I was able to get in touch with a certain lifestyle, or “place of being”, while I was out on medical leave and I think I am now mourning its loss. Is it really a loss or is it now a matter of striving to get back to that state by instilling new disciplines and ways of doing things, new ways to go about how I spend my time? One of the thoughts echoing through my mind recently goes something like this – “I've done what I've done, the way that I've done it, for so long now. Maybe it's time to do what I do in a new way.” This thought courses through all the aspects of my life – from the way I spend my time to the way I interact with co-workers and approach my role in projects at work. I am yearning to be more serene, calm and quiet yet my character seems to scream out at times for attention and credit for contributions, for the chance to add my voice to the mix. I ache for that quieter approach to life. I learned during my medical leave that so much that centers around my work life truly does not matter. I think I always knew that yet somehow I learned again that it is so unimportant and temporary. The projects come and go. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with doing a good job, about being detailed and thorough and to produce solid results, but I have realized that it’s just a job. I could leave my work life tomorrow and be perfectly happy (as long as it was my choice to leave and not someone else’s – ha!)
Recently I was struggling with similar thoughts when I was going through a rough patch at work and I wrote down some words of encouragement to myself on a card and put it on my desk. I thought I did this a few months ago yet I just looked at what I wrote and was surprised to see that I wrote this a year ago . . . April 2008: “Work is work. Try to remember that the things outside of work are the things that truly matter, these are the things that truly nourish and bring you fulfillment. The gardening, yoga, quilting, reading, having delicious meals – the homemaking. The gentle arts, the creative pursuits. The chance to share life and love with a wonderful man. These are the things to cherish and live for. Do your job and do it well, yet always remember it’s just a job.” One of the realities of my time at home during my medical leave was the quieting of the noise in my mind. The endless internal chatter did not cease yet it eased up. In the early days of my physical healing there was the normal pain and discomfort associated with my condition, which translated into many thoughts running through my mind. And there were feelings of isolation as the days and weeks went by with no contact initiated by my co-workers or even really friends. My loving husband was there and he was incredibly giving and consistent throughout my convalescence. My family reached out with calls and cards and even some flowers. There was, however, hardly any contact with co-workers. This was the start of my deep realization that, what I thought was like a family, really isn’t, at this period of time anyway. I have had prior seasons of work life where the team I was involved with did feel like a type of a family but this isn’t one of those times. I experienced such a sense of freedom and inner peace as my mind did not think about work, contemplate situations and scenarios, or even process my work thoughts and activities out in my dream life. That work part of my conscious thought drifted away and it was heavenly! I was able to start tapping into other things that seemed at the time, and even more so now, to be the things that really matter. The homemaking, the creative pursuits. I also experienced, concretely and for the first time, a sense that I could be weak. Not just physically weak, which I was, yet also emotionally weak. Wait, that’s really not the right word – not weak, maybe the word is dependent or vulnerable. A bit needy. Being that I was single for so long and didn’t marry until my mid-40’s, I’ve never been able to really rely on someone else. I’ve never had someone there that I could turn to for help with the daily things of life, and I didn’t know what that could feel like. I can always turn to God, which I do, (a lot!) and I concretely have experienced and know of His intimate “workings” in my life but I have never known, as an adult, the loving support coming from a person that I could touch and feel (and talk to). I’ve always had to be strong and that’s been a natural part of who I am. I am a capable person and can do most things for myself. Yet during my illness, and then recovery from surgery, I needed someone. I needed Ross. He did so many of the things that I normally take care of. He was so giving, so very loving. And something happened – tenderness grew, a dependency, as well as shyness around others. A quietness like something I’ve never known before. I know what it is to live in a quiet home and have a simple and uncomplicated life – I had that as a single woman and I have that now in marriage. I have always loved that sense of peace and simplicity about my life – yet I’ve also always had a balance where I had to “go out into the world” and be around the noise, the activity, the people. And I’m nearly always an outgoing person. Yet I felt myself cowering away from that – almost like I didn’t need that in my life and I didn’t want it. I wanted to stay in my safe cocoon where I was loved and treasured and everything was calm and beautiful. I felt the creative juices flowing and the desire to just create a life based from the home instead of being a part of Corporate America. My current dissatisfaction with the work world frightens me. I am indeed grateful to have a job, especially in these troubled economic times (even in spite of multiple salary reductions), and, as Ross likes to say, “We get to go to work.” I certainly do not want the opposite – I don’t want to be out of a job. I’ve just found myself day dreaming more and more about this “other” life that I can control, where I can choose what I want to do with my time. Now that I have actually experienced what a life can look like, can feel like, where my mind and spirit is calm and quiet for days at a time, now that I have lived that reality a bit, I feel like I am mourning its departure. It’s been nearly 3 months since I’ve been back to work and there have been moments when I have felt downright miserable. Going to work each day, being at work during the long daylight hours has been hard for me. The days have felt so long – so very long! When I first came back there was activity and some project deadlines yet in recent weeks the work has slowed down and I have been in that dreaded spot of being between projects. Now things are picking up, new projects are starting, yet I still struggle with the long work day and yearn more for what I had a taste of during the winter months. And I’m seeking the changes that I need to make in order to usher in more chances for creativity and for nourishing the inner life. As hard as it’s been to change these ingrained habits, we are truly making progress on what we want our life to be about, how we spend our time. It’s the time during the evening hours during the work week where we’ve struggled the most. We are now trying to get some form of exercise every day, as well as focus more on being creative and reading versus watching TV. And I love to work in the garden in the late afternoon and early evening time period. I tend to leave the creative projects for the weekend because I am thrashed by the end of the day and just want to gel in front of the TV. We’ve radically picked up on the amount of time we exercise (more about that in a future entry) yet the result of that is it’s later in the evening before we have dinner and lately we’ve been ending up in front of the TV again. We are trying to limit ourselves to one hour of TV a night (we love our DVR) yet there are too many shows that we like to follow. The nights where I have put in some sort of creative activity are the nights when I feel more rejuvenated and I go to bed in a different frame of mind. I think it’s just going to take time for the new habits to form and it’s my responsibility to make the necessary changes. It’s up to me to change the things that I do and the way that I do them.