Work-life balance

During the week I stepped into the lift at work and heard one man say to his colleague “how are you today?”.

“Wednesday” his co-worker replied. 

I’m assuming that this meant the he was glad that it was Wednesday and that he’d made it that far through the week. It was shorthand for thank goodness we’ve arrived at Wednesday but I’ll be a lot more cheerful when it’s Friday. Bring it on!

It made me think about an article I read ages ago about IT help desks. The guy said that when they re-set people’s passwords they always used the day of the week as a temporary password unless it was Wednesday. They never used Wednesday because people invariably couldn’t spell it and they would keep ringing them back to complain that their password re-set hadn’t worked. That made me laugh.

Anyway back to work. Things are a little bit difficult at work at the moment. We’re in a state of suspended animation whilst we are in the throes of a re-structure and I think quite a few people are pondering their future and what work means to them.

Like many older workers I’m in the happy position of having choices. I appreciate that is not the case for everyone and sometimes I feel a bit guilty about the fact that I can choose what work to do and how long I want to work for. But then I remember that I’ve been working for about 45 years now (not always being paid, but working nevertheless) so I’m allowed to slow down, make time for my hobbies and creative pursuits and just enjoy life.

Today I’ve had a sleep in, been for a swim and finished reading a novel I’ve been trying to get through for ages (it was really good). I’m feeling very relaxed and happy but I’m trying not to sound smug. 

My neighbour came over for a visit earlier. She’s a busy mum with a full time job and two small children, one of whom is a 16 month old ball of energy. She said she’d love to have time to read or just have a little time to herself. I remember feeling like that when I had small children. I was studying part-time at Uni when my children were small and most of my course notes were consumed in the brief interlude when they were glued to the morning television shows.

God bless you Humphrey B Bear. I would never have gained an Arts degree without your help!

My neighbour said that her job is very demanding and that she often works at night to keep up with the workload. It seemed wrong to me until I thought about how many times I came home from work, cooked the dinner, bathed the kids, read stories and then sat down at my computer to finish assignments or mark essays. My husband would see the light on in my study in the wee small hours and wander in to enquire if I was ever coming to bed. 

So I guess we all do the hard yards to make a career for ourselves and look after our families, but in hindsight I sometimes wish I’d made more time for my family and for myself. As the old saying goes… No-one ever lies on their deathbed thinking “I wish I’d stayed longer at work”. 

Euphemisms

I was reading an article on what to wear on long plane trips and the writer suggested that women should avoid wearing gym pants or tights as they felt that displaying your “fine china” could potentially offend other travellers.

I had never heard lady bits referred to as fine china before and this made me laugh quite a lot, but I do agree that sometimes you can see rather more than you would like to see when you’re standing in a queue at the supermarket.

It also got me wondering about why there are so many euphemisms for female body parts, and also whether fine china is merely rhyming slang for vagina or whether it means that some bits of your body should be valued as one would value fine china.

I found this article by Guardian journalist Annalisa Barbieri where she lists the many names that people have invented to talk to their daughters about their bodies. My favourite euphemism is also sparkly bits.

But back to the gym pants in public question. We’ve just been out for lunch and the beautiful young waitress was indeed wearing gym clothes. It surprised me a little but I have to say that she looked fabulous (she was tiny). I’ve also noticed that when I started going to my Saturday morning exercise classes several years ago I used to wear a skirt over my leggings but now I don’t bother. I just wander down the street in my gym gear along with all the other middle-aged women. To be honest I’m probably older than middle-aged, I’m heading into old lady territory, but I still don’t care. Perhaps its because I’m getting older that I don’t care as much or maybe because it’s so normal now that one doesn’t even think twice. Or maybe its because older women feel invisible most of the time, so they think no-one will notice.

Either way, I don’t think I’d be up for wearing my gym gear on a plane. I’d feel a bit exposed and uncomfortable and I don’t think it would be a kind thing to do to my fellow travellers. I’ll be monitoring what other people are wearing though, and looking out for any displays of fine china!

Do you have any favourite or funny euphemisms to share? Feel free to chime in with your comments.

Finding work you love

In a recent post I talked about contemplating my future and a few people have asked me what the outcome was. Did I get the job I was after or otherwise find a way to reinvent myself?

It’s really gratifying that people care enough to ask, however the answer is no on both counts. I didn’t get chosen for the new role I was after, and I haven’t quite gotten around to reinventing myself, but I have begun to think that I’m pretty fortunate to have a choice about what I do for work.

It’s occurred to me that expecting to do something you love when you’re at work is a very middle class preoccupation. It’s very strange that we think that work should be fulfilling when in some countries it’s enough to come home from work safe and unharmed. So many people work are forced to do jobs that are physically dangerous, or so stressful that they live in a state of constant fear. I’m thinking about people who work in hot or cold environments and people who are bullied on a daily basis.

Then there are people who have to stack shelves or work on production lines; not to mention people who have to put up with angry or disgruntled customers. How appalling to have to face that every day. By contrast, my job is heaven.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s foolish to think about doing meaningful work, after all most people would like to live a meaningful life. I was not really surprised to find that a short course run by the School of Life called ‘finding work you love’ is fully booked, so clearly I’m not the only person pondering this. This video from the Book of Life also confirms that many people are interested in doing something worthwhile and interesting with their lives.

Options and advice

Given those caveats, I do enjoy reading books about finding out what you were ‘born to do’. One piece of advice is to write down everything you’ve ever enjoyed doing and then see if you can think of a way to make a living out of one or more of those activities. In my case those activities would be reading, writing, cooking, eating, talking and watching movies. Clearly, there are some opportunities here if I was willing to consider cooking on a large scale, becoming a movie critic, or writing that elusive book. Actually, there’s nothing stopping me from doing any of those things. Oh  and I forgot swimming, but I can’t quite see myself as an Olympic swimmer. It’s a tiny bit late for that.

Another piece of advice I quite like is to work out what sort of things you like doing (and with whom) and try to incorporate that into the job you already have. I’ve been doing this lately in my job and it’s working quite well. I like working with like-minded people so I’ve been putting up my hand to work on projects that interest me with people I like.

The best advice I’ve read is to keep your day job and be open to new opportunities and trying new things. It’s a good idea to spend more time doing the activities you really like doing and less time doing things that don’t bring you any joy.

Working out what you enjoy doing is easy. They’re the things that you do without resentment and you choose to do first. They’re the projects that you start doing and lose track of time. They’re the projects that you take the time to polish and get just right. They’re the things that make you feel strangely proud when you’ve finished. Where you know that you put in the extra effort but it doesn’t matter if anyone else knows or cares.

These are the things that you should spend more time doing. Pretty simple really.

 

What are friends for?

emily gould

Emily Gould at the Brooklyn book festival

 

In a previous post I mentioned a book by Emily Gould that I was planning to read called Friendship, so I thought I’d report back and say that I did read this book and it was quite different to what I expected, but very enjoyable.

Written for a target audience of thirty-somethings, it explores the friendship between two women who are caught up in their own lives and in trying to make their way in the world. They are trying to work out what they really want and what they really stand for. Ultimately it’s about the choices we all make and how much we truly value our friendships.

It’s both funny and sad in places, and it made me think a lot about my friends and whether or not I’ve been a good friend. I’m sure that I’ve probably failed on a few occasions, but the lovely thing about real friends is that forgive you when you fail and they accept you for who you are.

My friends are incredibly important to me, so if any of you are reading this blog, this message is for you. Thanks for being part of my life.

I’m not sure how this post fits with the general theme of this blog, but they say that if you want to improve your writing, you should read well-written books and this book certainly fits into that category. It’s a nice read.

Writing in the dark

I’m writing this by lamplight. Yes literally. I have taken a photo to prove it!

blogging by lamplightJPG

We have been without power for five days and I know that won’t seem very long to those of you who live in challenging climates where power failures are a regular event, but for us it’s an unusually long period to be off the grid.

We had a big storm five nights ago and over 2,000 homes were left without power in our local area. The fact that a giant tree in our front yard fell over and took out the neighbours power lines just added to the drama. Our two cars were miraculously saved from destruction, but they were trapped behind a very large tree trunk that was laid across our driveway. Fortunately a kind neighbour lent us their car and I have been able to travel to work without too much drama.

I have really loved going to work this week – there is so much electricity there! Not just hot showers, but microwaves, fridges and power points to charge your devices. We got a message to say that our partners could come to work and use the showers, but that they needed to be accompanied ‘at all times’ by an employee. That made me laugh. I’m not sure that the other people using the men’s amenities would really appreciate me lurking about in the men’s room watching my husband have a shower, let alone accompanying him into the shower.

I am trying really hard not to write a post about how difficult it has been to live without power, as I’m acutely aware that many people in the world don’t have the same amenities that we take for granted. I don’t want to whine about a situation that is after all, temporary and fixable. At some time in the next few days a nice team of workers will come and fix the power pole that has been flattened down at the corner of our street. They’ll reconnect the wires and our life will return to normal. This is not the case for refugees in so many parts of the world and for people who struggle daily with a lack of food and other basic amenities. I think we are really lucky. We still have a working toilet and the local shops are open and doing a roaring trade in hot coffee and BBQ chickens.

So instead I’m taking the time to think about all the good parts of my life. For example, our lovely neighbours who have been kind enough not to complain about our big tree making a complete mess of their front yard, cutting off their power and partly demolishing the dividing fence. The arborist who came today commented that he had been to many houses where falling trees had destroyed the relationships of previously friendly neighbours. I’m hoping that this won’t happen to us as we have the best neighbours in the world and I would hate to have a situation that is strained and difficult. I’ve been in that situation before and it’s truly horrible.

I’m lucky enough to have some internet access on my phone so I’ve been able to keep in contact with the outside world but it’s strangely quiet in the neighbourhood. We have one battery-operated radio that we found in a cupboard (thank goodness for olden days equipment), and quite a lot of camping gear that has been hauled out and put to good use. I’ve also discovered that it’s easy to read on the iPad when there’s not much light around. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but I am a tiny bit addicted to downloading sample chapters of new books from iTunes. Last night I was so bored that I read all of the sample chapters that I’ve downloaded,but never actually read, over the last few months. So now I have new list of books that I simply must read, and quite a few that I thought might be good but are actually rubbish.

All in all, it’s been an interesting an educative experience. People have been kind and generous and we have survived quite well but I am quite looking forward to catching up on some telly and having a hot shower at home, by myself.

And so begins another great adventure

TidyI’m always a bit ho-hum at this time of the year. Part of me is brimming with hope and expectations for the new year ahead, and part of me is filled with a sort of ennui which I assume is caused partly by the heat and humidity.

It’s summer here in Australia and we are having a hot one. Luckily for me, I live in a cool and shady house with ceiling fans in nearly every room, except for my study (unfortunately).

One of the things I have done over the holidays is cleared out my filing cabinet, so I’m feeling a little bit pleased with myself in that respect. Heaven only knows why I thought it necessary to keep every electricity bill and rate notice for the last ten years! Anyway, they have gone now so it’s too late to worry that I might need them for something.

My filing cabinet is looking very tidy, but the rest of my office needs some attention. Oh well…

I’ve also updated my blog theme, so you might like to check it out and let me know what you think? The eggs don’t represent anything in particular. I just like them!

I hope that the new year finds you excited about where your life might take you.