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If you read this blog regularly, you’ll note that I keep talking about how busy I am.  Most people constantly complain about being far too busy.  Why is that?  This is something I’ve been mulling over for a while, and this morning – after finishing reading the book Better Off – it suddenly became clear.  (damn!  the milk I was heating to make yogurt with just boiled over… so much for multitasking!)

In the book, the author – Eric Brende – writes about his experience living in an Amish-type community.  What stood out the most from this experience was the shift in the impact of work on his life.  In mainstream society, we work 8-10 hours a day, plus commuting, in order to make enough money to do all the other things we want to do in life, which then have to be squished into the remaining hours of the week.  In the lifestyle he writes about, he and his wife keenly observe that they simply have more time.    

More time.  That is what I wish for every single day, as I climb into bed feeling like a complete failure, anxiety piling up, having accomplished but a fraction of what I had hoped to do upon waking the morning before.  I am not actually working 8-10 hours a day at a job right now, being a grad student, although technically I supposed I should be putting that much time into my dissertation (I find it impossible to get more than about 5 hours a day, at best).  But I am still trying to do an enormous amount every day.  

First, I am trying to do the work that I ‘should’ be doing, i.e. finishing my degree so that I can get a job and return to being a respectable citizen.  That takes up about 3-5 hours of my day most days, and dominates my mind 24 hours a day regardless of what I am doing.  Next, I am trying to raise and train four border collies.  This requires, although doesn’t always get, a good 3-4 hours a day.  I am also trying to live a more-sustainable lifestyle through growing as much of my own food as possible, avoiding all commercially produced foods, doing as much as I possibly can from my own labour, walking whenever possible and so on.  I don’t keep track of how much time this takes, but it’s on-going all day, every day.  I also do a lot of research on every aspect of my life, from the dog training to the sustainable living to homeopathy, and of course the dissertation.  Finally, I try to maintain a decent social life so that I don’t go insane with the very isolating pursuit of writing a dissertation. (and of course this month there is the purging, packing and moving of my life)

No wonder I am so busy!  I am trying to live nearly four separate lifestyles in one day. 

In Better Off!, Brende describes life in this sustainable community.  First, work is done collectively a lot of the time: work bees are common to raise barns and other structures on the property, harvest is done en-masse, as is canning and preserving and so on.  As he repeats over and over, “many hands makes work light.”  But there’s another advantage to working collectively as well – work becomes your social life.  As such, there is no need to try and squish social gatherings into a busy schedule.  They simply become part of your day and help the work part pass quickly.

If I were living the life I really wanted to live, a lot of the things I do every day would overlap, would condense.  For example, if I were running a working farm, I wouldn’t need to spend 3-4 hours a day separately training and exercising my dogs because they would help me on the farm, getting work and training in the process.  If my friends and I actually got together to do canning and other food preparation together – as we have frequently vowed to do – we would similarly kill two birds with one stone.  If all I had to worry about was sustaining myself, I could put my energy into doing so instead of trying to prepare myself to do an income earning job, on top of trying to sustain myself.

This is not to say that I wouldn’t want to continue to do my research and perhaps teach.  I think I would.  That said, the main focus of my research is trying to understand why I can’t live the life I want to live.  Ironic, yes?  I am fascinated by the historical evolution of the power structures that currently dictate how we live and what we do.  

If I were able to really live the life I wanted, would this still hold a fascination for me?  I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to find out.  Because of these very power structures, based on the primacy of capital – which I lack – I will likely always have to struggle with the duality of my existence.  I at best can hope to tip it in the opposite direction in the near future, i.e. get into a position where my out-of-home work stops dominating my life and mind 24-7 and leaving me in a state of constant low-grade anxiety.  If I am successful, which I expect I can be, that will put me far ahead of most people in terms of the alienation with which we all live.

On that note, I’m off to a sheep farm to discuss the possibility of training there, then down to my new house to work on another garden bed so I can finish transplanting this week.  After that I must exercise my dogs, do some cooking, and settle into my writing.  It’s already 11am – where does the time go?


3 Responses

  1. I am tired from reading this! lol.
    Some kind of share system for canning would be awesome. Lets open a business – do have time? 😉

    Thanks for the great book recommendation, I will have to check it out.

  2. Yes, shared canning is the way to go. My new roommate is big on food storing, so that should make preparing for next winter a whole lot more fun!

  3. While reading this post it struck me that some of my most rewarding social interactions (that sounds cold)…. some of my most intense memories of friendship (better) are those of friends getting together to get something done together…. move someone into a new house, baling hay, roof a neighbors house.

    I think that compartmentalizing work and social activities makes work less rewarding and puts too much pressure on the social activities.

    ………I’ll quit before I start rambling

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