Thoughts: A Different Kind of Work

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I am sitting in my favorite diner.

There’s a lot of work to do today.  In fact, it has been a crazy few weeks. Just last night, as we sat on the front porch, the woman I love and I were talking about the pace of the past few weeks, and how the next month or so seems like it will continue. We’re tired.

I used to thrive, or at least thought I thrived, on this kind of pace. It was as if I felt like life was about squeezing as much into it as possible, some kind of cosmic activity puzzle where the more you did, the better. I was good at it. People wondered at how much I got done. The truth: I didn’t sleep much, and I pretty much let my own care go until I came undone.

Yeah, as I often ask people: How’d that work out for you, Atkins? Not well.

I have spent much of the past twelve years rebuilding myself and re-crafting life, creating a slower pace that leaves more room for serendipity and thinking and relationship building. It doesn’t pay as well. It’s not as flashy. It is far more rewarding and healthy. I wish I had had the wisdom to make the changes earlier in life.

So life is busy just now. It’s not unlike my life “before.”. But I’ve learned a few things since then. Yes, life tosses us crazy times now and again. But I understand the importance of carving out time for the rituals that renew us.

One of my rituals is this, coming to my favorite diner and writing before my day gets started. For me, writing is a way to sort out emotions and let the flotsam in my mind drift away and find the important things. It is more a peeling away than a discovery. Peel away enough and discovery happens by itself.

My favorite diner is a little place called Pawlet Station. It’s a tiny little train station moved to Pawlet (The next town over from where I live) a couple of generations ago. I sit and write and sip coffee. I listen to an amazing array of music.

The owner/cook is a former musician. Music is important to him. He even invested in a Bose sound system for the place and you never know what might be playing on any given day. Today it is blues. Old-time blues. One of my favorite genres.  I think, in another life, I would like to come back as a blues guitar player.

Another of my rituals is sitting on the front porch with the woman I love after our day is done. It’s a decompression time. A reconnecting time. A slow down time. It resets our pace and our focus from apart to together.

There is a temptation some days to abandon our rituals. There’s so much to do right now. Nothing is accomplished in these ritual times. If I miss a day of poetry and posting, most people won’t bat an eye. No one will care if I sit on the porch at the end of the day. It’s wasted time when there are things to do.

Only, it’s not. Not wasted I mean. I’ve learned the hard way what happens when I let the rituals go. I’ve learned what happens when I don’t stop, when I don’t create the places to rest and reset.

The damage is slow to be sure. My coming undone twelve years ago didn’t happen because of a particular, acute set of stressors, no matter what it may have seen or felt like. It happened because of a long run of putting myself and my care of myself last for far too long a time.

Like everyone, I thought I could handle it. I was the master juggler. The king of time management. “I can do that.” was my catchphrase. And I could. Until I couldn’t. Until the erosion whittled away at me and the best stuff, the things that made me, me, were lost. Until there was no foundation left. Until…. you get the idea.

So now things are busy. I could really use the hour or so I write in the morning to do other things. My house is a mess. The yard needs cutting. There’s work to do everywhere I turn.

I could really use the hour or so my love and I spend in our white wicker chairs watching the cats and traffic and talking over the day. I could do some work in the office. There’s plenty. I could do some church work. There’s plenty.  Piles of paper grow. There’s stuff to do.

But I’ve learned what is important. I know now I am not invincible. I know how fragile I can become with the right amount of neglect. I know how undone I can become. And I hold to my rituals as surely as if they were religion.

The work will wait. Serve me another cup of coffee. There’s another kind of work to be done.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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