize there is no rational purpose to doing so, and that doing so is not likely to provide relief of the subtle tension that has built since yesterday evening. I struggle to ‘let it go’ – I’m prone to remaining fixated on things that have urgency or importance projected into them by others; I feel the urgency as an emotion, and a compulsion to act. I’m not saying this is a peculiar thing, or that it is not shared by many, it is simply my experience this morning.

It began last night, actually. Just as my traveling partner and I exchanged well-wishes for a night of good rest, someone on my team at work texted me to alert me that a system change did not (or maybe did not) go as planned; all seemed well, except he himself was no longer able to access our system on his own credentials. Damn it. Texts were exchanged. I sync’d my work email and caught up on the relevant thread and without meaning to at all… I was ‘at work’ and working. After a while I realized that I was not going to be able to do the best possible troubleshooting from the perspective and information I had, and also faced needing to rest for the next day… and that’s when I realized I was caught in the sticky web of some other agenda than my own, and at risk of treating myself badly. Yep. That matters more.

I put the work on pause. Silenced my phone. Dimmed the household lights that remained. I took a seat on my meditation cushion, and took steps to distance myself from work in order to sleep. It took awhile. It took almost an hour of meditation, appropriate medication, and another half an hour of recreational reading to calm my mind such that sleep was possible. I woke once, around 1 am. Work thoughts surfacing in dream content woke me; there were mistakes in the dreaming that got my attention, and in my dream I began troubleshooting all over again. What woke me was a mistake that would not respond to action taken to resolve it. I got up to pee, and returned to sleep with relative ease. When the alarm went off this morning, some portion of my consciousness was already fully awake, although my body was still asleep, and – you guessed it – I was ‘working’ already. 😦

I was up and dressed to leave so quickly, it was necessary to halt myself and undress in order to have a shower; I was about to leave for work, without a shower, coffee, or actually taking care of myself in any way at all. Foolish, and although in some moments that sort of urgency may have it’s place, I’ve not seen it rewarded much in life in any practical fashion of lasting value; it drives stress, high blood pressure, and inefficiency. Cultural programming puts way to much focus on work/employment concerns as it is. At a distance, I recognize that being prepared, skilled, and efficient don’t require urgency, compulsion, or reactivity – practicing the more balanced calmer approach to work is complicated by an environment and society that continues to react, to be compelled, and to find all matters related to work to be ‘urgent’, when indeed they simple are not. So… I struggle some this morning to maintain a sense that I am my own highest priority at this hour of the day, not yet in the office, coffee in front of me. I breathe, and let it go – again. I find my mind coming back to the problem, and again I breathe and let it go. Now is not the time for that. ‘Now’ is time for me, particularly this now, so early in the morning, carved out of each day specifically for my own needs.

My consciousness still feels encroached upon inappropriately, and the ‘tug of war’ between me, what I need myself, and that ‘foreign presence’, the demands of employment. I fuss, back and forth, picking up the thread on the work puzzle, reminding myself of my own needs and putting it aside again. Back and forth. Woven into the fabric of my morning, even filling my words, here, with work. I sip my coffee, and take a few moments to relax, and listen to the soft music in the background, to be present, even noticing the chill of the room, and making room in my experience for distant sounds of traffic, the hum of the refrigerator, to notice my tinnitus seems unusually loud, to feel and to breathe. As ‘now’ becomes more prominent, work falls away again. It is a strange sort of dance, back and forth. I don’t care for it at all, and the morning is less than ideally comfortable.

I think about what I need most to care for myself, and what I may need this evening. I recognize that I am ‘pushing myself too hard’, although I am doing all I know to do to pull back on that, my greatest success is awareness, this morning, more than any real change. Practicing, always practicing – and incremental change over time being what it is, this experience this morning is less intense, less disruptive, less agonizing than other such experiences have been – hell, I slept. I even slept fairly restfully, although my mind was very busy, and my dreams were colorful and surreal, filled with detritus left over from the work day, in the form of strange object placement or events (seriously – a ‘portable thermostat’ one might stick on a backpack for ‘go anywhere’ climate control?? Yeah. Our office is seriously cold all the time.)

Breathe. Begin again.

Breathe. Begin again.

Well. Here I am. Still at it. Still practicing. Still taking care of me. Still beginning again and using verbs. Sure – yes, and of course – this is a very human experience, and I sometimes work very hard to endure the most uncomfortable challenges and find my own way. I’ve got a lot to learn on this journey… On the other hand, I am my own cartographer. I have choices – so many choices – and while choosing to calm myself, to take care of myself, to enjoy my time and be engaged and present in this moment isn’t always the easiest of choices (how much easier would it have been to rush to the office without pausing for coffee?!), the value in slowing down and taking care of my own needs is very real.

I think for a moment of my friends – some grinding away years of their lives on shit jobs they don’t care for, others involved in endeavors that feed their passion professionally, all of us exchanging some measure of time for currency we can use to fund the lives that matter to us most. I find myself hoping that they know how important they are to themselves, and that it is their life that has the value, not their employment, and that they find time to really live, to really love, to enjoy each precious moment. Impermanence is a thing too, and we are mortal creatures; there is no time to waste. I use my sympathy and compassion for my friends’ experiences to ease my resentment in this moment; I would so much rather sleep in, then spend the day painting, writing, tending my garden… you know, living my life, and there’s time for that, but before I do, I’ll just need to go over there and exchange a portion of my life force for some pieces of paper, and a balance in a bank account…

 

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. 😉

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.

The morning is well underway, and it is generally pleasant – coffee and jazz. I hadn’t intended to write, but finding my thoughts pulled back into a particular source of work stress in advance of the day, I decided to make a point of starting the morning from a different perspective.

I'll begin again.

I’ll begin again.

Different thinking leads to different choices, and different actions – how could it be otherwise? I can choose my thinking, and that’s a good place to begin.

I start with something easy and spend some minutes thinking about what I’ve got that works so well – small things work for this – I smile when I recall finding the small-sized food processor from a well-made brand, on sale, and in a color that suited my decor and my taste. I laugh realizing I’ve not yet used it. I listen more attentively to the music. I smile, enjoying the good quality stereo and the lifetime of experience and music that allowed me to select it with such care. It was a great way to treat myself well when I bought these speakers. I can see down the short hallway into my bedroom. I love that I have already made the bed and the view is tidy, orderly, and I can see a picture of my beloved on my nightstand. This is a good start to the day.

Now I can move on to the hard stuff – work stress. Work stress sucks. For me, it sucks just as much because it’s only fucking work in the first place – what right does it have to encroach on my time? lol I take a few minutes to think appreciatively to have a job at all, and to have one that pays adequately for my general needs. I remind myself that I’m not standing outside in the heat or in the rain, breaking my body over manual labor. Climate control. Indoor plumbing. A well-stocked break room. The work is not physically difficult or physically demanding. I’m salaried. So – yeah. All of that is worth being grateful for. The rest is just… small stuff. What I don’t do today, I will go in and do tomorrow – and the national security is not at stake, and no one is hurt if there is an error in a spreadsheet. Hell, this work has limited scope, limited impact, and trust me – limited importance. So what’s to stress over? The emotion of the moment? Fuck – it’s not worth all that. lol

It can be so easy to get caught up. It rarely feels as easy to let go. There are definitely verbs involved.

Yeah. Now I’m ready. 🙂