As you may (or, may not) have noticed, I’ve pretty much been MIA except for a couple of automatic posts I set up last weekend in a five minute period of calm. That title up there…do you recall when it even entered our lingo? Work-Life Balance. Work used to be something you did between 8-5 PM or 9-6 PM if you were lucky and got to sleep in an extra thirty minutes, and then you forgot about it until the next day. You had things like weekends and holidays, and took vacations! If you worked Retail, your hours varied and covered weekends, but you got days off during the week instead. And if you worked in the Hospitality Industry, sometimes you worked four days and made the money for a full week.
But slowly something has happened. Maybe it is only happening in my field – IT. I used to work TWO jobs when younger, and I don’t think I worked as many hours as I am working at one job now. I don’t think it is just my industry, because I see E-mails from clients all during the weekend too, which means they are working or thinking about work. Since the advent of ‘always on’ availability for businesses, something drastic has happened. All those labor-saving devices touted in the 50’s and 60’s weren’t to gain more leisure time, they were to allow us to WORK more hours. Hah, silly us.
My job is normally pretty intense and my hours a bit above the norm – 45 to 50 hours generally. But for the last three weeks we’ve been down two staff members for two weeks, and then three staff members for a day here and there. I happen to be the back up for all three of those folks. In addition to that little juggling act, one of my customers started up a Win 7 migration project. Some days I’ve worked 13 straight hours without even a lunch break. If you are currently hourly – AVOID SALARY AT ALL COSTS! It’s like those labor-saving devices, a trick! Normally Exempt employees are managerial staff of some sort, but lots of employers bend that rule quite nearly until it breaks.
About a week or so ago, my body started showing signs of this short-term stress: higher blood pressure, irritability, insomnia and rashes. Rashes are a LOT of fun during the full-bore heat and humidity that are the norm down South. I usually have a super-perky optimistic personality that irritates a lot of people But suddenly I was snappy with everyone. I think I even snapped at myself a time or two and we didn’t care for that. Nutrition and brain supplementation has been a pet sideline interest (obsession) of mine for years and years. I know what to do to be healthy. So of course, I did all of that during this initial period, riiiiight? Oh no. I scarfed junk food, sugar and alcohol like it was tofu and broccoli. And I exercised for endorphin rush and stress release too, right? Oh no. I curled up in the fetal position in the dark on the weekends and slept 16 hours or more when I didn’t have family events calling for my attention. I didn’t even want to walk the dog because that involved different clothing on top of said rash. Hmph. Knowing what to do and doing it always seems to be a bit gap-resistant, ya know?
Finally last week I got a grip as the days kept running at 12-13 hours and did what I know is right to do. Supplement. Eat right. Hydrate. Sleep well (no online reading at 1 a.m.). Exercise. Limit sugar and no alcohol at all. I’m quite a bit closer to normal function again, thankfully. But it has really made me think quite a bit about what is the reason for this ‘work-life balance’ meme. I haven’t had a creative thought one in I don’t know when. Writing had to take the hit during this time as I just couldn’t muster up any creativity.
What are we working towards? I personally know two people that have died at my job,; in addition, one under forty who collapsed at the airport en route to a customer site, two who have developed cancer, and two more with heart issues that aren’t hereditary. Who wants to be gimpy, or worse, die before you make it to retirement?? What are the prospects for retirement these days anyway, outside of military, federal and state employees? Most places don’t seem to have a pension plan or retirement benefits other than your own 401K. And with job-hopping being the norm, coupled with intermittent lay-offs, I wonder how many people still have their 401K intact? How did we get here? For someone like me in my fifties, the future often looks quite muddy, and on a bad day, rather bleak. It is why I have been rushing to downsize and pay off the debt left from my husband’s early death. But what about the rest of you? Is it more promising for you younger people? Does anyone else ever wake up thinking “What the heck am I doing and why?” How are you changing things – perspective or such?
Today I realized that I received several awards while I was in absentia and I really do appreciate them – I’m not ignoring you! It’s just, I had to put a fence around me and the rest of the world as I muddle through this. It doesn’t appear to be letting up in the near future either I want to thank everyone who continues to come by and visit and read and to ask you not to give up on me. I’ll be back to writing more eventually. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how any of my readers have dealt with these kind of things. I am always willing to learn a thing or three.
Ginormous hugs to everyone, and….keep on keepin’ on 🙂
Stressed but recovering ~SE.