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Reclaiming Balance

Saturdays have become my chore days since I’ve been working full days every other day of the week.  Come Friday I am so exhausted that there’s just no way that I can do anything mentally taxing on Saturdays.  Plus by then my house is a complete disaster, the fridge is empty, the dogs are going stir crazy and I’m on the verge of completely losing it.  In fact, the last two Fridays in a row I think I did take a bit of a dip off the deep end.  Amazing what exhaustion can do to one’s perception of reality.

I didn’t get a lot done today, but I did manage to get the dogs well exercised and make it to morning Market in London.  This is the first time I’ve been to the London market since last spring.  All the local markets are now closed, so I have to drive the 50 minutes into London to get my “local” veggies.  I was happy to find several well-stocked stalls of produce, as well as other goodies, still available outside of Covent Gardens.  Even better, the produce stalls were all either no-spray or certified organic.  For some reason I have been really craving fresh greens and was delighted to find salad greens still available.  I also bought a bunch of leeks (to chop and put in the freeze), some carrots, radishes, tomatoes and apples.  These are nice additions to my stores of squash and potatoes!  I should be able to make up something tasty with all that.

I also picked up milk today, at last.  The last milking I had ended up going bad before I could do anything with it.  While usually raw milk turns itself into cheese when it sours, for some reason this pail-full developed a really off smell that convinced me to pour it down the toilet.  The lid had been off slightly and I suspect it got contaminated.  I did drink a little to test it and it seemed fine (and I didn’t get sick), but I decided better safe than sorry.  Tonight I am absolutely going to get the milk processing before bed so this doesn’t happen again.  A week without milk, yogurt or cheese was a very long one indeed!

I had hoped to get some cooking done today but I just wasn’t up to it.  In fact, it’s only 8:15 and – once I get some cheese started and the rest of the milk bottled up – I’m going to bed.  I really hope that I can sleep tonight.  Last night I tossed and turned, dozed and started, all night long. After a week of extreme sleep deprivation, I was simply too tired to sleep!

Today I was a useless mess.  Now, I will admit that this is not simply because of long hours and little sleep.  I have some things going on in my personal life that are really taking the wind out of my sails.  But there’s a feedback loop happening here: the joyful part of my life that kept me energized enough to work way too much has been damaged by working those very same long hours.  The wonderful balance that I had this summer, the balance that created space for people and relationships that made me so happy, is now gone.  And as a result, despite really loving my job, I’m miserable.  Life is about more than work.

Ironically, this is not the first time I’ve arrived at this point.  I recall very clearly right now hitting a similar wall with my last full-time job.  Exhausted and frustrated with no time for anything else in my life.  Crying driving in to work.  Crying at work.  Arriving home and crying in my car until my landlord came out and helped me into his kitchen and poured me a couple of very stiff drinks and fed me Cheerios.

No landlord here to get me drunk this time, but I have myself – wiser and more experienced now.  Actually, part of me is even analysing my personal experience and placing it in the context of my examination of Capitalism.  According to Marx, the only real source of profit is what he called ‘surplus labour.’  This is the labour you get out of a worker above and beyond what it costs to maintain that worker.  The more surplus labour you can get, the more profit you have.  This is why companies move to developing countries, where the cost of maintaining the worker is so low.  The other way to maximize this surplus is to get as much work as possible out of your employee.  This is what happened when I was working at my last job, and it’s happening again now.  I am paid a fixed salary for a job, and then I work as many hours as is necessary to do it.  These hours are simply way more than I ever expected.  I doubt I even make minimum wage.  And the way to keep people willing to do this excess work is to maintain a high enough level of unemployment that they are afraid to quit.

Despite this fear (which I do feel), I have come to the decision today that I need to reclaim the balance in my life.  I want to get back to having space in my life for joy.  For cooking, and eating with friends. For yoga.  For playing with my dogs.  For love.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

Don’t worry, I am not going to quit my job.  I love teaching and am really looking forward to my next courses.  My students are a lot of fun and I’m learning more than I ever did as a student.  So all round it’s a great experience.  However, I simply cannot maintain this pace. Especially not at this low salary (did I mention that I have a part-time job on top of teaching full-time, and still can’t make the bills for this falling down house?).  I’ll hang in until April, but next year I am going to do something else.  At this rate there is no way I’m going to finish my dissertation in time to apply for full-time jobs for next fall, so I will need to work part-time again.  But for the low salary, I am going to find a job that requires much fewer hours.  I was thinking of finding a non-profit that could benefit from having someone with writing skills, or something like that.  Indeed, perhaps such an experience will improve my teaching skills down the road, giving me insight into the world of non-profit, which I have never worked in.

This decision feels good.  It gives me light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully will help me find the balance in my life again.  I don’t know what I’ll do or where I’ll live, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.  For now, one day at a time.  Once I can find that inner balance again, and hold true to myself, the universe will provide.  It always has, and I have no doubt it will again.  I just have to have faith in myself.  I will start tomorrow.  For now, goodnight.  I am looking forward to a peaceful night sleep.

One Response

  1. I empathize with your current state of mind as I have found myself in this very place several times. Once I find the courage and make the necessary changes, life always seems to be more fulfilling than I could have anticipated.
    With your writing and teaching experience couple with a desire to work in the not-for-profit sector, may I suggest that you look into grant writing? Not only do you get to help in causes that you believe in, you usually receive a percentage of the grant total as compensation. Although full-time and part-time, hourly and salary positions are available, free-lance is quite often sought and highly compensated. Just a thought. . .
    I wish you the best and hope this is encouraging 🙂

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