[On Sundays, Career Calling explores intersections of life and work in “Sabbath.”]
It’s been miserable in Chicago for the past couple of weeks – hot, humid. We can take small comfort that it’s been even hotter and more humid in the Northeast. My friends from the South laugh and say that they just call this weather “summer.”
I don’t think the weather is the only thing that’s making people miserable. One client I met last week had worked 15 hours a day for three straight days. Another, working two jobs, hadn’t had a day off in over a month. 40 hour work week? Very few people are lucky to enjoy that 20th century work schedule. As a country we’re overworked and stressed to the breaking point (a mood not helped by this summer’s heat wave).
What can we do? Stop. No, I’m not suggesting that people quit their job. But we have to find a way to give ourselves some time when we’re not answering a call from work or checking email for work-related issues.
Getting away is the objective. For some, this might me a trip where the cell phone and the laptop stay home. For others it can be a daily run or work out. Hobbies can be an easy way to build a personal space that has nothing to do with work. I enjoy cooking (and – if you look at me – eating). When I’m chopping or mixing something, I’m performing an act that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do for a living. Cooking puts me in a place where I’m focused on what’s in front of me, not worrying about what projects are sitting next to my computer.
We all need to find something that takes us away from work time and stress. If there is no time for a vacation, plan a day trip. If that’s impossible, go to a movie or read a book. The key is to make a conscious effort to do something for yourself, something that will make you happy and relaxed.
Take a walk and find a flower. Look at it and remember that life goes on after that flower and you are gone. The beauty of a flower is not eternal, but – as Wendell Berry writes – it is essential:
Such a bliss
Of bloom’s no ornament, but root
And light, a saving loveliness,
Starred firmament here underfoot. (Sabbath II, 1982)
Sunday Second Helpings
A live version of Summertime by Janis Joplin
Summer in the City by the Lovin Spoonful