It wasn’t until I was delivered from corporate life that I noticed the full extent of its negative effects. My schedule was already trending towards nocturnal, but the diurnal demands of my job meant that I was chronically sleep deprived. The work and class schedules meant that my days were twelve hours long before my commute, chores and homework. All the stress of waiting for my time on the chopping block, the constant turnover in the Controller position, and the pressure of pursuing my education under my employer’s terms were killing me.
For the better part of three months, I’ve had no set schedule. I’ve been productive: moving my sister in, organizing two lives in this house, chasing monsters out of my basement, working on a plan to replace my income, picking things up here and there, business trips and social engagements- but I slept when I was tired, ate when I was hungry, and played when the opportunity arose to do so.
It was just what I needed. For the last five years, my life has revolved entirely around the demands of obligation, and anything I weaseled away for myself was a stolen prize. There was a heavy guilt tax on that prize; I always felt that I was stealing time from someone. My recovery from that lifestyle has made me a much happier and healthier person, and I learned an incredibly important lesson.
When it comes to the currency of time, you have to pay yourself first.
For most of my life, that meant trying not to feel guilty about taking an afternoon to myself.
Now I understand- it’s really about making space for the things in your life that mean the most, and then keeping that time as untouchable to others. I had to have the luxury of taking that time exactly how and when I pleased for awhile to really understand how important it is, and what a life of my own design would look like.
Fromm says that the imposition of discipline that results from working in capitalist society inspires infantile rebellion in our free time against discipline and focus. We tend to over-correct and eschew self-imposed discipline- a necessary component of a satisfying life.
This isn’t to say that I’m going to hold myself to any sort of strict schedule- I do better when I have some wiggle room in my calendar- but that there should be a framework to return to when the music of spontaneity stops. I need some routine to really feel grounded. All this tossing about in the wind like a dry leaf was lovely, but the leaves are off the trees, and staying up until 5am loses its luster with winter’s bitter wind.
December 7, 2010 5 Comments