Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

…We are trying to get off the damn treadmill so that we can remember the purpose and dignity that can come from the whole of our life.

So ask yourself this: Who would you be if work was no longer the axis of your life? How would your relationship with your close friends and family change, and what role would you serve within your community at large? Whom would you support, how would you interact with the world, and what would you fight for?

We are so overextended, so anxious, and so conditioned to approach our life as something to squeeze in around work that just asking these questions can feel indulgent. If you really try to answer them, what you’re left with will likely feel silly or far-fetched: like a Hallmark movie of your life, if you got to cast people to play you and the rest of your family who were well rested, filled with energy and intentionality and follow-through. Your mind will try to tell you it’s a fantasy. But it’s supposed to sound amazing, because you need to want it, really yearn for it, to a degree that will motivate you to shift your life in ways that will make the fantasy a reality.

Think back on a time in your life before you regularly worked for pay. Recall, if you can, an expanse of unscheduled time that was, in whatever manner, yours. What did you actually like to do? Not what your parents said you should do, not what you felt as if you should do to fit in, not what you knew would look good on your application for college or a job.

The answer might be spectacularly simple: You liked riding your bike with no destination in mind, making wild experiments in the kitchen, playing around with eyeshadow, writing fan fiction, playing cards with your grandfather, lying on your bed and listening to music, trying on all your clothes and making ridiculous outfits, thrifting, playing Sims for hours, obsessively sorting baseball cards, playing pickup basketball, taking photos of your feet with black-and-white film, going on long drives, learning to sew, catching bugs, skiing, playing in a band, making forts, harmonizing with other people, putting on mini-plays—whatever it was, you did it because you wanted to. Not because it would look interesting if you posted it on social media, or because it somehow optimized your body, or because it would give you better things to talk about at drinks, but because you took pleasure in it.

Once you figure out what that thing is, see if you can recall its contours. Were you in charge? Were there achievable goals or no goals at all? Did you do it alone or with others? Was it something that really felt as if it was yours, not your siblings’? Did it mean regular time spent with someone you liked? Did it involve organizing, creating, practicing, following patterns, or collaborating? See if you can describe, out loud or in writing, what you did and why you loved it. Now see if there’s anything at all that resembles that experience in your life today…

— Charlie Warzel & Anne Helen Petersen, from “How to Care Less About Work” in The Atlantic (December 5, 2021). This has been excerpted from their forthcoming book, Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home.

Comments

  1. yes, just yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am privatising for about twenty years now. Five years I nedded to get rid of the idea that I have to achieve something. If I look around most retired people I know work under the same pressure they had before unpaid for charities. Of course, they rationalise it. It’s what they want they usually say. Seen it from a distance it’s actually the same structure of their life as before. I suppose we all have to learn to let got and enjoy doing nothing.
    Keep well
    Klausbernd 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. My brother-in-law told me that there is an art to doing nothing – which was interesting to consider when I retired. To reframe, I think there is an art to accepting that no one ‘needs’ you professionally 24/7, and whatever ego gratification is reinforced by this perspective is a false narrative. There is grave in recognizing that your life needs you – full stop. That should be enough.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Socrates’ quote comes to my mind “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I think we take everything too seriously, and especially our work because that makes us feel important in life. We should be responsible and committed, but always remember no one is indisposable. We have to learn to find happiness and peace inside to know that we are enough.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Working from home!! … that’s the best, I think!! … “Charlie Warzel & Anne Helen Petersen, from “How to Care Less About Work” in The Atlantic (December 5, 2021). This has been excerpted from their forthcoming book, Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Working for myself all these years has given me the luxury (as well as the agita, I won’t lie) of answering only to myself. Though there are stressful times, to be sure, the joy I derive from setting my own schedule and adhering to my own rhythms is profound.

    This is not to say that I don’t get all ‘wrapped around the axle’ about work on a regular basis, thinking that whatever I’m tied up with at the moment is *so* very important. But as Mimi so rightly pointed out, not a one of us is indispensable. And this pandemic has certainly brought a new poignancy to the question of how, with whom, and in pursuit of what we elect to spend our hours, our days, our years….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When we sit in stillness. Long enough…ha
    The answer of who we are is revealed, but always, always, interrupted by the stories and identities of our mind ! 🙄such a practice

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 23, 1942. Have discovered this instant why writing this diary is necessary to me. It’s been the only time, a few minutes, when I was still today. It makes me quiet a few moments, besides clarifying items that would otherwise drift in my head.”

      — Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Steve Renfro says:

    I liked setting up my little army men in the field next door and knocking them down with rocks. Also wading down a creek all day long.
    Here at my little office we have suffered from the work-from-home deal. I heard a long time ago that when management stops looking all quality deteriorates.
    Even when the manager showed up his head wasn’t really in the game.
    Things are better slightly these days. At least I’ve stopped calling it “Drink From Home”.

    Like

  9. I’ve definitely ‘let go’, David. I’ve been ‘working’ (if that’s what it’s called) from home for the past couple of decades. And – I luv it.
    Have I missed something? You have been answering comments. However, no post for a few days. You OK?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carolyn. Great for you! No you haven’t missed anything. Important things are all good. Had a bit of an incident with blog, will fill you in as part of upcoming post. Thanks for noticing. Happy Holidays.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on Sharing Thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Rinzai’s famous saying ‘Sitting silently, doing nothing, and the grass grows by itself.’
    Beautiful article.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Love this paragraph that starts with, “The answer might be spectacularly simple” loved the idyllic life that some of us in North America were fortunate enough to enjoy…among the freedom in which development and growth of exploration within the magic of childhood… (It saddens me to think of how many children then and now around the world and here don’t experience the magic… just isn’t fair…) I’m not saying that my life was all rosy because it wasn’t though the cherished times of freedom and exploration helped to balance the hard times.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Now it’s official: I really want your job. You must be a professional ‘reader’ – it can’t be different. You couldn’t possibly read ALL these books and so profoundly quote them at the drop of a needle…..
    I can only think: How lucky I am to be no longer in the treadmill of ‘regular paid work’. Although HH is still 3/5 days working from home, 2-3 days either in the office or ‘on the road’ – I am as busy as ever, I do everything w/o payment, but I love doing it all and YES: My life has become spectacularly simple because I no longer MUST, but MAY.

    Liked by 1 person

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