Posts Tagged 9-5

(Lack of) Routine

Years ago, when I lived in London and was a Proper Commuter, I had a routine.

I would get up, have breakfast while watching BBC News (my boss would often ask me about it), then head off to the train and bus to the office. Twickenham to Southwark.

The day would zoom past, always frenetic and full with a laundry-list of tasks, then back home again to prepare tea and try to relax before doing it all again the next day.

Things started to change when I began to look at Druidry.

Instead of bussing from Waterloo to Southwark, I’d walk along the Thames Bank. It was beautiful, from the stories painted on the underpass to the wildlife alongside the Thames. This and the train journey, when I lost myself in a book, were my havens from the madness of the working day.

Then came lunch-hours, spent wandering the streets nearby. Blackfriars Bridge, St Pauls, Paternoster Square, up to Pudding Lane once. Or, if the boss was away, a quick zoom into the West End.

I grew to appreciate the spirit of London. I don’t think I ever became A Londoner, but I appreciated the history living alongside the brand new, modern world.

Life events began to move faster – and I was caught up in them. A literal move, Up North to Derbyshire. And I find myself here, now, working from home as a Professional Pagan, unable to go out much because of an international pandemic.

That escalated quickly!

I’ve been thinking about how that constant routine, which lasted for several years, changed so quickly. My current day is much less structured, working around what needs to be done more than sticking to a clock. Dogs need playing/walking, everyone needs food, household chores and Proper Work.

The latter, with the move to mostly online, can happen from the first few minutes of waking up into just before bed (not constantly, thank goodness!). But I never know what’s going to appear.

That, and my own illness, which sometimes forces me to throw any plans to the wind and take an Enforced Rest Day. In which priority work can be done, but no more. Sometimes not even that.

I’ve had to change my routine to be fantastically flexible, in a way that would have seemed unbelievably luxurious to my old commuter self. I get things done, but juggling more than listing.

No physical spoons? Reading review books. No mental spoons? Yarn work, or gentle rest and distraction until something pops up to grab my attention and allow me to focus.

And yes, a fair bit of guilt over not being able to do The List and be working constantly as I used to.

I had an external office for a while, which helped. I now have a little office area at home – but am typing this on my laptop on the sofa. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

A good part of life now is allowing myself to go with that flow, of seeing what is possible combined with what is necessary.

I see it in the world around. What we can do, what is needed. Everything is changing dramatically, and long overdue. We have to allow ourselves that change, to try new things and see what works best.

Because that old system did not work. Well, perhaps for a while, but it was wearing me to death. I have no doubt that it’s done the same for many others, and changes are now being made as the traditional office 9-5 is no longer as essential as it was made to seem.

We’re questioning the structures that we fall into, or which are placed upon us. We are tentatively – or fiercely! – trying our own ways. Demanding to be heard, asking ‘how about this’, and considering our own well-being over that of a faceless corporation or state.

I have no idea where this is going. But I know what it’s like to listen to that flow, to be brave enough to go with it. Sometimes I mourn for my lost job, helping others. Then I remember how it helped send me into a breakdown. I would not be here now if I hadn’t walked away.

So no shame. No regret. No guilt. Each day is bringing something new, and we’re slowly coming out of the Great Pause of 2020 having had time and space to consider what’s important. Already seeing the results.

Time for change again, folks. From Commuter to Community… Let’s work together, support each other and make things better.

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Wishes and Work

This week has been busy. I’m working (as in bill-paying work) full-time again for the next few months, but I’ve spent so long spent writing, teaching and generally Druiding semi-professionally since Spring that it’s pretty much combined with whatever else I’m doing. As I found when I was asked in the space of two days about preparing a public talk/rite for the Winter Solstice, and also an as-yet-unspecified activity for the Spring Equinox. Both requests from my workplace…

Plus, the inevitable chat with new colleagues about exactly what I do as a ‘Multifaith volunteer’, gently answering their (wonderfully¬† curious) questions. And the still-unbelievable fact of my book as a reality (now in the editing stages, after a mad rush to finish it on my last ‘free’ week before Proper Employment).

The madness of the working world has been brought home to me again forcibly, however. The 9-5, the insanity of so many meetings, there’s no time to do any actual work. Policies that appear to bear no resemblance to reality, nor those expected to enforce and be enforced by such doctrine. The frankly mad questions, demands and ways of spending the day that make me want to write a version of ‘Catch 22’ set in an office. I keep expecting a small elf to step out from behind a filing cabinet, scribbling notes and asking me to repeat something I’d just said, because I’m actually in a Terry Pratchett novel. Absurdity abounds.

It’s teaching me to value my time all over again. The icy mornings walking the dog as the sun rises, before returning home to put on smart clothes and makeup. The tired evenings, stuck in traffic as I watch the moon rise over the river, returning home to a few brief hours of nourishing food and company. before falling into bed… only to repeat the process again daily until the weekend.

But whereas before I knew no different, having been a commuter for most of my adult life, now I’ve experienced my time as truly my own for too long. And with that comes the realization that it still is. I’ve made the active choice to spent 7.5 hours a day in an office, plus travel, with everything that entails – so I can whinge about it, wishing myself somewhere else, or I can do it in my own way.

I’ve felt the battle between the ‘masked’ persona – the suited office professional, who knows the buzz-words and has a fixed smile on standby – and the ‘real’ person – the leafy tattoos that sneak an appearance from up my sleeve, the unusual knowledge that creeps into conversation… and the real, genuine smile that seems to be the most surprising thing of all. I’m living my truth, and people are seeing it. And liking it.

I was caught staring out of the window in the middle of transcribing a recorded conversation (so headphones on, full concentration on screen and keyboard, huge tiredness afterwards). But outside were the rolling hills that border Derby, leading away into the Peaks beyond Ashbourne, remote and wind-swept, birds soaring above, clouds threatening snow… and a workmate sighs next to me. “Lovely, isn’t it?”

But she’s not sighing because it’s unreachable – she’s happy that I’ve noticed it as well. We talk a little about how lucky we are to have such a beautiful view, moving on to the stories of how we came to live here. Her face lights up as she talks of her love for the land, the community, her friends here. And my smile can’t be anything but genuine.

That’s my Druidry, active and relevant amid the busy working landscape that we’ve built for ourselves, and which is considered the ultimate in ‘normal life’. I didn’t mention the word ‘Druid’, nor ‘pagan’, nor ‘faith’. I’m simply listening, responding, allowing the tale to unfold and bearing witness. Not from politeness (or concealed boredom), but genuine pleasure in what that other person had to say. Because they’re telling their truth as well, from inside, often a little shyly because it’s not the ‘cool’ thing to be talking about. But they’re clearly glad that they can. I do my best to set the space for us to really be ourselves – and that counts for a lot.

When I tell others what I do, some of the experiences that I’ve had, I quite often get the response of: “Oh, I wish I could do that. You do such amazing things with your life.”

I do know what they mean… and I want to laugh, to tell them about the sheer amount of (unseen) work that goes into those tasks well. But what I want to say is: “Why can you NOT? What’s stopping you?”

Because I know there’d be a list of excuses, reasons that act as walls to their dreams, insurmountable barriers put up to make the 9-5 into the entire reason for living. It’s that old story of “Why did you do/say that?” “Because I should.” Or “I have no choice.”

I know it sounds unbelievable but… there is always a choice.

Sometimes it’s a matter of waiting for the opportunity – but you can still move pieces into place to make your life more your own, setting things up in line with where you want to be. Simply waiting for goals to manifest won’t result in anything. I’ve found that you get back exactly what you put in.

And yes, it’s difficult. I’ve fallen lots of times, and have had to be picked up and put back to rights. I have to remind myself daily why I’m doing my tasks. Often, it’s simply perspective. Something small will happen to remind me, and I have to be aware enough to recognise it. Which quite often results in a smile as I realize how daft I’ve been.

Remember what’s important. Be curious as to the reasons for things. Try to know your truth and live it as best you can. Not in a flighty, ‘New Age’ way – but in the sense of you, yourself, really knowing what’s true in your everyday actions, and what’s (frankly) bullshit. Why are you doing that? How can you change it into something better?

And are you brave enough to?

Step forward. You’re not alone.

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