Of Love and Power Tools

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Just recently, I checked out a book on carpentry at my local library. (It outlines everything from basics to how to frame a house, the part I’m interested in. Written by this guy, it’s an excellent read-I highly recommend it.) Anyway, I started absently flipping through it during a lull in the lunch rush at work. I turned to the safety section and expected the standard, stern lecture on being constantly vigilant on the job and having no excuse for ignoring safety procedures. Instead, I read this: “humans simply cannot be plugged in like power saws and run all day long. Besides a body, you also have a heart and mind that need protection…most of my workplace injuries have occurred when I went to work with a battered heart.”

This was surprising and refreshing; I’ve never heard anyone talk like that in my 5 years of workplace experience. But it’s so true. I work as a cook, and have reached the level of skill where I don’t often get cuts or burns. But this spring, I had the final chance with the love of my life and royally screwed up. I can track our growing apart by my gradually healing burn scars: this batch are from when he said he never wanted to see me again, these ones are from when he told me he was back with his old girlfriend, and this cut is from when he wished me a happy birthday and I couldn’t think straight all day. I remember crying in the kitchen during the worst of it, my co-workers staring as if they had never seen anyone cry before, unsure what to do about it. Thankfully they were understanding when I sent out the enchiladas to the wrong table, but I’ve worked with and for many people who think that a human CAN just be left running all day like a power saw. I’ve done it all: the 15-hour days, the sleep-deprived commutes, the “flexible” schedule that you discover has flexibility for the boss’s schedule but not yours. And let me tell you, you’re better off working 30 hours a week calm, happy, and mentally present, than working 70 hours a week while miserable and spaced out. (There have even been studies confirming this!) So if you’re working on a project yourself, whether it’s (relatively) big-like a tiny house-or small-like knitting a sweater-follow your instincts. If you’re heartbroken, angry, or anxious, don’t force yourself to work, unless you think doing something will help you clear your head. Take care of your heart and mind, as well as your body. Try meditation (I say this, I should be doing it too!) Take on a big project in small, manageable parts. And if you are in a managerial position or own a business, be attentive to people’s moods and make sure they feel safe discussing personal concerns (within reason obviously!) ultimately you will be better off for it.

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