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When Work is Like Water

My experience is that that work can be like water. It can creep into every crack and crevice, soak into every aspect of our lives, can be a slow drip of worry, or the powerful surge of energy and change. It can be everywhere, sustaining and necessary and destructive at the same time.

I know I have gone to bed with work on my mind, woken up with work on my mind, let work accompany us on family trips, through dinners with friends, at the gym, all over the place.

Being home all the time is making this even more obvious to me. With no commute, no office to leave at the end of the day, with the uncertainty of the future and the state of the world at this level, work is more present than ever for me and most people I know.

Sadly, being someone who studies and teaches about work hasn’t provided me total respite. My boundaries are as porous as anyone else’s.

I know I don’t want to be obsessed with work, as much as I value it.

Here’s some of what I do:

  • I make dates. If left to my own devices, I will let work fill nearly every spare hour. So instead, I schedule it. I make dates with my family to walk after dinner, to cook and eat outdoors together, to get in the car and have an adventure. I make dates to call or see my friends. I make dates with myself, too. One of my favorite concepts is that of the Artist’s Date, from Julia Cameron, a weekly time to invest in activities that restore and delight me. I read, of course, or attempt to draw in my journal, I get outdoors, listen to something beautiful.

  • I get out of my head. It’s almost embarrassing what a latecomer I am to the idea of physical movement as an antidote to my brain churn. It still surprises me that even the act of putting on my sneakers to go for a walk, or turning up the music to embarrass the kids with my dance moves in the kitchen will turn things around so quickly.

  • I talk to myself more than I listen to myself. The work is going to be there. And, of course, there are things that do cause me worry and these many of these are real, not imagined. And yet, I maintain the right to talk to myself rather than listen to the voice of worry or ‘you should do more’, to remind myself of my right to have boundaries, my capacity to course-correct or change when I need to, my need to replenish before I tackle whatever challenge I’m facing. Credit for this concept goes to James Gills, a surgeon and multiple-time iron man (I can’t even).

What about you? When work feels like water, what helps you? I’d love to know


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