21 October 2011

Guest Post, Featuring Author Pamela Hawley

Today, we are pleased to have author, Pamela Hawley as our guest. In her article, Pamela shares some personal experiences of her life at work and talks about being able to slow down so you can catch up with yourself.

I also have a blog post today and author, Jennie Bennett has graciously agreed to host it on her blog, A Book, A Girl, A Journey. Thanks Jennie! Pamela and Jennie are both fellow members of the Life List Club. Now, here's Pamela:

Like A Meandering Stream
There’s a lot of truth to the expression “still waters run deep.” Personally, I haven’t been able to figure out how to truly be still. But I have discovered the beauty of living life like a gently meandering stream rather than a raging river.

For about a five-year period in my thirties, my job was a never-ending rat race. We were implementing a new information system at work, and I was the project lead. On top of that, we were going through a period of high turnover and I was one of just a few managers in an office serving a decent-sized university.

I worked around the clock. When I did fall into bed, I tossed and turned and cursed my old pal sleep for refusing to visit me. When the weekends rolled around, all I did was rest and recuperate enough to tackle another killer week. My bruises were mental, but they zapped me as much as any physical beating.
During that period in my life, I wrote nothing at all, unless it was a work-related document.

In the last year or so, things have calmed down at the office. There’s still more than enough to keep me very busy during the workdays. But most of the time, I can leave it behind me at the end of the day and go home to live my life.

This has been a slow and gradual change, one I didn’t really think about much. It happened sort of like healthy weight loss - a pound here and a pound there, and you don’t realize how much better you look until you try on your skinny jeans and realize they fit perfectly.

The transition was partly due to the implementation being over, but there was more to it than that. Recently two young, hard-working and talented staff members in my office were promoted to positions similar to mine. I was thrilled for them and for myself too. I finally had others who had the skill set to share the load and the titles and compensation that made doing so part of their job description.

So imagine my surprise when a friend asked me if I felt slighted by or worried about these changes. Those feelings had never even occurred to me. There’s plenty of work to go around, and my colleagues more than deserved their promotions. Besides, I’ve been too busy enjoying the life I’ve gotten back to see shadows where there aren’t any.

The Rat Race
Sadly, I can see how some might be threatened. The economy is tough, and everyone fortunate enough to actually have a job is holding onto it with an iron grip. People want to be indispensable, to know what no one else knows, to be seen by bosses and higher-ups as one who will work round the clock to get the job done. Many gladly do the work of two or three people to lessen the chances of being let go.

Talk about a rat race. Being committed to the work that pays your bills and doing it to the best of your ability is a good thing. So is going the extra mile for your employer. But unless your job is truly your passion, living to work instead of working to live can put out the creative light that shines on the rest of your life.

That’s why I never once thought about others being given some of my workload as a threat. Instead, it is an opportunity to finally do my job even better because I’m not spread too thin, and still have time and energy left over to be myself and pursue my writing dreams.

Since our restructuring, I have finally been able to rededicate myself to writing, because I don’t have to pour every ounce of my brain into earning a living. After 5 years of writing nothing at all, I have written several short stories, regularly maintained a blog, and begun a novel. In the last 3 months, I’ve had two short stories accepted for publication.

This has happened because instead of living my life like a raging river, just rushing at top speed from one destination to the next, I’m able to roll more like a meandering stream. I’m still moving, but at a pace that lets me observe and be in touch with my surroundings, my life and my emotions. For me, living at a pace that lets me experience my surrounding and “just be” sometimes is essential to quality writing.

Things would have turned out much differently if I had seen my job changes as threatening. I’d be in the office all hours of the night, trying to prove a worth that instead I’m confident others already know is there. I’d still be rushing like that river, missing all the good stuff along the way.

How many people do you know who don’t fully pursue their passions because they work such long hours to support themselves that there is nothing left over? For some, circumstances may not give them much choice.

But many of us put ourselves in those shoes, and not just in the workplace. Have any of these descriptions ever fit you?

- Always the first one in the office and the last one to leave, to make sure the boss sees your dedication? Yet you constantly feel like you’re missing out on fun, family time, and creative outlets.

- The person who is reluctant to share your job knowledge with others because being the only one who can do a critical task makes you indispensable, even if it also means you’re constantly working overtime.

- The frazzled homemaker who wishes your family would help more around the house. But when your husband does a load of laundry or your daughter washes the dishes, you end up giving their work a “do-over” because it isn’t quite up to your expectations.

- The person who craves quiet alone time to write or read or think, but who never has it because you say “yes” to every social invitation that comes your way? Somehow, you also usually end up coordinating or hosting the events yourself.

- The mom or dad who needs some time alone to write, but is always hesitant to take family and friends up on their offers to watch the children for a few hours or even overnight.

If any of these fit you, don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there. We want to be involved in the world around us and give it our best. We want to do it all and do it well.

But sometimes, we can’t.

Finding a Blessing
If I hadn’t seen the changes in my work environment as a blessing rather than a threat, I wouldn’t be writing this guest post. I wouldn’t be a part of the Life List Club at all, because I’d have never set ambitious goals and expected myself to keep them. Instead of spending my early morning hours in the gym and my evenings and weekends writing, I’d still be carving out extra hours to work.

If your life feels like a raging river, you may have to let some things go so you can experience the world as a meandering stream. You can still travel long distances, but you’ll see and do much more along the way.

Have you reprioritized or let go of other expectations you’ve had of yourself to make room for your writing? Has doing so improved your life?

About Pamela Hawley:
In addition to short fiction, Pam Hawley writes humor pieces and is working on her first novel, which blends the creepy and the funny by bringing a brutally murdered “player” back to life as a naked ghost. Her short story “A Wingding and A Prayer” appeared in the July issue eFiction Magazine. Her short horror fiction, “Peanut Butter and Jelly,” will appear in The Spirit of Poe Anthology due out on October 31st and available at Literary Landmark Press When not working, writing or in the gym, Pam can most likely be found curled up on her couch reading, hanging out at her family pub Hawley’s in Baltimore, or cheering the Pittsburgh Steelers. She blogs regularly at Hawleyville.

13 comments:

  1. Excellent advice, Pam. My dad was a workaholic who couldn't sit still long enough to enjoy life - or any of its components. Far better to accomplish a little less, if necessary, and enjoy what you're doing.

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  2. Beautiful advice Pam! I think when we take a step back from a hectic life we will see what really matters and our lives will flow!

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  3. Thanks for stopping by, David. Being a workaholic may help in one way, but it will hurt in others. You are right in pointing out that there should be a balance.

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  4. Thank you for visiting Jennie, and special thanks for hosting my article on your blog, A Book, a Girl, a Journey.

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  5. What a lovely post, Pam! Yes, I've been in that exact rat race (and I don't miss it).

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  6. Well, you've given me hope. I'm in the raging river now. I'm three months in my new position, leading 3 teams and 36 people. And the holidays are about to start. I'm so worried I'm going to crash and burn, but like your last post, we do what we need to spend time writing and being with loved ones. If I feel myself start to go crazy, you're the first one I call!

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  7. Hi Jenny, thanks for visiting. At one point or another, I guess we've all been in the rat race. It sure feels nice when we get a chance to slow down and have time to do some things that are meaningful to us.

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  8. Jess, nice to see you over here. Sorry to hear that you are working so hard. There's a time for everything and right now it sounds like you've got your hands full. Hang in there! We're all rooting for you.

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  9. So true David - as they say, no one ever says "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." Making time for loved ones and your own reflection and creativity is so important!

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  10. Thanks Jennie - the lesson I learned as I came out on the other side of that time period was to never let my life go down that road again, and doing so has made me more productive at work and happier with the rest of my life (and of course, my writing!).

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  11. I don't miss it either Jenny : )! Jess, with all the progress you are making with writing and your blog I know that you do already, but the best advice I can give is always take some time for you each day, even when it seems that time isn't there. And look towards the "end in sight" during those crazy times at work. It can be so much more manageable to know "worklife will be crazy for the next two months" than "who knows when things will get back to normal..." And vent to me anytime - sometimes getting some of the stress off your chest really does help : )

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  12. Thank you so much for hosting me, Gary : )!

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