When Work Slips From the Centre

Photo: The Guardian

Photo: The Guardian

We are all familiar with the American movie story of workaholic who experiences loss or the threat of loss and makes changes to their lifestyle to restore the relationships in their life:

As a kid I knew the tale of Robin Williams as Peter Pan in Hook inside out – I also liked Diane Keaton in Babyboom – Adam Sandler did the movie Click where he got to fastforward everything mundane but also profound in his life – we’ve been watching a lot of Mary Poppins in the house lately – Jim Carey has a similar experience in Liar Liar and he sort of does it again in Bruce Almighty – there’s plenty more – what can you think of?

We’re raised on a not unhelpful message about prioritising relationships and love –  despite the heteronormative paradigm within which this mostly sits – we live in a culture currently where in my space and place in the world most people have a few options about how they choose to run their ‘work/life balance’,  we have built phrases like these into our expectations about the workplaces we choose and cultivate.

I’m on the cusp of a change to my work/life rhythmn – about to embark on a season where relationships and relating take priority over work.  Time after time I’ve learnt from workplace to workplace that what you invest value wise never gives the return that you hope – whether that’s the church, the women’s sector, the equality and minority groups – it’s still work, you’re delivering a service, filling a role, meeting requirements – whilst working relationships may feel good I’ve discovered in a decade of employment that only some of these deepen down into lasting friendships and where you can spend too much time caring about work it very rarely ever cares about you.

As someone who loves work – loves the routine – the people – the agencies – the networking – the development and the innovation as well as the vision, particularly in the community/voluntary sector where I’ve spent most of my time – I’m attached, deeply attached and it’s tricky but I think worthwhile to embrace the moral of the story in Hook, or Babyboom or Liar Liar – that work won’t quite fulfill you if you make it your only thing .

All emotional health and balance advocates will tell you that other people and other projects in your life are key to wholeness, wellbeing, managing stress and long hours and preoccupation.  When I worked in the area of domestic violence and abuse trauma I used to admire the friends that went home and got swept up in the bustle of family life and friendships thereby maintaining effective boundaries between helping and being helped.  I found myself craving time in homes that had safety and security manifested in the pictures attached to the fridge and the clean laundry on an airer, the weekends away planned with friends or the hikes and marathons focussed on in leisure time.  I’ve learnt  in my decade in the profession of caring that the act of caring for oneself by allowing yourself to be cared for is as important and valuable in the non-work time as anything in the workplace.

So it is with these gathered shells of learning about work and priorities that I watch  work slipping away from the centre of my world these past months, noticing it is no longer the core of my routine nor my bank account in the near future – instead I will be making memories, sharing eye contact, having conversations, laughing, nourishing and nurturing myself, whilst all the time in the act of being present and doing the same with others around me.

I”ve a story that tells more and a journey to be chronicled – but not just yet – but soon – #cryptic

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