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.

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New Appreciation of Sacrifice of Time

My new job this summer has given me a new appreciation for the folks in the world who make the sacrifice of being away from home to support their family.    I have traveled before for jobs I have held previously.   In my most traveled position, I traveled only about 20% of the time.   This job puts me away from home three nights a week.    Being on the road this much has made me realize how much time so many people sacrifice to make it in life.

We have a friend who is a salesman for a company and covers everything west of the Mississippi.   He has spent about 30+ weeks on the road for as long as I have know him (nearly 30 years now).   He has two great adult children with families of their own.   He and his wife have the kind of marriage we try to have as well, where each is there for the other and figure out ways to be there when it is critical. (There have been some pretty critical life moments for this family).   I never before realized how amazing they were to make it all work with all his time away from home.  When you think about all the divorce rates and kids who turn out in something less than their potential and then blame their family life.   This family has weathered it all and not just survived, they have prospered.    Their love, support and values have made the time that took the father/husband away so much a contributing factor to what they achieved, not a detriment or excuse for what they did not achieve.

My brother was in the Navy.   He worked hard to be with his family as much as possible, but like the military people of past and present that isn’t always possible.  There are big and small moments missed that can never be gotten back.    I never thought about what it must be like to be a single parent for so long and then suddenly have someone show up and have the whole family dynamic change in a day.    One day you get to make almost all decisions unilaterally and then the next there is someone there who wants to be a part of it all.    One day the kids only deal with you and suddenly there is someone else who can say yes or no.  It is a complete adjustment for the family, and rules are shifted in the space of a few hours.   Yet the military people continue to make those sacrifices for their country and to support their family.

In both of these cases I have highlighted the person being away, but the trailing/at-home spouse and the kids make sacrifices as well.   They quickly learn that this is their normal.  That the parent is away because it is how must be for this family.   There is nothing that can be accomplished by wanting a parental presence that can not be.  They learn to appreciate the times they have and adjust with the changes that come with a moving set of how a family looks and functions.  The “keep the home fires burning” parent often has a job as well.   The only difference is that they get to sleep in their own bed at night.   They often have to juggle their job, children and home with no one their to help.   Kids may have to step up and grow up a little faster to help. It is a balancing act and a collaborative effort.

I had thought of this occasionally before.   This job has given me a new appreciation for what one misses out on when you are gone, how they adjust when you blow in to town and that they will adjust again when you hit the road again.   I know at the end of the summer my job will end, and I will be home every night again, but there are thousands of men and women that this is part of who they are and how they support their family.    My hat is off to you because most of us can never imagine what that job costs you and your family.   You are making under what can be very challenging conditions.

Moving Forward

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As I start this next chapter of my life, I am finding that it is really all up to me what my life looks like.

I have worked ever since I was old enough to babysit and have not stopped since.    For the most part I have been lucky and have had some pretty good employers and jobs.   I have been been blessed to not only have a great career but one that has allowed me to have a great life and experience the changes of the world of technology.     I have  had the opportunity to be a rising star and a be a leader in different business settings.   I thrived in that environment, thought at times it was all consuming. There were sacrifices made by not just me, but my friends and family as well. At times I became my career and it became me.

Now that I am am unemployed and of a certain age,  I am looking at the idea of moving back to a work in role of a worker bee rather than a leader.   I suspect that it will be hard after years of being a leader, but it is now someone else’s time to shine. I want to leave at the end of the work day, knowing I did the best job possible for that time, but the work day is over and I get to leave.  I no longer wish to be at my desk at 6:00 in the morning and still be there at 6:30 at night.  More importantly,  I don’t want my mind to race at night mulling over business problems and wondering how I can improve the situation.   It is now my time to make a contribution in ways with my talents outside of my job.  Those extra hours at work have a new place to go.  I have in the given past, but my heart tells me it is now time to look at more and different ways to give back to my community.    My creative muse is screaming to get out and play.     The impulsive person in me, who has been under lock and key is just clawing to get out, and do something spur of the moment.

So as I celebrate five years blogging here at LookingOutTheWindow, I invite you to ride along on the next chapter as I explore life looking out a new window and what I find along the way.

Fun Fridays

This has always been a tough time of year because RangerSir works weekends during hunting season.   He is busy doing what is called hunter patrol.   In past years this was a time where we often found ourselves passing in the night.   My days off were the traditional Saturday and Sunday and his were whatever he could grab.   Many nights he would not be home for the dinner hour.   It was not not a near miss either,  it was often closer to 8 when he blew in the doors.   All he wanted was a hot shower and to relax.

Since I have had my hours cut back and I now have Fridays off as well we have set aside this day to have fun together during hunting season.   We have started off our Friday with a Thursday night date.

Date night is tough because we love to eat good food.  There is not an over abundance of places to eat out and with the loss in salary we felt eating out was an extravagance we probably should not indulge in. Instead we have been cooking together on Thursday nights.   We have had all sorts of special dinners, playing music, drinking wine and dancing a little.

RangeSir looking for wildlife.

RangeSir looking for wildlife.

Our Fridays have been like a one day vacation that we have decided to give ourselves.   One week we packed up a picnic and took a half-finished bottle of Thursday nights wine up to the high country to watch for wildlife and huddle under the blankets.    We have explored some places that we have wanted to explore without the weekend crowds, like a little family owned hot springs that is geographically unfit for most folks to visit.   We had the whole place to ourselves.     How cool is that to be outside in the hot springs with all the forest all around?

Saturday and Sunday are my days.   I spend those days so many different ways enjoying my own company,  letting my creative muse run wild or curling up with a book doing nothing at all.

The rest of the week we are like always two ships passing, but it knowing that at least once this week we will both be in the home port at the same time that makes the rest of it all tolerable. Life is full of blessings when you least expect them.

Life Truely Is What You Make of It

I work for a small  nonprofit and their finances are an open book.   The writing has been on the wall for some time, that it was highly likely that my hours would be cut.   This week it happened.   I am now working three-quarter time.   In spite of it all when it finally happened it sucked, at least it did for  a bit.   I am the age where I am working for retirement and loosing 25% of your income, well that isn’t good.

Now none of this was under my control.   Life was happening this way and nothing I was going to do could change this.   After sleeping on this for a couple of days I found one of my driving principles in life that I had somehow lost during all of this again.   Here it is: You can not change much of what happens in your life.   You can’t make someone like you, give you a job, buy your stuff or be happy.   The only thing you can control is how you react to life.

I like who I work for and I find my job/work interesting and satisfying.   I am lucky that even working 3/4 time I can meet all my financial obligations.   So bottom line unless I want to I don’t have to go out and find another job.   This change did mean though that I am going to likely need to postpone my target retirement date.  Woe is me.   Or maybe not.

Here lies my moment of enlightenment.  I was not suffering from a work cutback; I retired early.   Ok,  the caveat is that  I am  a part-time retiree, not full-time.   That may not sound so good, but listen to this and tell me if it does not sound pretty darn good.   I no longer work eight-hour days.    I work 7.5 hour days.    I no longer work five days a week.   I have every Friday off.   I have time for the lunch-time yoga on Monday.   I can take off on Friday and get things done that used take up my weekend.    I have time to cultivate friendships that I put on the back burner.   I have more time to cook because I  love to.   I have time to volunteer more.    I have time to spend being creative in my studio space.    I have time to make gifts for Christmas.    I feel like blogging, because I am no longer mentally spent at the end of the day. I have more time to bike, hike, read and anything else I decide to do.   I gained time every day and  have a day just to myself every seven days.   This is the first of many retiree Fridays.

Now what was that about a job cutback?

 

 

 

 

Post Vacation – Not Full of Blues

We just returned from a week vacation.   (Now you regular followers know what happened when I was MIA.)  We traveled thousands of miles in the SUV.   We saw family and friends, hiked, rafted, to tons of photos, stopped at unexpected places and saw tons of landscape.   It was wonderfully perfect.  We had no expectations and so there were no disappointments so it met all our dreams.

Now we are back home and back to work and it has been interesting.   Most of the time when you return from vacation it is with much dread of going back to the grindstone.   You are refreshed but things have piled up on your desk and inbox in your absence.   Work has gone on, decisions were made that impacted you  and now is the time for catch up.   The hiatus from work was good but reality of life was back slapping your face with both hands.  That did not happen to me this time.

For some reason this vacation happened to mesh with my reading of Life Simplified: The Minimalist’s Guide to Cutting Back and Simplifying Your Life, an Amazon kindle freebie one day I down loaded.   This book was not full of rocket science or life relevations I had not heard before.  It is a super easy read, with small sections that made good reading at night, the gas station or times I found myself waiting on something.     Reading just happened to mesh with a time I was open to being reminded of some of these principles that were tucked back in my mind not doing much good.   I think that bringing these principles back in to conscious thought is why the refresh of vacation did not immediately evaporate when I returned.  My vacation bonus, it lasted longer than one week, seven days.

I hope to share some this with you as I blog on.

Long Days, Quiet Nights

Today folks are working more hours and getting away from work less and less.   They are plugged in and connected in ways we never dreamed of ten or even five years ago.   Folks check in at work after hours and when they are on vacation.   Either they are checking in or someone is calling them.  They are becoming stressed out because they are always on.  Always on call.   Always at least mentally at work.

I am getting ready for another week on the road.   Ramping up for all that I have to be prepared for when working away from the office is intense.  My daily pedometer has been logging less than 1,000 steps daily.   That tells you how tied to my desk I have been.    There is the juggling of my regular workday along with all the extras of preparing for presentations, meetings, collections of fees and more.    It always seems like folks know that if they don’t call me now they will be sunk for a week.   The interruptions are constant and my stream of concentration be broken over and over.    In spite of it all I plugged on working long days, most more than ten hours, to be prepared for this road trip.  Yet I did manage to find some way to create balance and limits while work was attempting to take over my life each day, I fought back with quiet nights.

When I worked, I worked, and when I was done I was done.    That meant at the end of the night  I closed the office door in the lower level of my house where I work.   The phone was no longer answered, the cell phone was turned off, and the work pc was turned off.  No calls. No text.  No email.   I might have worked long hours, but when I called it quits there was no going back until the following morning.  No one died.   No irreparable harm came to my employer.   Nothing happened that waiting for 12 hours caused the end of the world.

Each night RangerSir and I  ate a real dinner together.   It often meant we were eating at 8pm, but it was a meal, not something out of a box nuked.  Together RangerSir and I made dinner talking about our workday and catching up with all that brought us to this point in the day.   Once our meal was plated everything changed.   No work talk, not woe is me, or additional rehash of the trials of work.   We ate some nights in companionable silence other nights we talked about projects for the house or trips we wanted to take, news we had heard on the radio, or  a new playlist one of us was think of putting on our iPod.  Things of trivial nature, but definitely not work.

After dinner RangerSir spent some time with his favorite unwind the TV, and I with a book.    It did not make either of us any less tired, nor take away from the stress of our jobs the next day, but it did give us time to refresh our souls and enjoy a quiet night.