Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Make your work-days into live-days

Portrait of the author
by Susan C. Price
By W.M. Dean

[Editor’s Note: I discovered this nonstop writing exercise in my younger self’s pile of drafts recently (after installing the beautiful desk my former neighbor Bill Johnson gave me before leaving for Denver). The exercise paper is dated September 15, 1977. It offered good advice then, maybe even better advice now – our world seems to have sped up so much in the intervening almost 40 years….]

My friend Joe H. had made a fine art of getting up to go to work in next to no time. Thirty minutes before he had to arrive at his office, which was 20 miles away, he would be awakened by an alarm clock that sounded like number-16 galvanized bolts being hurled by an angry god into a percussive barrel. Such a clock awakened him with no ambiguity – he was awake.
    Like a fireman, Joe would practically leap into his clothes, which he had set out the night before alongside his bed. While he was buttoning his shirt with his left hand, he would run his Norelco triple-header over his face with his right. He didn’t need to comb his hair, because he had gotten a crew cut to save time; he didn’t need to brush his teeth, because he didn’t eat breakfast – that’s right, you got it – to save time. He would, however, pass a damp cloth over his face and his skull (he had put water on the cloth the night before). Joe could do all of this in less than five minutes, which gave him almost a minute to cover each of the 20 miles to his office, over roads with speed zones no faster than 45 miles per hour.

Does any of that resemble your morning on the way to work? If it does, then maybe your day seems to exist solely for going to work. That’s okay if you live for your work. But do you?
    If you want to live to live, try this: Get up at least an hour before you even have to leave the house. Do some living before you even think about going to work. Work in the garden, read a poem, write a love letter, meditate, do ten or fifteen minutes of relaxed exercises (Yoga works nicely).
    If you do this, your work-days will become live-days – days that are meant for you to live your life, not days whose only point seems to be to do someone else’s bidding.

Jim O. lived and worked in New York City for many years. He would get up hours, he said, before it was time to leave for the office. He would read, putter around his apartment, and casually “notice” by glancing at his wristwatch that, “Oh, it’s time to go to work.” Jim made going to work just one of the things that had to be done on his day – work didn’t seem to be the only thing for which the day was created.

But watch out. If getting to work on time is important, you may have Joan B.’s problem. She tried getting up earlier – to live before work – and she found it worked so well that the earlier she got up the later she got to work. Work became less and less important to her as her days became live-days.
    But each day was richer and realer for her. And your days can be too for you, if you’ll quit bolting out of bed, choking down your food (if you allow yourself any at all), and racing dangerously to work. Isn’t it worth it? What could  y o u  do with an extra hour of life every morning?

Copyright © 2016 by Moristotle


  1. That is all well and good unless your work day starts at 5am and getting there later each day will find you a lot of free time.

  2. Thanks, Ed. Your comment reminds me that at the time I was a 40-hour-a-week employee with adequate salary and benefits. And I'm sure that I assumed my readers were similarly positioned. But people with two jobs (for example) would have more urgent problems than trying to make their work-days into live-days.