Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rat Patrole

Who decided that we're all rats in need of a race?

It wasn't always like this. There was a time when people didn't set alarms. They awoke when they awoke (or when the chickens awoke), they got up, had some breakfast, and went to work on whatever needed to be done. Maybe they worked their farms, or maybe they owned a merchantile, or were veterinarians, or doctors, or teachers, or clerks of some sort. They didn't simply drudge through an eight hour day in search of a weekend. And, since we're on the subject, weekends weren't simply a vehicle for getting "stuff" done and running erands. Often, items and labor were bartered. Doctors were humble people who gladly accepted skilled labor and home-cooked meals as tender for services rendered. There wasn't the stress of "if I miss a day of work, I'm screwed."

Somewhere along the way, the world became convinced that our least favorite four-letter word, "work," meant setting an alarm clock, speeding down the road, and spending eight hours at some mundane task only to pay bills with the earnings, and yearning for a weekend that would likely be spent rushing around in panicked state trying to "get things done" before the work week started all over again, and along with it all, maybe, just maybe, there'd be an entire week off of rushing off to do something different in the name of "relaxation"... whew... I'm exhausted just typing it... somewhere along the way, it was decided that this is life. It was even labled: The Rat Race.


I'm not unaware that there are very necessary jobs out there, and that there are certain schedules that need to be adhered to in order for everything to run properly. But... this is one rat that refuses to be part of the race any more. I did it for a long time and even convinced myself that I enjoyed it. I lied. I was mostly miserable and unfulfilled, and constantly worried that it wasn't enough.

I'm not a lazy person. I have a pretty decent work ethic. I don't sit around all day watching daytime TV and searching for snack foods. But my days now (as opposed to when I did the 40-hour gig) begin whenever I wake up, usually not long after the sun rises. I take my time over that first cup o' bean. I take some time to smile at my mate and get some good hugging in. I wander around in my robe for at least an hour. Then I change into jeans or sweats and a t-shirt... anything I can slop ink, paint and glue on. Then I get busy. I craft, I write, I communicate with clients, and - here's the important part - I take time throughout the day to enjoy the little moments. I listen to whatever music I want to listen to. I take breaks and look at the scenery. Maybe I do a load of laundry if I feel like it. I do the dishes, maybe make lunch... y'know... I putter. Then, fully rejuvenated, I do some more work.

It's a much better way to work. It truly is a work life.  I no longer feel like I'm setting aside Barb for 50 plus hours a week. This is one rat who has abdicated the track... hopefully for good. Do I have advice for others who've found themselves unemployed, or who are still employed and at the end of the proverbial rope? Yes, I have some.

1) Find the passion in your life. What gets you jazzed? Joni Mitchell has a line in a song that goes, "Whatever makes you WOOHOO!"

2) Try not to worry so much. It's hard, I know. But what's going to happen is going to happen. Be the best you.

3) Do something every day. Don't just sit there. Keep busy. But try to make it busy that you enjoy, like walking, or planting a garden, or drawing, or... whatever makes you WooHOO!

4) Cut back on everything. We don't need nearly as much as we've come to believe we do.

5) Connect with other people who are striving for the same thing. Support makes all the difference.

6) Dance to your own drummer. Stop defining yourself by your job title. Instead of saying, "I'm an accountant" or "I'm unemployed," try saying, "I'm a gardener who enjoys baking blueberry muffins."

7) Surround yourself with things that inspire you - artwork, music, literature, pictures of your role models, pictures of your favorite places, quotes that make you feel good, etc.

8) Don't let people pooh-pooh you. If someone starts a sentence with, "You can't..." or "You shouldn't"... give them a palm in the face and politely say, "Talk to the hand." Take it all with a grain of salt. They're the unenlightened ones foolishly trying to walk in your mocassins.

9) Daily affirmations, folks. I can't stress this enough. The more you believe in what you're doing, the more others will, and doors will open for you.

10) Discover or learn something new every day. It will keep you inspired and motivated. It will also make you a more interesting person when you talk to others.

What makes you wooHOO?

~Shiny Toys, Joni Mitchell

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