Living for the margins

Photo by Ales Me on Unsplash

I took too much time off from work last week…

Now, I’m self-employed. Trust me, I’m not bragging. Because, although I don’t have one of ‘those’ kinds of official bosses that one might have at a traditional workplace, my boss takes on the forms of my clients, my family, and the jerk looking back at me disapprovingly in the mirror.

It was fall break for Rory so we had a lot planned. A day trip to Starved Rock. Another day trip to go enjoy fall festivities at this farm in rural Indiana. And just hanging out with the little one since we had her home all week.

And so, there I was, trying to enjoy myself as I hunted for the perfect pumpkin, munched on cider donuts, and sipped coffee at a veritable autumn wonderland (shout out to County Line Orchard) but anxious as ever on the inside. The nagging from my inner boss was incessant. I had so much client work and blogs to write and emails to answer and other stuff to do.

So there I was, picking apples and stressing like crazy thinking I should be working when it struck me…

Doing a quick scan of my recent life, my default has been to think about work as the hub of my life and everything else as ancillary to that.

I don’t know if it’s a product of my upbringing (as a poor kid with a father who fought to get rich until his last day but died penniless and my battle against that same ending). I don’t know if it’s the overall cultural narrative of the material success of the western male. I don’t know if it’s the frantic nature of this new safety net-less freelance economy where we’re all basically on our own and struggling to make our own way. Or maybe it’s a combo of all of these and more.

Whatever the reason, I’ve grown to be totally work-obsessed and everything else in life has fallen secondary (at best) to that.

Here’s when it really hit me…

Wow, maybe THIS should be the hub…

Maybe this time with my daughter and wife in rural America picking apples and riding on sketchy tractors without seatbelts is the hub, not just the margins. Maybe this is why all the other stuff exists.

This was a big distinction for me. I know a lot of us are obsessed with making as much money and doing as interesting of work as those people on Instagram. The hustle seems really heroic and cool.

And it can be — please don’t get me wrong. Having a good, interesting, soul-fulfilling vocation is an essential element to a life well-lived. But if it’s placed on the altar of life as the idol, it becomes tainted and, in a way, self-destructs.

Maybe this is how we should hold onto Sabbath (no need to be religious to take advantage of Sabbath). Sabbath isn’t an interruption to be tolerated until we can get back to work. Sabbath is it. It should be a central intention to life. This IS the point. To proclaim our freedom as non-slave humans and enjoy the time away from the grind.

And then, yes. By doing this, it just so happens that work becomes a lot more enjoyable. Because as we’re working (and hopefully enjoying said work in and of itself — or not), we can always know that in a number of hours or days, we’ll get back to the point…