Monday, April 1, 2019

Walking away.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly hard worker but I’m told, I’m afraid, by many that I’m something of a workaholic. 

I’m lucky enough (or hard-working enough) to mostly love what I do, so work has never really seemed like work for me. I take joy—yes, that’s the right word--in coming through, in solving problems and in helping people, whether they’re co-workers or clients. So, all this work has never, really, felt like work.

That said, of late, and like William Wordsworth, the world has become a little too much with me. I skipped my usual two-week’s vacation in the Caribbean earlier this year, and have been going, with some sweat and strain virtually without break for too long. What’s more, if I’m to be perfectly honest (too honest, my therapist tells me) I’m feeling a bit put-upon of late. As a wise-friend, who just happens to be a chieftain at a major New York agency put it one night over non-alcoholic drinks (we both abstain) “the agency is taking more from you than they’re giving back.”

Yeah, ok. That happens. It happens, frankly, in every relationship now and again. There are nights, for instance, when it’s snowy and five below and I’m tired like an old sea-going clipper ship from the 1850s, that even walking Whiskey—giving to my all but perfect pup—is more than I can rightly bear.

But bear is what we do.

Last week there were two articles in two of America’s remaining newspapers. One from “The Wall Street Journal,” that cheery neo-fascist Murdoch-directed organ and one from the more, for me, politically congenial “New York Times.”

Both seemed to be speaking directly to me. Especially to my mood of the last four or five months.

The Journal article was called “Turn Your Weekends into Mini-Vacations.” (The Journal has a strict pay-wall, so if you’re dying to read it, either subscribe or drop me an email and I’ll send you a copy if I get around to it.)

Forgo social media on the weekend, the Journal advises. Shut your laptop case and stash it in the back of your most-crowded closet. Have a special breakfast, or take your dog to the beach and throw a duck decoy for her to chase. You might also try to finish all your Monday to-dos on Friday—so your weekend is free of “it’s almost over” anxiety.

David Brooks, over at the Times had this to say, I’ll quote it at length, because it speaks to me, as I, I hope, am speaking to you:

“The great philosopher of time is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. In his great book “The Sabbath,” he points out that the first sacred thing in the Bible is not a thing, it is a time period, the seventh day. Judaism, he argues, is primarily a religion of time, not space.

“The seventh day,” he writes, “is a palace in time which we build. It is made of soul, of joy and reticence. In its atmosphere, a discipline is a reminder of adjacency to eternity. Indeed, the splendor of the day is expressed in terms of abstentions.”

The Sabbath, he continues, is not a rest from the other six days. It is the peak experience the other six days point toward. On this day the Orthodox do less and in slowness can glimpse the seeds of eternity.

Sabbath, Heschel concludes, “is endowed with a felicity which enraptures the soul, which glides into our thoughts with a healing sympathy. It is a day on which hours do not oust one another. It is a day that can soothe all sadness away. No one, even the unlearned, crude man, can remain insensitive to its beauty.”
Work can be a joy unsurpassed. Working with people you love who challenge and push you. Doing new things in new ways. Meeting new people, learning new things. Teaching and learning while you’re doing it. It can also be oppressive, overwhelming, small and yes, mean.

Mostly somewhere in-between.

In any event, walking away, even if it’s just for a weekend, or an hour’s walk at lunch. Well, that’s good.

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