Find a Sacrosanct Work-Life Balance

The other night, my home office land line rang at two o’clock in the morning. A client thought they could just leave a voice mail for me to retrieve later.

Another client was clearly nonplussed when I would not divulge my cell phone number so she can reach me when I’m not in my office.

Very often, I’ll be at an appointment or in a meeting with someone, their cell phone rings or a text dings, and they excuse themselves to take the call or thumb-type a response.

The boundaries start to blur, don’t they?

What is appropriate? What is polite? Are we ever, anymore, in the moment?

When are we working and not working? Does the presence of technology mean we’re on the clock 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

A friend of mine regularly fields phone calls and emails on Sundays — forget about down time, sabbath, weekend, time with the family, or just time off.

Connecticut used to be a sabbath-inspired Blue Law state, and up until the late 1970s most businesses could not even open on Sundays! Maybe blue laws seem quaint now — or controlling— but they indicated a respect for work life vs. home life, business time vs. private time.

Then in walks technology and voraciously eats up our time and stomps all over the lines. We’ve kinda created a monster, haven’t we?

It’s why I was intrigued to read Josie Le Blond’s article “Can Germans’ right to switch off survive the digital age?” on the BBC website recently. The right to switch off? Check this out:

What seemed perfectly normal to the American, working after hours, was inconceivable to the German[s]. After all, it was Feierabend, a German term which refers both to the end of the working day and the act of switching off from work entirely.

Down time is taken very seriously in Europe’s biggest economy. That’s why, when the European Union introduced mandatory work and rest periods back in 2003, the Germans embraced the chance to enshrine their sacrosanct work-life balance in law.

A SACROSANCT WORK-LIFE BALANCE

“People think it’s not so bad if they just send a quick email, but in most cases, they are then back at work in their thoughts for much longer, making it difficult to switch off and detach.” — Nils Backhaus, Germany’s Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Switching off from work entirely. Imagine! For German workers, it’s pretty much mandatory. The Working Hours Act says: “After each working day, employees are entitled to have an uninterrupted rest period of at least eleven hours (twelve hours for those aged between 15 and 18) before the beginning of the next working day. ”

Reading an email or taking a call from a colleague counts as work and restarts the clock on another 11-hour break. And — get this — if an employee can show that interruptions to their rest periods have made them ill, that’s considered a crime on the part of the employer.

Not everyone is thrilled with the rule, of course. And I’m not sure how those stringent guidelines would apply in the States (eye roll) or for those of us who work for ourselves or freelance. But still, the recognition by businesses that rest is critical to both our physical and mental health is amazing.

Think it’s not possible? “Back in 2011, Volkswagen announced it would turn off its email server overnight to prevent the exchange of work emails out of hours. Others, including BMW and Bosch, have established guidelines for employees when it comes to contacting each other after hours.”

If you build it (a different way of thinking about technology and our work life), we will come (to the table with some new approaches for how to live a more balanced life).

“The Feierabend culture is really healthy,” says [one] American academic. “How refreshing for it to be totally okay to leave work at five o’clock and never exchange work emails on the weekend.”

How refreshing indeed.

©2020, Jen Payne. Read the full article “Can Germans’ right to switch off survive the digital age? by Josie Le Blond, February 24, 2020 on BBC Worklife, https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200218-can-germans-right-to-switch-off-survive-the-digital-age. Read Connecticut’s Blue Laws https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moa/agy1674.0001.001/5?view=image&size=100.

Not Smoking: The 10-Year Mark

I once described smoking as romantic. Not the lovey-dovey kind of romance, but romance rooted in the traditions of 18th and 19th century Romanticism.

According to philosopher and historian Isaiah Berlin, Romanticism embodied “a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate effort at self-assertion both individual and collective, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.”

WHOA!

Now, picture a “new and restless” 20-something, standing on the precipice of Expectations in “old and cramping” shoes that don’t quite fit. Nervous. Longing. Searching.

What does she do? She asserts her independence by running to the nearest cigarette vending machine — yes, there were vending machines, yes, inside a Dairy Queen — and kick-starts a habit she wouldn’t quit for more than 20 years.

It was placebo, pacifier, and partner-in-crime through some of the most brilliant and terrifying moments of my life. And some of the most benign.

As a matter of fact, it is the benign smoking moments I miss most, now 10 years quit:

The 5 a.m. drive down an early-winter highway, twilight barely on the horizon, coffee at the ready, window down, and that first, long drag.

Smoke swirling around Orion’s belt from a midnight parking lot, the only sound a slow approach of a car across the West Texas desert.

I will forever miss those romantic moments…painted with warm undertones of memory.

But they hide the truth: the panic of running out of supplies; the exhausted, frantic dash to the store to stock up, the cough that never really passed as allergies; the addiction with its hands around my throat; and the ever-present sense that I was — with every inhale — killing myself.

It’s been ten years now — ten years today! — since I took my last first, long drag. Every now and then I miss it. Every now and then I think about those romantic moments, and then…and then, it passes, “departing dream, and shadowy form of midnight vision.”

Amen.

 

 


ARE YOU READY TO STOP SMOKING? Get support — it takes a village. Read Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. And STOP. If I can, you can, too. I promise.


SMOKE

Light-winged Smoke! Icarian bird,
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight;
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest;
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;
By night star-veiling, and by day
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.

Henry David Thoreau, American Romantic

IMAGE: Girl with a cigarette by Petr Zabolotskiy, 1850

Cultivate Love + Joy

2019 will be an excellent time to swim in unpolluted rivers, utter sacred oaths near beautiful fountains, and enjoy leisurely saunas that help purify your mind and body. You are also likely to attract cosmic favor if you cry more than usual, seek experiences that enhance your emotional intelligence, and ensure that your head respectfully consults with your heart before making decisions. Here’s another way to get on life’s good side: cultivate duties that consistently encourage you to act out of love and joy rather than out of guilt and obligation.

Text ©2019, Rob Brezsny. He’s a genius and you should subscribe to his Astrology Newsletter.

Wearing the Year Loosely

Of the character Vera in SAVING FISH FROM DROWNING, Amy Tan writes:

“Since turning 50 ten years ago, she had decided that her usual garb should be no less comfortable than what she wore to bed.”

YES! I thought when I read that. Exactly! But I wasn’t necessarily thinking about clothing…

Nor was St. Francis of Assisi when he suggested we “Wear the world as a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.”

I’ve decided that this should be my modus operandi for the coming year: to move about in the world more freely, as if in loose garb.

More breath. And ease of movement.

Fewer expectations. Less fear.

Less rabid dog on a bone it’s time to put down.

More laughter. More play.

As if to support this resolution-in-the-making, Rob Brezsny’s ASTROLOGY NEWSLETTER arrived promptly on January 1st. In his treatise for 2019, he writes:

You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. You don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. There’s no need to strive for a kind of perfection that’s not very interesting to you. You don’t have to believe in ideas that make you sad or tormented, and you don’t have to feel emotions that others try to manipulate you into feeling.

In my dreams, I am obliterating delusions that keep you moored to false idols. I am setting fire to the unnecessary burdens you lug around. And I am tearing you away from the galling compromises you made once upon a time to please people who don’t deserve it.

But it’s actually a good thing I can’t just wave a magic wand. Here’s a much better solution: YOU will clarify your analysis of the binds you’re in, supercharge your willpower, and set yourself free.

And you WILL purchase brightly-colored, flowy kaftans to wear around the house.

Ok, no, Rob did not write that part, but…perhaps a brightly-colored, flowy kaftan is exactly what is called for as we step lithely into the new year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, my friends—may it be loose, light, and comfortable.


BONUS: Also from Rob Brezsny, consider these questions yourself:

  1. What outlandish urges and controversial tendencies do you promise to cultivate in the coming months?
  2. What nagging irritations will you ignore and avoid with even greater ingenuity?
  3. What problems do you promise to exploit in order to have even more fun as you make the status quo accountable for its corruption?
  4. What boring rules and traditions will you thumb your nose at, paving the way for exciting encounters with strange attractors?
1. Essay ©2019, Jen Payne. 2. Image: Small Odalisque in Purple Robe, by Henri Matisse. 3. Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan should be on your To Read list. 4. Rob Brezsny is a genius and you should subscribe to his Astrology Newsletter. 5. Click here for more about Loose Garments.

Self Care 101: ABCs of Life

FROM LITTLE TRUTHS STUDIO

 

Appreciate
Build something
Connect
Do what is difficult
Explore
Forgive
Gather
Honor
Ignore the skeptics
Just be
Know you are loved
Listen
Make
Nourish body and soul
Observe
Plant a seed
Question
Read
Stretch
Try something new
Unplug
Vote
Wonder
Express your gratitude
Say yes to adventure
Get enough zzzzzzzzs


This thoughtful print was created by artist Lori Roberts of Little Truths Studio. “For me, painting is a way of celebrating all the little truths this world has to offer, everyday miracles worthy of celebration: the immense potentiality held within a tiny acorn, the cycle of the moon, the subtle meaning expressed in a poem or a simple act of kindness that changes someone’s outlook,” Lori explains on her website. “I seek deeper truths and understanding about ourselves — what it means to be human, finding happiness, the importance of interconnectedness, our intrinsic need for nature.”

Click here to buy the print or visit her ETSY shop. Find out more about Lori and Little Truths Studio on her website, littletruthsstudio.com.


Artwork ©Lori Roberts of Little Truths Studio and posted here with permission.

BENEVOLENT SPELL

your debts forgiven

your wounds healed

your apologies accepted

your generosity expanded

your love educated

your desires clarified

your uniqueness unleashed

your untold stories heard

your insight heightened

your load lightened

your wildness rejuvenated

your leaks plugged

your courage stoked

your fears dissolved

your imagination fed

your creativity uncorked

Text from Rob Brezsny Astrology Newsletter. I LOVE this man’s work. Click here for this week’s complete newsletter or click here to sign up for his weekly emails.

Monday Message: Grace of the World

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. – Wendell Berry

PHOTO by Lucas Piero

Timely Reminder

When is it not a good time for a refresher course in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements?

Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally: 
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions: 
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best: 
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Photo ©2018, Jen Payne. Text from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz.