Free Time – Life Balance

One of the biggest changes for me, now that I am no longer working out of the home is to allow for time to make myself work-ready and to commute to the office. For me the loss is a couple of hours each day.  I am not special in this loss of personal time.   It is the personal price that millions of people pay as part of being gainfully employed.  It is time the working person can never get back.

I use my commuting time to plan my day or decompress and shut down at the end of a day.   When I push the button on the garage door, that is the line of demarcation of work time and personal time.   I don’t take home paperwork, my computer or say to anyone at work to call me at home.     I have traveled that road before of letting work take over my life and have no desire to do it again.    When I am on the clock I am 110% in, but when I am off-the-clock  I am guard my private time preciously.   It isn’t easy and I like so many others have struggled with this situation.

When I accepted this job, RangerSir and I talked about this.   We discussed what the realistic expectations were.   We discussed what was most likely to suffer and what each of us might do to limit the impact of my new job on personal time.

I have done several things to ensure that I don’t let work creep occur.    I am trying to cultivate new habits to ensure I don’t just go to work and come home and veg, because I  found I was falling in that pattern.    In January  I enrolled in a creative class with weekly assignments because I love to learn and I thrive on creativity.   With regular assignments I am forced to carve out time for myself.   It seems that once I have found the rhythm of making self-time, it seems I have found  time for other things as well.   I  have queued up several books at the public library, because I am back to reading daily.   I had wanted to make a baby quilt when my newest Great Nephew was born, but I had never started the project.  I felt I had no time.    Now the top is pieced and I am busy machine quilting it so I can go to baby Harrison.

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I had never imagined I would find the time to make a baby quilt, though I really wanted this special baby boy to have one.   Now suddenly it is well on its way. 

Are you caught in the never ending rat race of letting your work encroach on your personal time?    Are you not being yourself, but instead using the exhaustion of work  preventing you from finding enjoyment in life?   If so, I hope you take a little time and think about how you can find some time for you.  You are worth it.   Maybe you can’t be as lucky as I am, but even if all you get is a few minutes to yourself, it will be worth it.   Once you claim those first few minutes hopefully you can claim a few more and a few more.

It is something we all need not just with work and personal time, but holistically more life balance.

Unexpected Goodbye

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A page from my art journal that I created when looking for answers this last week.

Most people spend more waking hours with their co-workers than their family.   Your co-workers become an extended family.   If you are really lucky some of your co-workers become your friends. I had a co-worker who was one-of-kind guy.   Our careers ran parallel paths in so many ways that made us click and become more than co-workers.   We were friends. Unfortunately last week I lost my friend to suicide.

Montana has a rampant problem with suicide. We are often number one or two in the nation per capita when looking at our suicide rates. It is a sad reality to know so many families personally affected by suicide. For RangerSir and I it is not people we know second or third hand that have been impacted by this crisis.     It is people who we know as a member of our inner circle.   In January we attended two funerals for victims of suicide.     It has left us stunned and reeling seeking to understand.      Something we may never do.

Suicide affects young and old alike.   If reaches across gender and economics. It is a problem in rural and our cities.   Suicide leaves behind family and friends who wonder what more they could have or should have done.   There are no answers. Only holes in lives about what was possible that will not be.

I beg of you if it is a moment of great despair or if it is a long battle with mental health, please seek help.   It may not feel like there is anyone out there who cares, but there is.   It may not feel like there is anyone you can share your burden with, but there is.   It may feel like there is no way out, but there is.   Call out for help.   Ask for help.   Accept the offer of help.   The world is a better place because you are in it.

Another Day

Today is another day.   It is the day after yesterday and the day before tomorrow.   For me is not some magical special day that I make resolutions, promises or goals tied to the new year.   It is a just day.  It is another 24 hours to be spent by me, if I am lucky followed by another   It is a day in my life.  Each one special and one of kind.

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Each morning somewhere between the time when I wake up and when I actually  start my day I reflect how do I want to use this day.  During the time when I do the routine morning tasks of cleaning up, eating and getting dressed I start to think about what this day holds.   I begin to organize my thoughts  recognizing what things I have to do today and the things I  want to do.   I want to fully experience life  each day, but I don’t want to get lost in all the externals that I don’t actively be me.    I don’t want to feel like at the end of the day  my existence did not make a difference. It is a balancing act.   What I plan for each day isn’t the same every day.  Many things influence my plan for the day, if I work or not, is there a commitment I need to fulfill or a deadline approaching, how do I feel, what my family needs, my friends,  and so much more.    Some days I have a simple wish, to walk more steps than I did yesterday or eat a healthy lunch.   Recently my goal was to  pray for a family who has lost a son and that I learn more about compassion and empathy because I can not imagine their pain. Some days it is to accomplish something at work, something that won’t likely change much of anything in the world.  While other days it is do a random act of kindness for someone who I don’t know.

Most days I pick several things for my daily goals and other days I just aspire to accomplish one thing.   I try to make it a mix of for tasks but sometimes  I when I feel spent  I just wish for a day for me.   This weekend  I gave myself the gift of nothing.   Nothing for me is to allow myself the luxury of doing what is calling me at the moment.   For me nothing can  be to read, sew, write, play in my studio, talk to my life-time friend, pull my camera out or take a walk.   My wish for the day can be a grand task impacting everyone I meet or just a single movement toward a lifetime quest that only I recognize.   It changes for me each day.

It is not about a resolution I make on the first day of the year.   Instead it is about my life list.   All those things I want to see, do and change.   My life list does include places I want to see and things that are personal goals, but it contains bigger unreachable items as well.   Those big things, like world peace,  I don’t serious believe I can change all by myself, nor will even see in my lifetime, but I want to be a drop in the water  that sends out waves or a butterfly wing that contributed to a distant tornado that is part of that change.    I want to waste one less minute than I did yesterday.   Today I want  to make better use of  the time allotted to me than I did  the previous day I was given.    I fully embrace each day no matter what day of the year it is.  I wish the same for each of you.

Persistence

This last couple of weeks I have had surgery and been on the mend.   One of the things that I did with my spare time besides sleep a lot I also got caught up on some videos that go with a class I am taking.   One of the videos was a round table of women who were economically successful in creative fields talking about their successes and failures.    When I say economically successful I mean they are able to support themselves or make significant contribution to their household’s bottom line in their creative pursuit. I clarify this success  because I think it is what we all want to make a living and what we love doing.    We want to explore and do something we love, but most of us if we are lucky never get much beyond the break even point if we are lucky.  These women  were writers, painters, stampers and mixed media artists.

One of the things they talked about is other women often ask them how do they break into their field.  It was so interesting in that they said you don’t have a “aha moment” and suddenly you are successful.   They all said over and over, that innate talent is always helpful, but more important is persistence.

On my desk and in my planner I have this quote by Calvin Coolidge. It has been a driving philosophy in my life. It hasn’t always made my life easy but it has allowed more success and opportunities that one can imagine.

imag2744_1.jpgA divider I made that is in my daily planner.

Long ago, in an almost different lifetime, I was in a session  at the Fortune 500 company I worked for at the time.   It was for managers they were  grooming and developing for the next level of management.   During the session it came out that I was the only person  who had not graduated from college in the group of managers and directors.   One of the gentlemen in the session pointed out to the group that I was an  oxymoron being a manager without a degree.  I on the other hand thought, I don’t think his college degree helped him in his word choice when selecting oxymoron to describe me, though everyone knew what he meant. It took me a few more years to get to achieve my position, because I had started at the bottom and had persisted in proving that I had the ability to learn and the talent to do the job I wanted.

Persistence has served me well since I have become self-employed.   People always say to me it must be nice to have the flexibility you have.   It is nice, but it is also somewhat scary.   If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.   It is not like when I was an employee and if I was having an off day, I could show up to work and get paid, even if I wasn’t hugely productive.    Now I am always on the hustle, looking for my next gig.   If you don’t ask you won’t get  job, so I find myself telling folks I am looking for work, and I might help them.    It isn’t like you hang your shingle out there and suddenly there are six people out there begging to hire you at a livable wage.   Self-employment isn’t that easy.   You have to be persistence in your flexibility to try new things and take risks that sometimes don’t quite make sense or aren’t easy.

That all said, like thousands of you I am not making a living at things I love doing.   I’d love to be a writer.   I have a small box of reject letters from the days before self-publishing for the e-read.   I have a finished book, that needs to be re-worked, polished and edited. I spend several lunch hours each week with a sandwich in my truck reading and marking up changes.    I love to be on a design team where I was mailed supplies for my artistic endeavors to try out and make things that inspired others.    I have studio space full of paper, pens, ink, canvas, fabric and sewing machines.  I have tried lots of things and these are the mediums I enjoy working with, and they make me feel most creative. Here is is where my persistence comes back into play.   I spend time in my studio every day.   I don’t skip.   Some days after work,   it may only be 20 minutes.   Other days like today, I have carved out hours working  on a gift journal I am making and  writing my blog post.   People say they don’t have time to do….you fill in the blank…..   You do.   It may not be a lot of time, but you have time.   You choose where and how you spend your free time.   You have to be persistent because only you can make it happen.  More than that persistence of your passion, those things you enjoy, even if it is only 20 minutes, will make the day feel better for you and that is not bad.   Not bad at all.

 

 

We All Get 24 Hours

It seems everyone is always running out of time to do things myself included.  Each of us complains about not having enough time.   There was once a commercial showing people driving up to an ATM like machine and getting a few more minutes or a couple hours because they did not have enough time.  I’ve looked for it on YouTube and could not find it to share here, because it was so perfect for this post.  It was great because it showed that each of us would like more time to do things in our lives.

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This post started to formulate in my mind,  when someone said to me that I had more time than they did.   Seriously I have more time?   Yes, I may not have a job outside the home at this moment, but I get the same 24 hours as everyone else.    I am not going to go on about all the work type stuff that I do to justify what I do in a day.   Instead I am going to talk about what I do with the non-work time, to carve out time for things the bring me me joy, and renew my soul.  Hopefully this post will inspire you to find some ways to carve out time that nurtures your spirit.

When it is time for a work break, I used to spend it at my desk catching up on the news on the internet.   Now I get up and leave my desk and take Zip, my dog, for a walk.   I get outside and enjoy the day or freeze my butt off, either way I know what is really going on outside in the world.

When it is time to cook dinner, RangerSir and I work tandem and talk about what each of us did that day, solve the world’s problems, or compare notes on what new crazy is happening in American politics.   It is time to stay connected.  It is family time for us.

After dinner RangerSir relaxes by watching TV.   He picks out what he wants to stream that night for his viewing pleasure.   I on the other hand generally can’t imagine that, so this is the time when I go to my studio space and get creative.   It is this time in the evening when I take art type classes online and do my assignments.   It is during this  time when I make samples for classes I plan to teach.   It is this time when I think of friends and make cards to let them know I am thinking of them.  It is this time when I try things I have never done before. It is the time when I work on writing.   I work on my journal and explore in mixed media.   It is time with no excuses for just me.

Lately I feel like I don’t have enough time.  Yet I realize it is my choice not to have enough time.  That feeling stretched thin is a result of my choices, that second class right now may have been more than I should have put on my plate.   There are things in my life I probably don’t have to do, and yet I do them sacrificing things I’d rather do.   If you are working two jobs to put a roof over your head this post is probably not fair to you, but most of us do have some free time and maybe we just are not using it right for us.  We are picking to do things that do not feed our soul with our discretionary time, so we look at others with envy when we see them do things that we wish we could do.

When you feel like you don’t have enough time for yourself, ask yourself what things in your day  are discretionary and  you could actually choose spend your time differently than you have in the past.   Start today and carve out time not “just for yourself” but to do something that makes you feel good.   Don’t go with the routine because it is easier not to change, but change because doing something refreshes you and make your life easier. We each only have 24 hours in a day, but doing something that is just for us, that makes us feel better can make  the rest of the day a much better experience. It is not selfish, it is survival.

Life Isn’t Fair

it_20may_20have_20escaped_20your_20notice_20but_20life_20isnt_20fair_originalI have tried in the six years I have blogged to avoid religion and politics, mostly because I believe you have a right to yours and I have have right to mine.  Odds are I am not going to change your mind and you are not going to change mine.   Today I was pushed around the bend when the news coverage this morning was all about a candidate who felt he was being treated unfairly.

When a small child replies “That’s not fair,” most of us ignore the child until they get over it. Children need to learn things don’t always go the way they want.   I have on many occasions felt that life was not fair.   Yet I got up and went to work. My employer and co-workers depended on me.   I had bills to pay.   Just because I felt something wasn’t fair, opting out was not an option.   I have had times when I made a commitment assuming something and later discovered that wasn’t what I had though.   It did not seem fair that I may have possibly been misled, yet I showed up.   Just because I think something isn’t fair doesn’t make me right or what I think true.

So to the press who thinks giving lots of air time to someone because they think they were not treated fairly, I would prefer you stop it.   Treat this circumstance the same ways as if it was said by  a five-year-old and ignore him and this too will pass. To the man who refuses to participate because he perceives he was not treated fairly here is the reality:  Life isn’t fair.  Suck it up and get over it.  You will not get to do this if you get the job you are asking for.  I am sure that each of the 44 US presidents had many a times they thought things were not fair to them or our country.   Lastly to those who are evaluating this man as a possible candidate for our highest office,  really do you want someone who does not understand you can’t check out because life isn’t fair?

My hat is off to all of you who have had those moments of life feeling very unfair and persevering and moving past it. It stinks and sometimes it is hard,  but the reality is life isn’t always fair.   We all move on in spite of that.

Read the Old-Fashioned Way

I am a die hard reader.   I read daily at least an hour, sometimes more if I can fit it in.     In the days before the e-reader I had piles of books beside my bed, beside my chair and they filled a whole bookcase  in the family room.    Since I made the conversion to the e-reader my pile though invisible to RangerSir is larger than ever.   I still keep one shelf of books in the case of a power failure.    It is full of those lifetime keepers, but also a few books that are  pulp fiction, because if was an apocalyptic event we would need some levity.   My paper collection of books  is more discriminating than the collection on my e-reader because I am limited to one shelf since I seldom read hard copy any more.   This week for the first time in a long time I am utilizing my safety net of real books.

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I am rediscovering the paper book right now because I am without an e-reader for the first time in many years.   My current reader after years of daily use for at least an hour was starting to need to be charged more than once a week.  It wasn’t at the end of its lifespan, but for the first time I was becoming aware that there will be an end in the future. As a result I was toying with upgrading, but nothing had gotten me off the dime to do so.    E-readers are not like computers or phones, they are simple one use devices.  There are few changes and most of they don’t make a big difference so we tend not to upgrade as often as manufactures would like us to do so.   This week Amazon gave me the push I need they were offering to buy my device and give me an additional $20 e-reader credit.   For me that was $55, more than half of the price of a new one.   The sucky part was that they did not give you all this wonderful credit until they first had the old one in there hands.   This was major stupid.   I sent my old one back last week and now I wait for it to arrive at Amazon, credit to appear on my account and then I can get my new one.   I suspect I will be without an e-reader for a little over a week.   I realized the inconvenience already when I was in a waiting room and realized  my reader wasn’t in my purse and I had not brought my book along because it would not fit in my purse.  Last night I put a paperback in the Goodwill box because the font was just too small. The book had potential but event with cheaters reading was a struggle.  I did not realize until I was holding a book again that the Kindle really was much easier to manage than an 800 plus page book.

I am hoping today my UPS tracking tag tells me that Amazon has received my old e-reader and I soon get a new one.   I knew how much I liked my e-reader, but never as much as now.