I had work meetings every night this week, which is a regular occurrence these days, and pretty standard for pastoral schedules. I juggle two jobs: a congregation and a program designed for and led by multi-vocational pastors. The bulk of this work necessarily happens in hours other than 9-5, since most of my colleagues, constituents and congregants are busy with other commitments during the daytime.
In general, I prefer a flexible schedule that allows me to take a long lunch or a slow morning when I know I’ll be working from 4-8pm. Especially during this time of year, it allows me to be outside when the sun is shining, sitting down at the computer once it sets. I worked 8:30-4:30 in a flourescent-lit cubicle for a couple of years and hated it with a passion.
But sometimes, the weird schedule starts to wear on me. This year, my tiny apartment has seemed more like an office than a respite. There is no strong delineation of workspace from leisure space, no standard hour to mark “working” time from “living” time. Sure, there are all kinds of tips and tricks for working from home, and I’ve tested them all out: take a walk around the block at the beginning and end of your day to replace your commute & put boundaries around that time; make sure to put on shoes when you go to your desk to be productive; carve out specific and dedicated space for work; turn e-mail notifications off on your phone; shut the computer down for the weekend.
Some of those things are helpful, but when work doesn’t exist within clear time boundaries and EVERYTHING is happening in the same, tiny physical space, boundaries are hard.
I am generally good at boundaries. I came with them pre-installed in my personality, I think. Fridays are my sabbath day and I’m decent at protecting that time. But in weeks like this one, when I’ve been in meetings until just before bedtime and Zoom calls ate up all the reflecting and processing time, when my day off is taking place in the same chair where my workweek happened, driven inside because the clouds are back and the rain just won’t stop…it takes more than one or two days to remember how to exist as a being who is valued for who I am and not what I can produce.
This is not meant to be complaint. I love my work. I prefer flexible schedules. I understand the privilege of being able to work from home right now. It’s just an acknowledgement that everything is harder, these days, and that the delicate boundaries and balances we had been using to survive in the times before the pandemic have been, to put it mildly, completely obliterated. We are grasping for handholds and, in many cases, barely holding on.
This is just me being honest about what’s hard, in the hopes that honesty opens paths for mutuality & creativity. And now, seeing as it’s Friday, I’m going to close my laptop and go do some LIVING instead of getting caught up in even more WORKING.