Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Unplugged from work - Day Five - I did it!

I did manage to stay unplugged from work for five days. Part of my success was luck and part of it was timing. Nothing urgent happened…well, at least nothing that anyone has admitted to… And although it didn’t used to be, the span of time during the academic year was a relatively quiet time to be gone. Rescheduling what had been on my calendar was fairly easy, and all of this had weighed in to my decision to take the step back in the first place.

The hardest days were Sunday (remember, I work EVERY day) and Monday. It was as if I was playing an Olympic volleyball game in my head against myself. One part of me would power serve a thought about work across the net of my consciousness. Another part of me would lunge to hit it out of play. During those first couple of days, the serves were relentless, and I often found myself working harder at trying NOT to think about work than I would if I was actually working.

On day two and three, the intensity of the game eased a bit. By the end of the week, my power server had about as much oomph as an aging relative playing a game of sand lot volleyball at the annual family reunion. At that point, it wasn’t hard to claim victory.

The whole point of my week-long mental jousting was to force myself to face a loss. Or more specifically, yet another loss. In a relatively short period of time, I have lost my mother, a close friend who I considered a family member, and a beloved furry companion.

For the first two, I never missed a beat at the office. Who has time to mourn? Besides, it’s so much easier to just slip back into the routine. Finally, the cumulative effect required an acknowledgement.

In the Jewish faith, there is the tradition of “sitting Shiva” after the death of a family member. Shiva literally means seven and during this week, the mourner is not supposed to do any work while family and friends gather for support, remember the deceased, and allow for grieving and healing. I’m not a Jew, but I could see the wisdom in this forced stepping back.

So I did.

I’m not going to wait 11 years to do it again.
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Unplugged from work: Day Four

Today has definitely been the "easiest" day to be unplugged. I suppose I've reached the point of WTF. I've made it this long, one or two more days of disconnect won't really matter.

Using my smartphone, I can see how many messages are sitting in my inbox without actually opening it. Right now, there are fewer in there than I expected, and I wasn't the slightest bit tempted to peek.

That's progress!

And for the record, I do not count looking at my inbox tally as "working," but rather a way to monitor my own endurance. Or apathy. Or both.

The past couple of days have been a weird mix of feeling as if time is flying by while at the same time confronting a great yawning expanse of endlessness. That probably reads a bit more melodramatic or poetic than what I'm actually experiencing.

This whole exercise wasn't about doing it was about simply being. To that end, so far, so good.
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Unplugged from work: Day Three

Today I read a Hardy Boy book, The Secret of the Old Mill. I used to read these books as a kid. In fact, the books that I read belonged to my father when HE was a kid. I've read this one before...goodness knows how many years ago. It was one of the originals complete with expressions like "Swell" and "Jeepers."
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Unplugged from work: Day Two

I'm sitting on my catio watching the fading glow of a spectacular sunset as the city lights begin to twinkle on. This is my favorite time of the day to be here.

I have successfully avoided checking in to the office for a second day. Admittedly, the day isn't over yet, but I'm confident I can avoid checking in this evening.

Although my mind returns to work frequently throughout the day--er, perhaps every few minutes or so, I find the span of time starting to lengthen.

It's easier to disengage when my surroundings change from the norm. Today, I went exploring more of the nearby trails. My neighborhood, which most people would already say is "out in the middle of nowhere" is surrounded on the northern and eastern side by the Coronado National Forest--or more specifically, even more nowhere. I could walk for miles and not see another living soul. Nirvana!
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Unplugged from work - Day One

Today begins Day One - Unplugged. It's probably not one of my prouder admissions, but since at least July of 2001 (and it may be longer) I have only removed myself from work for seven whole days.
Five of those seven days were on a trip to St. Lucia in 2004. No Internet connection or phone service was available, but I still managed to check my work from the airport right up until they started to board the plane.

The other two days were basically personal endurance tests to see if I could actually go 24 consecutive hours without checking in. I checked in at 8:00 AM and remained offline from work until 8:00 AM the next morning, and if truth be told, I probably cheated a bit on both ends. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, I am working on something.

Before one jumps to the conclusion that I might have OCD tendencies--I do--but that's beside the point, I log so many hours because if I don't, I can't keep up. My day begins with the first volley of email before I even hit the shower. If I leave the office at 6:00 PM, and log back in at 8:00 PM, I often have 30 messages waiting for me. That prompts me to put in an additional couple of hours of work in the evening before the cycle begins again the next day. Day after day after day.

To cope with that volume on those rare occasions when I am away, my automated out of office reply usually says that "I'm out of the office, and I will not be checking my email 10,387 times a day." But I WILL check it. And people usually continue to call, email, and text while I'm gone as if I've never left.

For the last decade, a day off for me has meant checking in during the morning, again in the afternoon, and again in the evening to "triage." But even if it's something that only takes five or ten minutes to manage, it still  puts me back in work mode and always being in work mode never allows time to fully recharge.  Ironically, I have always insisted that my colleagues take time for themselves because I know the value in stepping away from work but for whatever reason, I have not extended that privilege to myself.

I may never catch up from trying to disconnect for an entire week. But that's my goal. I put in my payroll last night. I've already had a couple of text messages this morning, but today is Day One - Unplugged.
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gila Woodpecker eating Sunday brunch

Rather than throwing it away, I sliced up an overripe orange and hung it in the tree for the Gila Woodpeckers. Length of time for one to find it: five minutes! Now they get a nice Sunday brunch, and food doesn't go to waste!

Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker in the back yard.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

White-crowned sparrow returns for the winter

To a birder like me, one of the most wonderful things about living in southeastern Arizona is that it's right  in the middle of a migratory path. As if the the Sonoran desert wasn't already bursting with avian full-time residents, hundreds of species pass through here in the spring and fall traveling back and forth from their nesting areas farther north or in higher elevations to their winter homes here in southeastern Arizona or farther south in Mexico and South America. I find MORE birds in the back yard in December than I do in July.

Last spring, I had one straggling white-crowned sparrow who seemed  reluctant to leave the bounty of my bird feeders for his nesting ground farther north. Last Sunday, I spotted one lone white-crowned sparrow--the first to return for the winter. He's not banded, but I would bet money, it's my straggler!

White-Crowned Sparrow
A white-crowned sparrow appeared September 29, 2012