Sunday, April 15, 2007

Work and Life

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed these days. It seems I can't get everything done I need to do in any area of my life. I can't even do everything I *want* to do, much less everything I'm *supposed* to do. And I feel overwhelmed enough that I'm practically incapacitated and not getting anything done. Obviously, I have to snap out of that. And quick.

This is a really busy work week, as well as a week in which I have some personal commitments, and I'm feeling the pressure. I have my monthly board meeting on Tuesday, which always requires some preparation. I also need to do some prep work for things that are down the road, but will be here before I know it.

I also have my United Way meeting on Thursday. That is an incredibly nerve-wracking experience. You go before a board of about 15 community volunteers and state your case for the United Way money your agency gets. It's not that it's a bad system, but it is hard on my stomach lining.

Because the agency I run can't point to the people we serve because of privacy issues, it's hard to demonstrate what we do. Fortunately, people are understanding of that. Anyway, I'm really dreading it, as I do every year, because it's just so nerve wracking. The volunteers are very kind, and the process is good, but it feels a bit like the inquisition and I don't think there's a way it can't. Four o'clock on Thursday is my time slot if you'd like to send good thoughts my way then - it would be much appreciated.

I'm not sure why just living a life seems to be stressful. There's something very, very wrong with that. Life should not be stressful - it should be happy.

Almost all of the stress in my life comes from work. I like my work - this job is the best one I've ever had and I've had some great jobs. But jobs equal stress and I cannot see any way around that. There's always more to do than there is time to do it. There's always some problem on the horizon. There's always politics.

I know some people just love to go to work, but I cannot wrap my mind around that. I don't hate my job by any means - in fact I feel fortunate to have the job I have. But I don't love my job the way some people do. I love to live my life  - I love to write and paint and work on my house and garden and see friends for lunch and entertain and read and study French and research genealogy and create and travel. None of that relates to having a job. Unfortunately, it also does not relate to getting a paycheck. Hence, the reason for the job.

I don't want to give the impression that my job is unpleasant. It is not. It's a fabulous job and it's truly an honor to be allowed into people's lives the way I am. But it's a job - with commitments and expectations and all the other unpleasantness of having a job because it all adds up to stress. Job = stress. It's as certain as relativity (which is no longer a theory, but a fact).

I think the difference between me and others is that work for me is just work - it's not who I am, it's not my identity, it's not where I get my sense of self, it's not where I get my satisfaction in life, it's not what I'm about, it's not how I define myself. Work is what I do to make money to live life - it's not life.

Life is being surrounded by your loved ones, being there when your friends need you and letting people be there for you. Life is the thrill of a painting that's coming out just the way you imagined, a peach that's perfectly ripe, and learning just by listening to your elders. Life is loving passionately, and being loved without reservation. Life is running your hands over a quilt stitched by your ancestors and feeling the continuity of the generations, it's cooking a meal for friends you care about and whispering "I love you" in the dark.

None of those has anything to do with a job and to be devoted to work dishonors all these things that make up a life. All the jobs I've had I enjoyed on many levels, thought I was doing something positive, and felt good about them - and this one meets all those levels more than any other, but it is still just work. To think of any job as more than that is to diminish the rest of life.

I think it's no accident that most people who are devoted to their jobs have very little "life" outside of them. If they have families they spend little time with them, leaving child rearing to the spouse. They wrack up frequent flyer miles traveling for work but never enjoying anything about the places they go. They think about work first thing in the morning and last thing at night.And they're stressed. And stress kills - literally. There's a reason there are more heart attacks on Monday morning than any other time of the week.

I must find a way to make a living being me.

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