Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Weight of Things

Having come from a job where I was paid for a certain number of hours of work each day and contract work that had me counting the number of hours that I needed to bill, I now have an ingrained habit of assessing what is considered ‘work’ or not.

As a farmer, it can be difficult to know when the punch clock starts and when it ends. Parenting can be like that too, can’t it? Sometimes I do things and feel nothing but sheer joy. Sometimes the jobs at hand are nothing but a chore. Often the same job could take on different faces depending on the day.

What makes something ‘hard’ work? Is it how long it takes? How much money you make at it? How physical the job? How much you enjoy it or not? How repetitive it is? A new factor has come to mind that I believe has become the most important one of all in the final assessment. That is the emotional weight of a task.

For those of us who are prone to burn-out, it is a very good idea to know the difference between work that drains your body, mind and spirit and work that replenishes those things. We do not always have choices about the ways we spend our time but I believe we do have total and utter control over the net amount of energy we have at the end of a given day. If we are always drained, we are not letting enough of the stuff that fills us up into our lives.

I have spent far too many years driving myself into the ground and then wondering why I had no reserves left to face the next day. But recently, as the days flow more organically without punch clocks or deadlines (at least the kind I am used to), I have been able to notice that some jobs require more recovery than others. Interestingly, how long the job took, how much energy I gave to it, and what I accomplished actually don’t provide the measure for how much of a break I need afterwards.

I often get the question: ‘how do you have time to write a blog when you are so busy?’ Perhaps people question how you find time to exercise, do your art, read, surf social media… The answer for me is simple. The hour it takes to get a post up replenishes me in a way that gives me energy that I can give back to my family, my house, my friends and my farm. But how easy it is for us to not prioritize these things that give us back our energy?

On the flip side, as women, we seem particularly good at ignoring the emotional cost of the events in our lives. Yet emotional impact doesn’t forget about us! It sneaks up and builds gardens of weeds around our hearts and stone beds across the backs of our necks then winds us up or weighs us down. We are told to get over the worry, the stress, the effects that life can have on us. It can apparently dissipate if we could just get a handle on the right attitude. Good then.

I pride myself on being nothing if not resourceful. If there is a way to wash my slate clean every time a situation or a comment or an event got the better of me, I would have figured it out by now! What I have not tried is letting the darn worry have its way with me and then pack its bag and head on out.

Somehow, noticing that certain happenings in the day carry different emotional price tags has helped me budget my energy better. If I fill up time because time is there to be filled, I often run over my emotional quota for the day. Yet if I give things their proper due and stand back or lay low when a heavy day sets in, I find my recovery time much better.

Maybe you’re somebody who sails at an even keel most of the time. Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about with this emotional quota business. I’ve always wanted to be just like you, you know? But with some decades behind me now, I’ve learned that I best accept the way the wind blows.

Now throughout each day I keep better track of how things are taking their toll. My choice is to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere or budget my energy so that I can get home to my husband and kids every night ready to be fully alive and present with them.

We are all sentient beings that are meant to feel things as we go through life. It is inevitable that we will brush up against pain, grief, sorrow, worry, loss, conflict, fear etc. I don’t think its good to dwell in these places, but to acknowledge their presence and taking a break might be just the ticket to getting free of them.

We are not meant to conquer the planet. Only this one little world we have created for ourselves. I’m learning that a little well-timed kindness goes a long way.

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