IT WAS STRANGE not writing the blog last weekend. I do have an excuse, but it’s the same old one I’m always using: I was working.
The same thing nearly happened this weekend, with a magazine story due tomorrow. It’s like the weekend falls into a black hole. And here’s Monday again. With all the other deadlines stacking up like planes on a rainy runway.
Three times this weekend with short windows of time here and there, I sat down to work on the blog and found myself writing in circles. I was trying to articulate how the work stress makes me feel, but I couldn’t capture it. I thought writing about it would relieve it, but that didn’t turn out to be true.
Could be that my head is too full right now to find a good thread and follow it. But I also think I have very mixed feelings (like many of us do about a lot of things) about my workload.
The weird thing is that on the Vineyard, work is also life. In fact, separating the two is nearly impossible, especially if your job (like mine) is to cover your community. The people you work with and report on are your friends or at the very least, acquaintances. There is an adage on the Island that there are only two degrees (not six) of separation between everyone who lives on the Vineyard year-round. This is not an exaggeration; I’ve very rarely met someone for the first time who doesn’t know at least one other person that I do.
To write about the food and farming community (my “beat”), I shop at farm stands, talk to farmers, talk to people about what they’re cooking and growing, and often take part in food and farming events on the Island. Much of this is fun and serves to remind me of why my life on the Vineyard is so good.
Last weekend, my beat collided with a request to contribute to the newspaper, resulting in a long-form feature on how Island farms are producing more food – on the same amount of land they were using 10 years ago. This turned out to be a stimulating challenge for me, which I like. And at the same time it exasperated me, sucking the time away from an entire “holiday” weekend.
But I landed a nice front-page top-of-the-fold byline, so there’s that!
Also, I got the satisfaction of helping my co-workers out, and that’s a great feeling.
These days I am fantasizing about long winter evenings reading by the fire. Quiet and stillness. The unusually warm weather right now makes that seem far off.
The garden, on my infrequent visits this week, seems oddly suspended between decay and rebirth. An intense tobacco-y smell of aging bean vines hits you when you walk in, the cosmos (all but one!) are spent, the squash vines are desiccated and crackly, and the dried sunflowers bow their heads like monks in prayer.
Yet the peppers and beans are still fruiting, a random sweet pea blossoms, and those darn dahlias and zinnias are six feet tall and delivering me buckets of blooms every few days.
The nasturtiums are happier than they’ve been all season, sprawling from one raised bed to the next.
The whole thing is as marvelous as an aging Broadway star.
When I bring the flowers inside, instead of arranging them on the breakfast room table, I bring them upstairs to our office now, where we can soak up as much of their cheer as possible before they go away for months.
Bringing the outdoors in while you’re working never hurts. But it doesn’t substitute for actually being outdoors, so those end-of-day-walks are still one of the best ways I handle work overload.
With the exception of an occasional Monday or Tuesday when that deadline runway is especially slippery, I walk most every day. With Farmer, with my partner, and by myself on occasion. It forces a separation from the computer (and the phone if I can stand to leave it). Someday I’ll probably realize I handed over too much time to technology, too.
But for now, they’re the tools I need to do my job, which of course pays my bills and also guarantees me a place in a community that gives a whole lot back in return. Because of that and the people I work with, I like my job – enough, more than enough at this point — to equalize the stress, a stress (I remind myself often) that never comes close to the levels I had in my pre-sobriety life. But if the equation gets too far out of balance, I know what to do about it.
In addition to this crazy gift of sobriety I’ve been given – which has taught me to listen to my gut – I also picked up this useful motto from the school I attended for nine years: “I shall find a way or make one.”
Most of the barriers to positive change are in our heads, whereas if we follow our gut, we can literally find a way to do anything. I’ve heeded that motto as I’ve muddled through any number of predicaments.
I may be walking around in circles, but at least I know where I’m going!
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