Thursday, June 28, 2012

Margin and the Great Cosmic Fight

“I know you put in a very solid 40 hours and that you do good work, however, some of your colleagues who work more are starting to talk.” This is a paraphrase of what someone heard this week at their review. On their behalf I threw a fit that went something like this:

“So, let me get this straight, you are salaried for 40 hours of work per week, right?”

“Yes” said the beleaguered soul.

“And you do a good, solid job for every one of those 40 hours, correct?”

“Yes” This was all they could fit in between my swift flowing histrionics.

“But you were told that your good work for the 40 hours you are paid for is not enough, now you need to volunteer another 10-15 hours per week, am I understanding this?”

“Pretty much”

“And you are supposed to do this because your colleagues have chosen to work 50-60 hour work weeks for no additional pay or recognition?”


At this point I mustered all my indignation and said the first thing that came to my mind.


Not very profound I know. You would think that someone who can use histrionics in a sentence could come up with some stunning verbal riposte, but in the face of such blatant abuse all I could come up with was…NO.

No to the loss of personal margins in our lives.

No to the assumption that it is okay to tell your employees to volunteer their time for the “good of the company”.

No to so many meetings that one full work day is spent meeting about the work you are supposed to be actually doing.

What has happened to us?

It used to be that the chief complaint of the societal masses was that husbands came home, grabbed a beer and sat in front of the tube all night.  Now, we are lucky to see each other in passing during the week and maybe catch a glimpse on the weekends between catch up projects.

I want my margins back. 

I want my friends back.  I want to stop being held captive to the tyranny of the urgent. I want to sit down. I want to rest.

There is a scene in the old John Travolta movie Phenomenon, where his mind has gotten so out of control that he can no longer sleep, stop or relax. He is sitting on his front porch when a tree catches his attention.  Really catches his attention. He is absorbed by the breeze rustling through the leaves, the sunlight playing in the branches like little children playing hide and seek, the gentle sway and the seemingly eternal sureness of the craggy monolith.  A breath catches him unaware and his body and mind finally relax. That scene fills me with jealousy every time I see it. When was the last time I had the margin to sit and become absorbed in a tree. So long ago that I think the oak in my front yard was an acorn. 

What does it take to stop this nonsense? Two of my girlfriends are being held hostage at this very moment. One to a never-ending perpetual round of soccer games and the other to the gestapo-like drum steps of marching band. Sigh, I once knew them well... I keep expecting to be hit by a brick coming over the "wall" with a note saying "help me, I am being held captive..." quickly written on a dirty soccer sock or a sweat stained piece of wool. 

Two of my other friends insist that they are only allowed one day off a week. When pushed for a reason why, they can only say it is what is expected in their profession. By whom? Who is this tyrannical beast that decides certain professions are without the basic luxury of a 5 day work week. It certainly isn't in their letters of hire - I know, I wrote them. 

Is it possible that we are holding ourselves prisoner? 

Could we be under some collective borg-like assumption that there is some kind of galactic recompense waiting for us if we sacrifice ourselves on the alter of "too busy hustling to breathe"? 

I feel like I might be unleashing some cosmic unholy terror that will descend upon me like the succubus in a Discovery Channel special and siphon out my marrow, but I am compelled to say it - NO, PEOPLE- THERE IS NO REWARD FOR LETTING LIFE SUCK YOU DRY!

You get nothing for losing touch with your inner life, your children, that guy sleeping beside you and your relationship with God, NOTHING! And worse, you face a vast future of loneliness and isolation. 

Demand your life back! Rise up and say enough! Take back your right to sit and lose yourself in the wonder of a tree for no other reason then the fact that it is there. Come out of the collective stupor and grab as many tired others as you can on your way out the door!

The reward is out there, but it comes in the form of peace. It comes in transcendent moments when you know the lightness of freedom. When you have "chosen wisely" and have gained the power of the almighty NO. 

Wishing you days of utter guilt-free repose and the reward of a quiet and peaceful life.