Did I get your attention by the title? Did these four men come to mind that comprised the famous 1960s English rock band? Funny how a lyric, a title, or even a feeling that you get from listening to music can stay with you long past the time you listened to it.
As I write this it is Monday. Monday is a day that is often fraught with a bit of AGH. In general, Mondays have a bad wrap. I can't say I was really much different than most of you in feeling that way until a few years ago. This is my 3rd year of making Mondays different. Before three years ago I was working full time as a school psychologist in a middle school. I decided I didn't want to be tied to a full time job any longer and needed to reinvent Mondays so that I didn't dread them and could actually look forward to them. I now do. They feel completely different to me. You might think that I just transferred the Monday AGH to Tuesdays then, my new first day of work for the week. Nope. Tuesdays feel pretty radical actually. I feel ready to approach the school and my work there. I don't dread it. I have said hello to making Mondays a day of liberation and said goodbye to the misguided feelings of doom.
Mondays now provide me opportunity to explore a vast open space of approximately 8 hours that was not part of my week previously. It has taken some getting use to. When you go from working all the time - five days a week and then all of a sudden you don't -- it can be a bit strange. I have experienced the gamut of emotions. I have felt self-judgment and exhilaration. At first, it was novel and I felt a bit out of sorts. I quickly began to fill my time doing housework and working on my business. Soon, I noticed that Monday was now just as busy, but in a different way. At times I felt like I was pressuring myself to get more done and fill the day in order to justify the time that was now provided to me. There have been times that I have felt guilty that I'm not working in a way that provides my family a steady income. The guilt is something I come up against quite regularly and I'm not afraid to admit it because I know I am not alone in that feeling. Frankly, I'm not alone in any of these feelings.
Feelings. Emotions. We all have them and they can really take us for a wild ride if they are left unchecked. Today as I dropped my youngest son off at school so he could attend a before school club meeting, I felt sublime. I was extremely grateful that I had already experienced my solo morning routine unrushed and was able to deliver him to school myself, providing us an opportunity to connect during the car ride. Yet, as soon as I watched him walk into the school and I moved my car into drive, I felt a different emotion enter my sphere. Just like a switch or a dial that had been turned to the other side of the spectrum, I felt empty with a twist of panic. Thoughts such as -- "well now what?" and "how do you intend to get anything done today?" "you don't deserve a day to yourself", and "how dare you NOT work today!" all took their turns punching my gut and clouding my vision.
I drove in silence. Something I do often. I am very intentional on when I listen to anything because I don't want to just have noise in the background for the sake of noise. Silence can reveal so much. And today, it did.
As I drove into my neighborhood, I felt the strongest of these emotions trying to convince me that I was sinking to the bottom of a well and coaxing me to sit and wallow in self-judgement and pity. And then, just like that the line from The Beatles song "Hello, Goodbye" sprung into my mind. I was turning the corner onto the street I live on when it dawned on me that while particular emotions were saying hello and inviting me in for a poisonous tea, I was saying goodbye to those feelings and declining the offer. I had complete ownership over the feelings and waves of emotions that fell upon the shore of my mind. They come and they go. I do not need to accept any one emotion as truth and sit with it, analyzing and paralyzing myself in the process. I can simply allow them to come and go.
I now work three days a week at the school. I sandwich those days together in the middle of the week - Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Mondays and Fridays have become powerful days of learning for me. Nothing about adding freedom over time to my schedule has been easy. It wasn't an easy decision to make and each week I may experience very conflicting emotions about the time. But, I'm here for it. I'm here to experiment with myself as a creative being and worthy of the time and space that has opened up to me as a result of making the decision to work less. Work is a funny term - isn't it? When I use the term work, I think of activities that feel like a burden. I feel myself resisting and wanting to escape. Surely, not all work feels this way -- but I think work has a negative meaning for a lot of us. What would be the opposite of work? Interestingly when I typed that exact question into Google I was given the following words: rest, play, and fail.
If we welcomed and embraced the idea of rest, play, and failure would we feel different about work? I am reminded of the line "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" from Stephen King's The Shining. If you have dedicated time and space to not work and instead allow yourself to rest, play, and possibly fail, you might end up feeling different about work.
Do you approach work, especially on Monday, with AGH or do you approach it with interest and curiosity? If feelings come, but then don't go, you'll probably feel stuck, stagnant and maybe defeated. If you're noticing a pattern of emotions that arise around a particular day of the week or activity, what is it about the day or activity that is causing the emotions? In regard to a pretty common dislike of Mondays I think it has to do with people feeling like they didn't get enough time during the weekend to DO everything they wanted/needed to do and they felt rushed or depleted and then enter Monday with this exasperated feeling of wanting more time and feeling resentment at not having it. There is rarely time set aside for rest. I've been there and I know all too well that Mondays can feel like a mirror showing you all that you didn't get to experience over the so-called "break" of a weekend. We tend to jam a lot into the weekends because we are so damn busy during the work week. There it is again. Work. At least in the U.S. we tend to hear that description - don't we? We refer to Monday through Friday as the "work week". I am sure that is where my thoughts of "how dare you not work!" have come from. It is built into our culture that you put your nose down Monday through Friday and then you can look back up again at 3:00, 4:00, or maybe 5:00 on Friday. Such an icky cycle really.
What if it could be different? That is what I asked myself three years ago and then dared to work differently. I know that it is not easy to do things differently -- especially when it comes to something that is so engrained in us as adults. You work. It is part of adulting. Kids look at adults and see how tired they are and uninterested in things that brought them joy as a child and may really resent having to grow up! It looks hard and everybody is stressed! I desired a new narrative for my life, but also to model this to my children. I think the pandemic also showed many adults and kids that work needs to be different and we really need to put more concerted effort into other aspects of our life for our wellbeing.
How does Monday feel to you? What emotions arise when you think about work? Could you make a few small changes to create a shift in your schedule welcoming more space and time that is not for anyone else? I realize that moving from full time to part time or cutting your work hours at your current job may not seem possible for an enormous amount of reasons. However, I also thought it impossible too. Yet, I allowed myself to start imagining it and feeling its possibility in my everyday. The more I thought it possible and the more I looked at what I'd need to do differently in order to make it happen, it slowly came to fruition without me needing to force or demand it. It all begins with a shift in what you think is possible. Then, allow the emotions to come and go. They are visitors, treat them as such.