Friday, January 20, 2012

Work as Distraction from Life

There have been lots of things happening in the family that I can't write about on this blog. Lots of things for a worryaholic like me to worry about!

My way of diverting myself from problems has always been to throw myself into work. It became a habit when I was really young. Would I pass the Eleven-Plus exam? Our teacher, the indomitable Mr Storey, never let anyone in his class fail: but we did it by ploughing our way steadily through Further English Progress Papers and Further Mathematics Progress Papers and Further General Progress Papers.

Perhaps it was then that I learned that if I was concentrating very hard on my work, then other worries would fade out for a while.

Then, of course, there was the pressure of grammar school where the ethos was very much "I got eighty-four percent, what did you get?" They gave us masses of homework. I have always grumbled that when asked "What did you do when you were a teenager?" the answer is "My homework." I think it's a shame as - apart from the occasional trip to the theatre - I gave myself very little free time.

You note I say "gave myself" - - yes, I do remember many an occasion where my mother would say "Why don't you stop that now and go to bed?" and I'd reply "No, I just want to finish this essay."

At university, finding I wasn't very interested in the course I was doing, I threw myself into things I was interested in: mostly theatre.

Then, when I entered the world of work as a teacher, I always believed that if I didn't mark their work, the teenagers had no motivation or reason to do it. So I'd be up late at night marking and marking.

Now I work in several areas: the actors' agency, where I spend most of my working time. Roleplay for healthcare professionals in many fields. Teaching Communication Skills to medical students.

Sometimes, looking at the week ahead, I have to take a deep breath and wonder how I'll get through it all. The answer is always - a chunk at a time.

I always make sure I look at briefs for roleplay in good time, just in case there's a vital bit missing, or the printer breaks. I always make sure that I have clothes ready for the next day. If I'm going somewhere new, then I always look at the map and Streetview as well as taking the satnav with me, and I always allow plenty of time.

Some people criticise me for being too much of a planner and not enough "in the moment" and I expect they're right. Yes, yes, there's still a lot of the School Swot about me and I can't seem to help it.

I hate having to do something that I'm not prepared for and I try to make sure it only happens very rarely. I do remember one occasion where there was snow, someone couldn't make it to a roleplay, I had to replace her and I learned the brief whilst running through the snow to the venue, arriving there just in time and being grateful for my abilities to learn a brief very fast (I've had lots of practice!)

One thing that gets me genuinely excited is going on holiday. The other most exciting thing - and you may think this is sad, but it's true - is an offer of a new and interesting piece of work: I just buzz all day with the idea of it.

I'm aware that, especially in these very difficult times, I am really lucky to have work that I love. But I'm also concerned that I really am very bad at stopping working. When I stop working, I start worrying and thinking and getting upset.

I don't think it's particularly healthy. When I see on Facebook or Twitter that people write things like "Day off today - - done nothing but laze about!" I realise that I never, ever have a day like that and perhaps I could do with some.

I want to keep working, of course. But over the next few years, I'd like to learn to stop working for a while without feeling worried and sad. At the moment I can do it while I'm with other people but I just can't do it on my own. If I'm watching television, I'll be ironing too. I want to learn that it's okay to stop for a while.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father always said, "Time spent on reconnaisance is seldom wasted." Interestingly, he was also a workaholic who would have hated retirement - he conspired to die a month before that dreaded date. Good for him, I guess; not so good for my mother.

11:46 pm  
Anonymous Jo said...

I can show you how to spend sooooo much time doing nothing instead of working! (Like right now)

3:28 am  
Blogger Katherine said...

A coincidence: today I mucked about all day. Trouble is, I felt guilty the whole day and didn't enjoy it much. I think that there's nothing wrong with a 'use every moment' attitude. But if you are stressed and tired all the time; take a break. If you are happiest working, then that's great!

6:26 am  
Blogger Jennyta said...

My dad, now 88, still beats himself up if he takes an hour to listen to a play on the radio or (Heaven forbid!) watch television!

9:09 am  
Blogger WendyCarole said...

I always feel guilty when I have accomplished nothing.

1:44 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Work fascinates me; I can sit and watch it for hours!

I'm only kidding.

You do have intrinsic value as a human being, you know. You are not just what you produce. But then St. Paul said, "If a man does not work, then he shall not eat."

Most of us do want to be useful and to contribute to our community. Each of us does it in different ways. I will stop now before I start mouthing platitudes.

2:58 pm  
Blogger aerate harsh ladle said...

Yep, I'm a planner too. Can't leave anything to chance unless it all goes wrong. The trouble is, when I have free time (Friday nights, Saturdays, holidays) I often feel as if I've wasted it because I haven't planned it like I do the rest of my life.


6:37 pm  
Blogger JeannetteLS said...

Something tells me we need BOTH extremes of human beings. Dreamers often wind up doing, too. But without the people who DO plan, perhaps the dreamers would not realize their dreams at all!

I think we all tend to see what we cannot allow ourselves to do, or what we do that we think falls short and batter ourselves a bit with it. Perhaps your making a mistaken assumption about "doing nothing."

You might allow yourself to try to make a plan for yourself to dream. To sit for an hour without being "busy" and simply think about whatever you choose. It might even be "work." But you might find it isn't doing nothing at all.

Oh, dear. Did that make any sense at ALL? Music awakens the right brain at times. As can thumbing through an art or photography book.

Then, too, maybe you are JUST FINE doing precisely as you do. As someone suggested, if you are not exhausted or feeling harried? It ain't broke.

Interesting post. I've never EVER had a problem with being still. But it can be hard to move from there to deadlines, I admit.

2:29 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Thanks so much everyone - what an interesting group of comments!

11:44 pm  

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