It is midnight. I have been awake since 6 am, and I have been working since 7 am. I came back to my hotel room (I’m in Vancouver for a few days) for a bit, and then went to a vendor event.
All told, I have worked for at least 14 hours today in one form or another. A vendor dinner might not seem like work, or it might at least seem like glamorous work, but I assure you, you are still in a suit and heels and nylons with the start of a run that you are trying to keep from spreading, and you are still making small chat and talking about work, so it’s work.
I was about to hop in the shower just now, and I was feeling guilty because I had a few things left to do and I really just wanted to curl up in my bed with a book and not do the work. I thought about posting a status on facebook asking for permission to knock off for the day before I was fully done. I thought a friend might come along and tell me to go to bed, and that would be enough permission for me. I could go to bed not because I had done enough or because I was tired, but because I said it was ok to go to bed.
I am supposed to work, I am paid to work 7.5 hours a day. I have worked twice that today. On Monday with some late breaking work, I worked a twelve hour day. I had a conference call on Saturday morning. Tomorrow I have a breakfast meeting with a client, at 7:30 am. I won’t get back to my house until 6 pm, and then I will probably have an hour’s worth of emails to answer.
What got me thinking, as I stood in the shower was not the work, the quality or the quantity of the work, but why on earth I thought I needed someone’s permission to knock off after working twice my daily requirement. It’s not my boss, not my company. No one is expecting this of me.
I am my own task-mistress.
I expect it of myself. I want permission, someone to come along and tell me, or at least validate what I already know – that I have done a good enough job for today. I have done enough, demonstrated enough value, been smart enough and capable and competent enough. I’m ok. I’m valuable. I need someone to tell me this because it rings hollow when I say it to myself.
And that’s just for today. Tomorrow starts all over again – trying to prove my value. It’s obviously not my company driving this – they promoted me. It’s not my friends – they think I work too much. It’s not Mr. Spit – he loves me the way I am and really doesn’t care about how much I work, as long as the work makes me happy.
No. It’s just me.
For the last four months I have been thinking about my relationship to my work. The universe gave me several things to think about over Christmas Vacation, and it keeps gently reminding me of them.
And so tonight, standing in the shower, I started to unpack the whole notion of what enough is when it comes to work. I’m the only person who can define enough because I’m the person who set it up in the first place. And if enough is about validation, well I think there may never be enough.
I wish I could say that I had a total epiphany about work – that in a bolt of blue I saw the problem and the solution and by tomorrow at 6 pm I will have it solved.
I saw the start of the problem – why I want permission to stop working – about how closely my working habits are related to my need for validation. I realized that work is not just enjoyable but a way of making myself feel valued and needed, and maybe that’s not entirely healthy. At the least it strikes me as a good servant bad master sort of situation.
So, I am going to give myself permission to go to bed. I am going to give myself permission to think more about this and not have all the answers – to turn the question over in my mind.