All My Days

Last week, I turned down a job as an office manager/bookkeeper for a lovely nonprofit. I agonized about the decision for at least a week. Almost everything about the position checked all the boxes: great, positive people; beautiful work environment; a position where I would be supported and could learn new things; flexibility of time after several months in the role; amazing, mission-driven environmental organization. ALL the boxes except one – financially feasible. Ugh.

Yes, it’s true that working for a nonprofit generally equates with earning a lower wage rate. And, this place was paying the going rate for the position. I may have more to say on that in another post. But, what made it infeasible was its distance – 36 miles away. That means a 45 minute to one hour drive each way, in traffic, each day not to mention the cost of gas and wear and tear on my car! Because lunch was unpaid and a 40 hour work week required, the time invested would have been from 8 am to nearly 7 pm, 5 days a week. That doesn’t even factor the time you spend getting ready for work and prepping meals.

Yeah, yeah … I know. “Whine whine whine,” you’re saying. Most people live this, do this; some with longer commutes. And many, I would guess, do this with lower paying jobs. I honestly can’t wrap my head around this. How? And … why?

What, I wondered, is my time worth? At what point does paying the bills (and this pay rate wouldn’t have allowed me to break even) offset what you sacrifice in life balance? Ok. Let’s even throw “balance” out the window. What about quality of life?

But, I’ll be honest. I would have temporarily sacrificed balance, quality, time, all that, if the numbers worked out and I knew that I would eventually stop having to draw from savings to make ends meet. I wanted to work there. Everything about the place was and is amazing. But the fact of the matter is that wage rates in this country have not risen to account for cost of living in even the most basic sense. The baseline is too low to make what would’ve been an unending sacrifice. That whole can of worms is a discussion for another time. Sadly, the years it would’ve taken to reach that break-even point may have put me into my retirement years.

Many a road, you know
I’ve been walking on
All of my days
And I’ve been trying to find
What’s been in my mind
As the days keep turning into night

Making the decision to say “no, thank you” lifted a burden off my shoulders. The entire process of crunching the numbers, considering the costs versus the benefits (I was a business student,           ya know!), and struggling with the frustration brought on a large amount of anxiety. That anxiousness was on top of the everyday concern that I really do need to get a job, or make enough somehow, to stop drawing from my dwindling savings. Yet, I know I’m blessed. I have financial means to fall back on. My worry is not that great.

What about the hundreds of San Diegans I see with two-hour work commutes, each way, every day? How are they not just sitting in a cesspool of anxiety as they sit in unending traffic, knowing that their incomes just barely support their lifestyles? What about the time, an irretrievable commodity, they sacrifice away from family, friends, healthy activities, and anything else that fills their hearts? It is no wonder that people suffer from anxiety disorders now more than ever. You want numbers? “About one in five Americans cited unemployment and low wages (22 percent), and climate change and environmental issues (21 percent) as issues causing them stress. (APA, Nov. 2017)” Money and work are among the top three most common sources of stress, in fact. (I’ll add the infographic link at the bottom.)

Many a road, you know
I’ve been walking on
All of my days
And I’ve been trying to find
What’s been in my mind
As the days keep turning into night

Why do I bring this up? Because this freaks me the fuck out! I worry about the future of our nation (which, btw, is the number one most common source of stress) and the people in it. And, it’s obvious I’m not alone. This … THIS is a huge reason I’m building an organization that addresses anxiety disorders. We want to teach people how to be less anxious using nature therapy as the main modality. Nature is free and readily available. Interacting with nature chills us out and leads to creating deep connections. Those connections we have with nature and each other make us more compassionate, loving beings. I would guess compassionate bosses are more likely to pay an actual living wage (a bit of sarcasm here), therefore, less stress/anxiety, better life balance, etc. You see? There are so many ways this can go that are cyclical and beneficial.

Time really is an irretrievable commodity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And, I made the decision last week to spend the time I would’ve been sitting in traffic to building something that will benefit everyone. It’s called Earth Connect. I hope you’ll check it out.

www.earth-connect.org

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/11/lowest-point.aspx

 

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Things Left Undone

I was just reading my last post on “commitment” and, being as it’s the beginning of the new year, the traditional time of the year to make new commitments, I have to take pause – review, rethink.

It’s been over a year since I posted last. I’d written “if we want something bad enough, we make it happen, right? Even if our goals aren’t accomplished the first time around, we keep trying, push past the failure, until we get what we want, or something that is better.” And, I still believe that to be true. But, sometimes, life throws us a curveball, and we have to adapt our swing, change our goals or, at least, the timeline.

“When your life is over and you’re reaching the end,
River of Jordan is around the bend,
Will you be counting all the trophies you won?
Or will you look back on the things left undone?

I was determined, last year, to put my photography business on the road to success. The plan was to implement all my marketing ideas and really start booking shoots and making money in the business. What actually happened the latter half of the year was the complete opposite. First, I lost my largest “client.” The organization decided that they were perfectly happy having me photograph their events for free and, now that we had come to the point where I should be properly compensated for my efforts (even after the many thousands of dollars they’d saved with me as their photographer for the past two years), they happily let me go to “hire” another photographer. I took that event as a positive thing as I had become quite unhappy with our relationship.

….

I started this post last night when I’d written everything above. I was going to go on about how so many things happened to make me re-think my commitment to having a successful photography business, including losing the client, the death of my grandmother (for whose funeral arrangements I was responsible), going to the Philippines (for grandma’s funeral) and getting caught in Super Typhoon Haiyen (Yolanda), and leaving my home in San Diego for extended periods of time in order to help my mother with her businesses (I would drop everything, except anything for my son, to help my mother). How can I possibly continue as a photographer when it seems life is pointing me elsewhere?

I couldn’t quite complete the post because I was so torn as to where it was going. I mean… I make commitments all the time and, when they’re made to others, I will always follow through. But, the promises I make to myself, whether they be in business or personal life, somehow get put on the back burner.

I looked around my home and saw the many, many projects left undone — paintings partially completed and barely begun, books half read (like a mountain of them), even food in the fridge I’d meant to turn into some yummy dish but ended up throwing out because I’d never gotten around to cooking, and it spoiled.

I was in this frame of mind when I’d titled this blog post and found this video with the words that described how I felt last night — the fear of letting another year go with so much left undone.

“Do you regret, Love, all the things left undone?
Do you regret?

Then, this morning, I watched this Ted talk:

It is given by Diana Nyad, a woman who this past year, at the age of 64, completed an epic journey, swimming from Cuba to the U.S.; a journey she began in her 20s.

In the midst of my “rethinking and reviewing” and just going back and forth in my head as to my photography business and all the other half-completed, unfulfilled promises and commitments to myself, I watch this video and some of her words just jump out and touch me:

“Isn’t life about the journey and not the destination?”

Yet, Ms. Nyad does also say, “Of course I want to make it across. It is the goal.” We all want to keep our commitments. We all want to reach our goals. And, as much as I’ve always believed in her first statement and have always considered my journey the reason for my life, I also want that feeling of satisfaction, of completion. I want to end my life (when the time comes) to know that I’ve done and created. 

So, I start today, the third day of January, with more hope that I have enough time to complete my many paintings, to read my many books and to be successful (in my definition of “success”) as a photographer. It took Ms. Nyad forty years to reach her goal. I am only just 45 now myself. There is so much more time, and I’m walking my path on my epic journey at my own pace. I have the time to fail a hundred times over before I can succeed. And, more importantly, I can be forgiving and compassionate with myself, to allow myself that time.

I think, though, that more than Ms. Nyad’s words of commitment, promise and hope to “never, ever give up” are her very wise words that:

“Every day of our lives is epic.”

i am the girl of a hundred lists

The other night, when I was hanging out with my gal pals, one of them mentioned that she was just now coming out of the hole she’d dug. She is finally settling down into her new home, built after the old one was lost in a wildfire two years ago. She meant that she is now ready to see people, entertain and stop being reclusive. And… that her hole was a self-made one.

Her words were visually appealing to me, especially since I realized only very recently myself that I’ve been in a hole (for nearly a year) and am finally pulling myself out of the darkness and into the blessed fresh air and light. When you’re in a hole, every days things can get.. forgotten. Things pile up, and you can imagine why and how.

This past weekend, I was in the light long enough to realize that I want — I need — order in my life. I’ve read time management books in the past, have tried different methods, to be more organized so that I’m not mired in a pit of endless things weighing in the back of my mind. I think was able to accomplish that this week.

My fall back time management device is the Franklin Planner System. I started using it long before it was acquired by Covey, and it’s based on Benjamin Franklin’s notebooks.

The system is simple.
Write a daily task list of all the things that need to be done.
Prioritize them by marking each task with “A”s, “B”s and “C”s — the A’s being most important.
Then, prioritize those in order of what needs to be done — 1, 2, 3, etc.
Simply do the tasks in order.

As you complete a task, cross the item off. If a task needs to be done later, because of follow-up or what-have-you, “forward” that task the to correct future date (tomorrow, next week, next month, you get the idea).

My challenge is to make sense of the multiple roles I play: as property manager, as mom, as artist and as my own woman. Franklin Covey has awesome tabs you can get for your planner and which you can mark for your separate roles. But since I work from home and can be flexible with how I use my time, it’s helpful for me to have everything written on one page, split into the different “categories.”

I started this on Monday, with a bit of pre-planning on Sunday. I got everything on my task lists crossed off or forwarded … before noon!

It is unbelievable how free I felt. My mind had no clutter, no worries (since everything I was thinking about had already been written down into one date or another as a task)… just …
well, let’s just say that not only did I have a feeling of accomplishment, I also had enough time to work a bit on my art, try out some new ideas, and just sit on the couch with the puppy (an excellent form of meditation).

It’s too soon to be a habit, and yeah, tasks lists are endless (like dishes…ugh). But, if I can remember that feeling of freedom and appreciate the “found” time, then I know I’ll be super-focused as I make these lists and complete these tasks. Because then, there’ll be time and space to dream, and create, and play and…. the possibilities are endless.

Lost Time by Rabindranath Tagore
On many an idle day have I grieved over lost time.
But it is never lost, my lord.
Thou hast taken every moment of my life in thine own hands.

Hidden in the heart of things thou art nourishing seeds into sprouts,
buds into blossoms, and ripening flowers into fruitfulness.

I was tired and sleeping on my idle bed
and imagined all work had ceased.
In the morning I woke up
and found my garden full with wonders of flowers.