To The Limit

There have been some alcoholics in my family.  That means I have a genetic capacity for addiction.  However, my drug isn’t alcohol.  It’s workohol. I’ve been waging a losing battle with my tendency toward overwork for the past 20 years.  I suppose like any other addiction, the first step is to admit it’s a problem.  My wife wasn’t able to help me with this one, because it’s been her problem too.  Part of moving away from the big city is an attempt to help us both cure ourselves from being workaholics.

In her case, the cost in wasted potential was significant.  Despite the fact that she had the talent to have been a top-level screenwriter or novelist, her life-force was pissed away over three decades of writing assigned news stories for the idiot box.  She worked overtime and most holidays.  Despite her big, fat 401k and the pension that will help make MY retirement a lot more financially comfortable than it would have been otherwise, I think she was robbed.  I’ve seen her unfinished works.  Her unpublished material is a hell of a lot more meaningful than the broadcast stuff that won her five Emmy Awards.  I understand what happened, though.  She couldn’t say no to the paycheck.

I’m more of a hard-core workaholic.  It’s not even about the money in my case.  If someone gives me tasks and sends the message that what I’m doing is important, I’m pretty much a goner.  Sometimes what I do really is important, but sometimes it isn’t, and I’m not a consistently good judge of which is which.  Either way, in the past I would give up weekends, holidays, family time and the chance to enjoy any aspect of nature’s beauty for work.  There was a sewage back-up at the building that houses the Urgent Care where I take X-Rays.  It’s been closed for two weeks.  Instead of taking pleasurable advantage of the unexpected time off, I immediately added shifts working at my other job.  Here I am in one of the most breathtaking vistas of the inhabitable part of the planet, working an average of 60+ hours every week.  I must be nuts.

Maybe this time I’ll get sober.  Once I finish qualifying for my new duties as a medication aide at the Dementia Care facility, my work will be less physically demanding.  It will be a better balance between brawn and brain.  Right now it’s about 75% weight-lifting and cleaning, 15% relating to patients and staff and 10% documentation.  The new job will be more like 25-25-25 on those three plus 25% medication preparation and pharmaceutical re-stocking.  I might even be able to take a couple of days off per week, if I allow myself to do it.  I hope I have the strength.

In the month I’ve worked there, two care-givers have quit.  One had been there a couple of years.  She got burned out and just stopped showing up, without bothering to call.  The other one decided after her first few days that she couldn’t do the job.  I should respect that level of honesty, but I’m ashamed to admit I don’t.  Something in me assumes you should take whatever crap is thrown at you, because work’s work.

I really must change this behavior.  There’s supposed to be more to life than trading time for pay.

I would be happy to entertain your suggestions.


Filed under debt, Emotions, Money, Self-Esteem

20 responses to “To The Limit

  1. To have the physical ability to work and earn one’s own money is a joy and a privilege that most people take for granted. I believe that being able to work gives one a sense of self-worth. I think it’s okay to be a workaholic as long as one enjoys what one is doing. The trick is to find balance and make time for family, friends and most importantly, yourself. And that is not always easy.
    Thank God you go back to work day after day. The world needs more caregivers like you. But you do need to take better care of yourself. Remember, you are of no use to anybody if you do not take care of yourself first.
    Don’t work hard. Work cleverly.

    • I knew it was possible to disagree with you philosophically, Tracy. I just wasn’t sure I would ever find an area in which it would happen…LOL.

      I agree that the care-giving is important, and I can do it. It hasn’t impacted the health of my body. It’s been good for me physically. It has been great exercise. I’m clever at it. I’ve introduced innovations, will soon have more responsibility, and will have increased my salary 50% within two months of working there.

      However, I believe people are inherently valuable just because they are such marvelous beings, luminous eggs of spirit energy with extraordinary capacities. The ability to draw pay should be a tiny footnote in comparison with celebrating that.

      I have relied upon having jobs far too much for a sense of self-worth. Being should be every bit as important as doing. It is the balance I do not know how to achieve properly – yet. We do agree about that.

      Perhaps the runner in you was speaking before the teacher and mom. I know you are working on that balance in yourself, and that it’s your own drive that takes you so far above the level of your chair.

      I learn so much in empathy with your challenges. I understand what about them is similar to my own and everyone’s challenge – to overcome the illusion, the trap of gravity. To remain sensitive when part of us is insensitive.
      That’s symbolism to a transfiguring degree.

  2. I don’t know that I see a problem with being a workaholic. I’m at a loss for how you would shut that off. You have too much passion Mikey. You believe that anything worth doing is worth doing to the best of your abilities. It’s ingrained in you. It’s part of who you are.
    Perhaps it’s not the “workaholic” aspect that is the problem, but rather the direction in which you shoot all that energy. It seems to me that what you need to do is balance it. Find another outlet for the same level of passion. Not all of your energy needs to go into one outlet, ie, the care-centre. Walk out the door at the end of your shift, knowing that you have another “job” to take care of. Be it entertaining your mom, mowing the lawn, or snapping beautiful pictures of the vista you’re surrounded by. You don’t need to focus all of your work loyalties in one place. And not all of your rewards need come in the form of cash. There are other payoffs available. You just need to learn to put as much value into them as you do a paycheck.
    It is possible, because I do it every day. I work hard, I work myself to the bone, I’m exhausted at the end of the day, but take comfort in knowing I was productive, I accomplished things. There’s no paycheck for what I do, but you know that my rewards are high. Like I said, I don’t think your work habits are the problem, maybe it’s your idea of what is “work” that needs some thinking on.

  3. If y’all are financially stable,and by your wife winning several Emmys I’d say y’all prolly have enough to live in comfort, why not give up the X-ray position and devote your work to the nursing home? Full time or part time is your choice, but it would probably give you more time to try to have fun.

    I think it would be an awesome job to write news stories, though it it truly is a shame if she never got to pursue other writing. Maybe now she can.

    • We both hope she can, but she’s in her sixties now, with orthopedic and pain-management issues that impact her clarity.

      She might agree with you that once upon a time when she began the work, writing news was fulfilling, but the nature of news-writing (especially for TV) has substantially changed now that news divisions are expected to be profit centers. No one benefits from another story about Tiger Woods’ infidelity problems, only good-looking victims of crime get coverage, and car chases get co-equal screen time with a Presidential speech. She grew to hate it, and it nearly devoured her physically.

      You might be right about the x-ray work. That’s a tough call after 4 years of training. I haven’t even paid off the loans.

      • Pie

        It sounds like that TV work nearly did for Mrs Invisible. However, she’s still here and as long as she has breath, she can pursue the writing she always wanted to, even at her age and even with her health challenges, though it obviously won’t be easy. Personally I believe she can do it – I’m hoping for it.

        As for you sir, all work and no play wears Jack out! As so many of the contributors have said in their own way, you can be an even stronger force for good when you are able to properly look after yourself.

        • I agree, with you and everyone else. I was experiencing a bit of burn-out. I had hit my limit from all that’s been required by the combination of 2 new jobs and preparing the move to our new house. After a decent sleep, a day of doing nothing but eating and thinking and writing about work (3 posts), I felt much better. I’m determined to change.

  4. Hi again, Mikey,

    I am once more pleasantly surprised at your level of personal disclosure. In spite of your desire to remain anonymous, which you do in terms of the identifying details, you have the guts to bare your feelings and foibles.

    I have been guilty of workaholism at different times in my life. As with you, money was never my motivator, but a sometimes distorted sense of priorities and a slightly skewed belief that only I could perform certain functions that others might fail at miserably. There were times when the needs of strangers took precedence over my own family and when I let obligations to others affect my health and well-being because I felt it was “the right thing to do”. As time has passed and I have lived through many personal losses, I have become so much more conscious of life’s meter ticking while I go about my business of “saving the world and trying to be the most conscientious”. Slowing down and learning to take care of myself has brought me and my family immeasurable benefits.

    In the end, as you know, the earth will continue rotating on its axis without you. You make a difference, not with the hours you put in but with the small moments of responding to someone’s needs on a human level and touching another life. I already know from your writing, that you are well aware of this

    You saw, with the addition of your brother’s grandchild, how time has flown away on invisible wings. It will continue to fly. Someone can always be found to do your job…maybe not as well as you…but nobody can be found to live your life and to give of yourself to the people closest to you.

    So take the first step. Choose yourself! Make a list each day or each week, if that works better for you, of 3-5 things you will do for yourself and for your wife during that period of time. Start small and gradually think bigger. Be committed to you, as much as you are to others. Be conscious of the feelings you have when you do something fun, personally satisfying, pleasurable. It will not change the fact that you are a good and giving person, but will replenish your energy and ability to continue to give. It will also become a habit as you do it more and more. You and everyone else will reap the benefits.

    Good luck and if you do it, let me know how it goes.



  5. That’s also good advice, Iris. I’m not used to acting in the manner you’ve suggested. I’ll have to consider it.

  6. Mikey, you reaped a heap o’ good feedback here. I have nothing to add in terms of advice, but I enjoyed this post and its “fallout”. Taking care of myself was something I was taught specifically not to do. I was taught to take care of those who should have been taking care of me. Bass-ack, if you know what I mean. This caused a lot of damage, to say the least. I am grateful for this reminder to treat myself better so that I can treat others better.

  7. Pingback: ARE YOU A WORKAHOLIC? CAN YOU QUIT ANY TIME YOU WANT? « Vision Powered Coaching Visitors Center

  8. hi mikey! just discovered your fab blog thru coach iris. ironically, today was the day i stopped the ship and got out to view the scenery here in suburban philadelphia. in the middle of the nite, i said to myself, ruthie, get thee to the buddhist monestery. so i went and had a beautiful encounter w/2 buddhists and the b’ful new temple they built. wrote about some of it on my blog. speaking of your wife’s unwritten novels, at 64, i just finished my first. what the hell was i doing all those yrs, in ask myself, instead of writing? yeah, i was working. helping people, like you. running my nonprofit for folks w/mood disorders and their folks. i’ll be checking in frequently w/you, invisible!

  9. Hi again, Mikey,

    I am so please Ruth has discovered you. She is someone with grace, talent, interesting life experiences, a unique perspective and amazing insights. I have known her since we were about 18, our very first semester at college, which was a long, long time ago.

  10. Hi again, Mikey,

    I am so pleased Ruth has discovered you. She is someone with grace, talent, interesting life experiences, a unique perspective and amazing insights. I have known her since we were about 18, our very first semester at college, which was a long, long time ago.

  11. lianamerlo

    Addiction also runs in my family, but I can say that I know I will never be a workaholic. I’m too addicted to my hobbies (art and such) to get stuck putting in crazy hours at work. Obviously, if something is needed I am happy to stay late. But it’s not a compulsion to always be working. Maybe it’s because my job is not necessarily my passion in life. Maybe you can take up a few hobbies so you have to divide your addiction between a few loves. And schedule some time for rest and relaxation!

    • Good suggestions, some of which I’ve already acted upon. I have plenty of absorbing hobbies. I just haven’t re-prioritized my life to allow time for them yet. The requirements of the move and 2 new jobs put things out of wack. I expect to make progress toward balance within the next month.

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