Overall, I stamp everything I do with “work”, because I take it seriously and put contemplative thought into it, and demand that it be a primary font of meaning. Lately, I’ve begun to also think of everything I do as “wellness” or health because, once life is reduced to the things we’re willing to do with attention and awareness – the kind we invest in the sources of our lives’ very definitions, we find we can’t live without them, and wonder how we ever could (we weren’t fully living, not really).
For example, I see my sleep as work, because it’s consciously and thoughtfully investing in the next increment of what people would otherwise call “work”. If it wasn’t, I’d do less sleeping. Fitness is work (as you know, if you’ve attempted it), because it generates the energy needed for that same next increment. Relationships, too – some of us don’t function well if we have no social contact or if our marriages or other relationships are screwed up.
And while it’s easy to date and say, “a relationship shouldn’t be work”, it’s also naive. This is why I don’t agree with people that shacking up is the same as marriage – if it were, you’d sign the damned contract in front of God and everyone – the whole community of witnesses. We’d never accept the equivalent of a just shacking up deal as contractors and entrepreneurs, even if our state rubber stamps it by default with a “common law” status. There’s a reason for the ritual and the involvement of the community, just like there are reasons for the the business formalities we insist upon. Ever had a client say he’s “committed” to doing business with you, and then he never shows up?
That aside, the same things that are necessary to work and that fall under the rubric of work, also fall under that of wellness and health, including the somewhat reduced version of work that people actually label as “work”. Take away a sense of meaning, depth, creativity, and what my people call ‘salvation’, from work, and you get a recipe for bad health.
And if you’re one of those who separates physical and mental and emotional health, like they don’t all sleep together, I do mean all three. Why do you think cubicle workers scarf so many M&Ms and have to take futile stabs at Zoomba classes as part of a fitness campaign?
If you’re thinking, “this is not what I would really want to do with my life, if I had a choice”, you’re going to gain weight. I never could figure out why I gained weight when I was doing work I loved in corporate life, until I realized I was supposed to be doing that work under my own shingle, not from a cube. It’ll be different for everyone, but the mental and emotional cost is obvious, or you’re not going to relate to anything I have to say. You alone know if you’ve redefined “happy” to mean accepting things the way they “must” be in the “real” and “adult” world, or whether you can still envision life as the opportunity to surf the stars. Not for nothing the hippies used to say “I’d rather burn out than fade away” (or was it “rust”?).
What I’ve found is a health (and work) cycle. If I work too long, I sleep less, so I put less time in fitness, so I have less energy, so I cut my social time, get snappy with acquaintances and fight with the spouse. If I don’t work on fitness, the energy loss and effects of reduced physical health and lower resistance also affect relationships, even if it’s just the energy I have for them, and it affects work (obviously), and so I need to sleep more (catch-22 – do I do that and cut into everything else with sleep time, or do I sacrifice sleep, which cuts into everything else the way we said?), and so on. In other words, just like body, mind, and emotion are entwined, so the things that constitute work are entwined (as we’ve said all along), and the things that constitute health and wellness are entwined.
These things, in fact, are core. If you have to pick three out of the four, because you don’t have time for the others, you light a fuse, and it is burning, and its effects will eventually be felt, even if what happens is you fizzle instead of explode. Life can even become a series of fizzles and explosions. So the first thing is to negotiate or work or buy your way to where you can get all four operating in tandem.
At that point, things can throw you off, and cost you a day, which can cost you a week, which can cost you a month. It’s easy to mess up a well-oiled, fully operating machine. The word “sabotage” in fact, is a word having to do with work – it comes from when workers in the Netherlands would throw their wooden shoes (sabots) into the machines to stop the work line when they feared machines would make them obsolete. Sabotage (by ourselves or others, even if usually unintentional) can break down our machines, whether the machines are ourselves as persons, or the machinery of useful habits needed to keep the person up and running – these, in fact, are interlocking gears.
Treating these items as core areas of need – work, sleep, fitness, relationships – means we resist sabotage, and we work toward a cycle in which each area feeds the others (if it doesn’t, it starves the others). Another way to put it is that health and work are intextricable lovers – they require one another. At Rules of Work, we simply treat health as an aspect of our work – work, taken in a comprehensive sense of spending life on things that yield or feed transcendent meaning. Now, I’m out the door, because I’ve got work to do in order to stay fit.