Taking the Edge off Work


In my last post, I promised to get rid of 127 things. And they are gone! Well, 122 are gone. The remaining few are special deliveries yet to be made. And, you’ll be happy to know, I resisted the urge to buy more books with the credit I earned at the used book store. That’s no small feat because, while the kind book-store ladies patiently waded through my grocery bin of books, I was left to my own devices, that is, to browse, the bookstore shelves.

But enough about unloading books: there is other work to be done here.

When I wrote about shoveling my way to a lighter way of life, I wasn’t just talking about clutter. No, I slipped another issue into my mid-life rant: my soul-numbing job.  I didn’t just mention it, I went on about it, how I forget the bigger picture when I click open my email, how “I just fall back into line again, trudging along the path to nowhere.” It’s a great job, being a trade-mark lawyer; it’s just not much of a living.

One afternoon this week, when I clicked open a work related email, something different happened. Something snapped, in my apparently fragile mind, and I flew into a rage. Well, I didn’t fly anywhere. I remained stone still in my office chair, clenching and unclenching my jaw, while rage erupted inside, flying around like a rabid crow, cage-bound and flitting, crashing, railing, screaming. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

Now what is odd about this situation is the email in question was not particularly inflammatory. Mildly irritating, perhaps. Requiring clarification certainly. My emotional reaction, my fury, was out of all proportion to the situation at hand. I couldn’t see that at the time of course, caught up as I was in the maelstrom. Fortunately, I do know enough not to take immediate action when my mind is in that state: there was no searing email sent in response, no smart-ass remarks. Even more fortunately, I had a riding lesson scheduled for less than an hour later. That took the edge off, calmed me down, but it didn’t extinguish the flame of irritation.

Because the following day my body levelled me. I was bedridden, flattened, by the worst headache I’ve had in years. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t open my eyes for longer than a blink because the light hurt. I could barely lift my head.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been taken down by a headache. That last time, in July 1999, it took a load of morphine and an anti-epileptic drug to stop the pain. I was off work for a few months, much to my relief. The diagnosis: “You have an inflamed nerve in the occipital-front lobe. We have no idea why.” And what was I doing at the time? Working on a file that still makes me grit my teeth.

I can’t help but feel as though my body is sending me a message: “Did you not get it the first time? No? Well, then, in the immortal words of Lily Tomlin.’Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse’

So that brings us back to me and my shovel doesn’t it?  

I wouldn’t say that it is my life’s calling to register people’s trade-marks. No, my life’s calling is writing. That’s not my job right now, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t pursue it as if it were. That I can’t carve out time and make it important. That I can do, and so this is what I did:

I told 75 of my closest friends and family that I am writing a book. Now I HAVE to do it.

Do I have any doubt that I can? Nope. Will it be good? Well, I have no idea. I’ll show up. I’ll be as honest as I can be. I’ll give it my best. That’s all I’ve got. And maybe, just maybe, that’ll be enough take the edge off the headaches caused by my “real” job.  Wish me luck. Better yet: send me an email and ask me how the book’s coming along.

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