As I settle back into my early morning bus ride, which I had a three-week break from, I am reminded of the different spaces we inhabit on a regular basis. Our work, home and the ‘in between’ space which splits up our days into convenient little chunks of time, otherwise known as the ‘commute’. Evidently our happiness can be found in the balancing act amongst all 3 spheres of space and time. I suppose the key is to optimize and distribute our potential effort, without putting too much emphasis on any one area.
While I do buy into the concept of balancing work and home experiences, I feel people overemphasize the benefits of prioritizing one area over another. If you hate your job, no amount of balance is going to change that fact. Likewise for a brutal commute. So maybe it is it all a matter of attitude? The mind has a powerful ability to turn situations around towards good or bad for seemingly random reasons. How many times have we experienced melancholy while still on vacation at the mere thought of returning home? Nothing good comes of that, yet we fall down that rabbit hole all the time.
My recent sun vacation was just right. I did fun things, took a class, ate great food, soaked up a good deal of vitamin D and had many happy hour cocktails. For those who know me, I go all in for whatever life throws at me, yet this vacation description sounds like I dabbled with a little of this and that. Actually, I experienced it with my foot on the pedal, pressed all the way down at full speed. In that way, I’m kind of glad to be back home as nobody can keep that pace for very long. I’ve often struggled with moderation.
My vacation was a bit of an experiment. Would I enjoy myself more for living in complete contrast to my normal life? Or would I rather have taken it slower and moved through the days in the sun according to a cadence I am more accustomed to? The jury is still out, but I have a sneaking suspicion I could have enjoyed my time away even more at a more balanced trot. After all, the year we spent travelling as a family was our normal life, not a high-end vacation. I know how fun and sustainable that was. I could probably live like that forever more, with a healthy balance of novelty and routine.
As I get back into the groove of my work life, I feel like setting myself a challenge. Instead of only thinking about how I feel personally, it seems like I could balance the scales in a different way. I wonder what it would be like to ask myself what kind of good deeds I can do for others? How can I help? Even if I can only offer a smile and a few kind words, that is a good start. We are all in this life together. A rising tide floats all boats. It is time to be on the positive side of the equation, both for my benefit as well as everyone I interact with.
It is important to realize that even the smallest acts can have huge effects. For example, on my first days back at work I wore my lucky new scarf, full of colorful owls staring up at me. The symbolism is strategic. Owls are wise. They expend energy strategically. The cartoonish versions of these birds always makes me smile. I guess this is my spirit bird. Time to spread some joy, see what good can be done, even in the smallest ways. Life really is as good as you make it.
The new scarf is just a tiny example of how I am changing things up in my experiment of covering a year-long maternity leave. As I slide past the hallway point, it is a good time to revisit how I split up my typical work day into three distinct chunks of time. The basic structure is fairly prescriptive by outside forces. Instead of feeling cheated by the laws of nature for my required sleeping time, the public transit schedule for my commute or the rules of the corporate world which dictate the time spent at work, I use these rules to my advantage.
I bookend my workday with a commute which allows an excellent opportunity to accomplish something for myself, even if that is as simple as listening to music while I watch the world go by. Because I am not driving the bus or the train, I can be as distracted as I want, which is a luxury. I routinely do creative things like writing, most mornings. However, I don’t feel bad about myself if I need to spend a morning or two staring out the window thinking or otherwise being non-productive.
Alternatively, experiencing the commute in a negative way is always an option. I could wish it were shorter and lament about how ridiculously long it is. Maybe it would be nice to have my own seat and not have people squished up against me, especially the sneezing and coughing ones. Some of the drivers can jerk the train and buses around so I have to hang on for dear life. My list of first world problems are endless here.
Or I can get over myself already. I do marvel at how quickly I can get from point A to B with no real effort or skill on my part. Yes, there are loads of other people on the same mission to get somewhere, but generally everyone is very courteous. We are all in the same boat. I yearn to be like the people who can stand on the train in perfect balance to the way it moves. Maybe one day I will graduate to that.
I use the commute to extend my personal life. In the morning I am fresh and my mind is really sharp. I like to be creative in some form. Writing is the easiest way to spend the first half of that time because I am guaranteed to get a spot to sit. I forgot to mention, the bus picks me up about a block away from my house, on my street.
On the way home, my commute seating arrangement is sporadic. Sometimes I get seats and other times I stand the whole way. Because of the balance problem, I have yet to figure out how to hang on and read a book at the same time. This is something else I aspire to. Getting more reading time would be awesome. You see, I am not an experienced public transit user. I rode a school bus for a brief period of time, got my first car and never looked back. When I sold my car in order to help fund our trip, I just borrowed my husband’s truck whenever I needed to leave the house.
Thinking of my husband, I hope he agrees that, (for the most part), I am a far nicer person when I come home from work now, than I used to be. I have such a good chunk of time to reset myself and my attitude and transition into the person I want to be at home. A wife, a mother and a friend who has something to talk about, other than her job. Yes, that is me now. I am able to recognize work thoughts forming in my mind, like big bath bubbles. Once I realize that is happening I let them pop or float away without ruminating, for the most part. It is extremely satisfying.
In the old days, when I drove my car and myself to the point of burnout, I was always working. I pretended to leave it behind at a certain time of day when I walked out of my office, but those thought bubbles never popped. The words and ideas were always circling around in my head. I never got a break and I had little left to give. I was often distracted. I cringe when I think back on my habits.
By spending a year away from the daily grind I have created a way to live differently. I am not an expert yet, rather a diligent student. I truly desire to feel as if my whole life is one big adventure. I don’t want to be my real self at home and have to put on some kind of mask at work. I want to be a joyful me, all the time. Experiencing an ordinary day as if I were on vacation is a signal that I am on the right path. Infusing creativity into everything I do is one way to help get there.
Thank you for reading my thoughts on creativity. Each day, I hope to get a little closer to understanding how to design a lifestyle I don’t need a vacation from. I believe that focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives is an important aspect of happiness and ultimately wellness.
There are a couple of interesting projects on the horizon in 2019. The travel book will be digitally published by the summer. A creativity retreat is on the docket for the Fall.
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Latest posts by Christine Westermark (see all)
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- 3 sacred spheres of space and time - January 15, 2019