I’m like you and everyone we both know. I have an incredibly stressful job. On any given day, I have executives who want speeches or talking points turned on a dime, reporters looking for quotes and information to complete their own stories and meet their own deadlines (usurping mine, of course), requests from every corner of the organization looking for a quick announcement or a simple edit to a document that has already been published and distributed, or two new months-long projects replacing the single project I just crossed off my to-do list. And that proposal I submitted to build out a support team? Nope. No budget. Keep plugging’, fella.
Since the great pandemic of 2020 kicked in, I’ve been working remotely, like so many other members of the global grind. I occupy the small bedroom, my wife, Michelle, offices in the spare bedroom. Fifteen feet apart and we rarely see or speak to each other most hours of the business day.
To say the COVID-19 pandemic has changed life is to say Donald Trump sorta likes himself…a gross understatement (and a gross human being). Work from home used to be every office dweller’s imagined delight! No commute! Optional showering! Working in boxers or pajamas all day! Private bathroom! Oh, the life…we thought. Having been a freelance worker for many years, I knew the real score. Others have now been baptized into a false religion who’s misguided worship is based on a simply misunderstanding...that, in reality, work-from-home means never leaving work. And for those coworkers who complain that their jobs still require the drudgery of a daily office commute? My extra 10 pounds, anxiety-ridden mind and spanking-new chronic hip and back pain don’t give a fig about your inconvenient drive to and fro. We’re all dealing with serious shit these days. Only those with positive COVID diagnoses get a break.
Work aside, life is grand. Did I mention the chronic pain? The anxiety and depression? Trying not to lose what’s left of my mind as I watch my two adult daughters embark on their own lives and careers, fully knowing the challenge ahead of them, desperately wanting to give them clues to avoid the past mistakes of their old man, yet held in check by the realization that growth comes from stubbing your toe and the day-to-day trial and error essential to the maturation process.
And then there’s my wife and me. Old enough to hear the siren’s song of retirement, too young to take the plunge, still navigating the peaks and valleys of financial prioritization as 401(k) plans cry out for nourishment like a newborn babe, while a hail-pinged roof and basement leaks and faulty furnace pull a pick-pocket’s slight of hand on what discretionary funds we try to muster.
Yep, I’m like you. These are our lives. But good god, why? Just under the surface of each new day is the churning potential of greatness ready to burst onto the scene, changing the direction of our lives and reorienting us to what is good and right and worthy of our precious time. But we ain’t getting their without breaking through the surface of the staid, repetitive, colorless regimen that takes over our lives like a smothering blanket of Georgia kudzu. Greatness – hell, even moderate change – cannot take root in the poisonous soil of a life lived in the servitude of others and in the pursuit of store-bought goals.
Thus, begins an urgent task (always a goddamn task!) with a two-week deadline (another deadline!). By 11:59 p.m., January 3, 2021, I must redesign my days in such a manner that the descriptions above become my history, not my present. I must find a way to put the ME back in my life, assigning the OTHER its proper priority. Of course, I’ll continue to work and jump when the executives call and help reporters meet deadlines. But those tasks will be just that…tasks, not my life. I cannot – day after day – allow the OTHER to dictate how the few remaining days and years of my life are lived. I must gain some level of control. Will I? Every day won't be filled with harmonic bliss, where priorities are properly aligned and I look back each evening in satisfaction on the supreme control I have taken over my life. But changes must be made. And quickly.
Two weeks. Time’s ticking.