Letting go of being busy
On my way to the store tonight I saw two red-shouldered hawks sitting on the same telephone wire, about 100 feet apart. The wire sat above an abandoned farm field or an unmowed part of someone’s lawn, take your pick. The hawks were both facing the same direction, both looked about the same age due to their coloring (but I am no expert). I’ve never seen two hawks that close together before, let alone hanging out.
I wondered what they were chatting about.
“Hey Vern, found some real delicious mouse meat about a quarter mile up the fence last night.”
“Oh yeah, I was up in those parts too and didn’t find a thing. Must’a been right after your catch.”
“It’s hotter than hell out today, Claire! What are your babies doing to stay cool?”
“They found a nice spot at the creek down the road. You should join us Janice, feels so good!”
Probably neither of those conversations but I like to imagine they’re friends and asking where the good food is, or where there’s cool water, or if there been any owls in the area lately. You know, community stuff about the good, the needed, and the scary. I don’t know if animals are “friends” or not but I like to think they help each other out when they can.
Just an interesting observation. I wanted to take a photo but they would have been two little brown dots on a long dark line and there’s nothing good about someone showing you a photo and saying, “See those two dots? Those are…(fill in the blank with various wildlife – hawks, eagles, turkeys, woodpeckers, bobcats, bear, etc.)” And you’re left thinking, “Um, yeah. Can’t see a damn thing but okay, I believe ya.”
That’s it about the hawks. Just funny to see.
A friend and I have been chatting lately about our busy lives. Between our kids sports and school and work, time just gets eaten alive as if the busy-ness were a mosquito and time was a big ‘ol bear. We do our best to get work done and spend time with our kids and our spouses and still manage some “me” time.
We have friends who take work home every night and work every week-end and every holiday. As teachers, I’m not paid enough to work all of those extra hours. You wanna pay me a million dollars? Hell, I’d love to earn what Kevin Costner’s soon to be ex-wife is asking to receive in monthly alimony. What she’s asking for to live on monthly is what I’ll make in almost three years. Three years v. 30 days. And for that kind of money, I would work a ton outside of an 8-hour workday. But I’m a teacher. And as much as I love my students, I love my family and my health more.
The thing is, many people do work all of those crazy hours. And here’s the nuts-so part – it’s not for the money BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT MAKING OVERTIME. They are salaried.
Between the grading and planning and answering emails and submitting this for that PD / certificate / course requirement, there is a lot of work to be done. But as teachers get more years under their belt, the work should get easier. And it should be less.
I hear folks in the business world too, touting the same thing. “I was up until midnight working on this proposal…,” or, “Yeah, had to put in 2-12 hour days this weekend to meet that deadline.”
I understand there are deadlines and quotas and grades to be entered. On occasion I take work home on a weekend, but certainly not every night and every weekend. Sometimes the announcing of all this extra work feels like a person’s badge of honor, as if I’m supposed to reply with, “Oh my goodness, that is a lot of work, you are amazing!” and look at them in awe and reverie.
The thing is, I used to do that. And now I don’t. Because doing so, praising the people who work insane hours and kill themselves with stress not only fuels their fire but makes those of us who choose health over work look like a) we don’t care as much as they do and b) we are not as efficient. and/or c) we are not as loyal. When the truth is, we care and are loyal but we work efficiently and effectively to get our work done in order to have a life outside of our job. But a standard has been set. Kill yourself for your job. Because someone else is in line right behind ya.
People who work every night and every weekend and every holiday? Stop the madness.
I don’t think that what you’re doing is amazing. I do not stand in awe of your ability to get 4 hours of sleep a night and then complain about how tired you are. I am not impressed by the fissure that is slowly creeping into your marriage due to the amount of hours you choose to work. And I will not bend and begin working as much as you because you think that is what everyone should do.
What I will offer you is this: Stop. Working. So. Much.
Go to bed at 10. Get a full 8 hours of sleep.
Quit drinking _____ and start drinking water. You’ll feel better.
Sit down and eat dinner with your kids or your spouse. Asked them what they dreamed about last night. Ask them what they are looking forward to tomorrow.
Put your phone down and quit trying to be somewhere else. Be here. Be present.
Quit chatting with people all day. Get your work done at work. Chat later over a beer or glass of wine or seltzer while enjoying some delicious fried pickles or Pho. That chatter is way more delicious.
And goodness gracious, quit thinking you are impressing people by working 14 hour days 7 days a week. We’re not impressed. We’re sad for you because we see you tired and stressed and angry; we know all of that could be fixed if you just stopped.
Stop working so damn much.
Let go of being busy.
We are a society which applauds those who work all the time. I don’t know when this happened and I don’t know why. But I for one have been on the “stop being busy” train for many years.
I want to be one of those hawks on the wire, chatting with a friend about nothing at all and everything to us. I am the cliche who stops and smells the roses. I hear about how good it felt for my son to do well on a math test. I watch my daughter grow in her ability to play third base. I stop and watch sunsets and sunrises. I get that we have this one, very short life to see and do it all and I’m doing everything in my power to experience all of it. And yes, even experience work, because teaching can be so damn rewarding.
Maybe you’re the overworked. Maybe you’re in the middle. Maybe you’re not working enough. I don’t know. None of us are perfect, certainly not me. And I don’t have all the answers, never truly will. But I hope wherever you are, it’s where you want to be.
I aim to look back on this one amazing life I’ve lived and think, “Nope, I don’t think I missed a thing.”