Getting a Real Life by Helga Marion Ross

Helga's Heartlines: A Journal
Saturday, June 16, 2001
Newmarket, Ontario

Hello to you, all of you who are living, and partly living! Please - take no offense. This admonishment is meant for me and any one in the same predicament as me. It is meant to bestir me, in the hope that my confessed self-criticism, loudly proclaimed, will add impetus to my intention and so far feeble efforts. For I am anxious, yet exceedingly cautious, to act; thus do I find myself temporarily stuck.

The awful awareness weighs heavily on me: you may be alive, but real life has been passing me by. "Life is a daring adventure, or nothing" in the immortal words of Helen Keller. I want to experience what you experience; I want to partake in your enviable situation. I hope, with your example and moral support to gain clearer direction, greater fortitude, more firm resolve; to at long last plunge headlong into life before it is too late.

I don't know about you – those others of you in my boat - but I am sick to death of the rat race. Can you tell me honestly that you still leap out of bed each morning suffused with inspiration and motivation, a burning desire to beat a path to the office ahead of the pack in order to impart your wisdom, expertise and authority for the benefit of the Corporation? How long will you let yourself, your energy and creativity, be used up? You think they pay you what your time – the time of your life – is worth? Or, are you deluded into believing in your own importance? Don't be deceived by your upward mobility; you will reach the sublime level of your incompetence, eventually, if not, in spite of it. Hopefully you won't burn out, first, or be ultimately unceremoniously downsized.

Oh, you're telling me you're one of the privileged ones to be able to telecommute. You have more time available to you in your life as a result, right? More freedom? Maybe you don't feel guilty whenever you goof off? Good thing the Powers That Be aren't quite ready yet, with interactive TV, to monitor your every move. Then watch how much better Big Brother will be able to watch you when you call in from the local golf course or "watering hole".

As far as I'm concerned, unless you work for yourself, a la "Me Incorporated", "Changing the place of work to the home is like emigrating from Romania to Ethiopia in search of a better life. Flextime is for professionals who, as the office joke goes, can work any sixty hours a week they like. It is not for the service sector where the greatest numbers toil; it will not do for fry cooks to flex their prerogatives at the lunch hour nor bus drivers at rush hour. Job enrichment is part pep rally, part painkiller—uplift and aspirin. Even workers' control, which most American managers find unthinkable, is only self-managed servitude, like letting prisoners elect their own guards." ('No Future for the Work' by Bob Black, 1992)

Work is play and play is work. That's the truth of it. Bob advocates the "ludic" life, a "ludic" revolution. I'm with him. Imagine if we turn The Program inside out. Just look what happens when you engage in an endeavor you love. For example, I love to write. I have spent as many as twelve hours at a stretch, with scarcely a break, to do it and get it right. Voila! It's like no time has passed. I've also had the added benefit of enjoying myself. Ah, if only I had more time for more of it.

My day job interferes with my life! However, as they say, it's a living. Unfortunately, it pays whereas my passion for writing doesn't - A bad bargain to have to sell my time for my survival. I agree with Bob, "work makes a mockery of freedom". As if this isn't enough to compound and frustrate my aspirations, I am compelled to write about things I feel passionate about. I am not interested in selling hype or marketing better mousetraps, even though I'm perfectly capable of it. I don't want to write fiction either. Why, when real life is miraculous? I believe the world of ideas and the exploration of world events, personalities and societal trends is infinitely more fascinating than silly stories.

All this being said, let me tell you, it is not easy to orchestrate a life! After thirty years of dedicated service to the Company and to an As-If Existence, I've been working at It – Real Life - for almost two years. You, who have been there before me, must know what I mean. That is, unless you're one of the lucky ones to have been granted the rarified gift of a truly generous golden handshake. Otherwise it's difficult to kick over the traces without shooting yourself in the foot. You've got to be deft on your feet to do it and get away with your life successfully; that is, remain reasonably financially secure and psychologically stable. No, I dare not undo all the effort of the last three decades in a sudden fit of pique or mad moment of impetuosity. Meanwhile the painful truth is every day that goes by is a further test of my patience.

Nevertheless – pitfalls and all - in my own defense, with my goal in mind to secure my escape from Wage Slavery to Freedom 'Fore 55, I can claim credit for taking some concrete, albeit baby steps toward this desired end. I am happily on the way to redundance! Also, (full?) recovery of my physical and mental health.

Not fast enough! You see, I am still useful to the company until we are in the mutually desirable position that my services are no longer useful. Thus, no severance package, should I decide to leave, prematurely. In Canada the life sentence for the most heinous crime there is, murder, is 25 years. What did I do to deserve this!

However, I'm happy to say I have reached a milestone in the satisfaction of my ambition. I have successfully managed to stop killing myself for the Company. The work I do now – highly advantageous as jobs go at my stage of awareness - is mindless, which means I can think about things. I'm aware of the irony here and that this at least is a blessing. The trade off for more of my precious time. I almost burst out laughing the other day when I took the time during a coffee break to search the web and came across "A Sobering Thought: What if, right at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential? "~ Jane Wagner (1935- ) ~ US humorist, writer, director. Funny, yet scary, the notion set me off to punching the keyboard ferociously after I got home to create something (meaningful?), hence this article!

When I tell my colleagues I can't wait to be free they look at me askance. Most of my peers and contemporaries are puzzled. The ones I know who have been offered their freedom are panicked. They ask me and themselves "what I will do with myself"? They don't see the magic in this opportunity or the irony in their question. Imagine. To actually have a choice! Even in the smallest thing, like whether to stay in bed for an extra half hour, or get up extra early to watch the sun rise, linger over several cups of coffee and the morning newspaper.... It's the difference between living in the moment and running on a schedule by which you can predict for all practical purposes your entire day/week/month/ and even longer in advance.

So, some of you have a problem with this - spontaneity, doing what you feel like, doing nothing, wondering what to do, even wondering what there IS to do. The daily timetable of rising at 6:00, catching the 7:00, being at the desk by 8:00, and so-on and so-on gives you comfort. Well, it drives me nuts! The longer I go along with these tiresome daily routines and scramble along with the herd, the more I'm reminded of our kinship with the rest of the mammalian world - for example, sheep and lemmings; hamsters having the time of their lives spinning their exercise wheels.

I have some good news for you worried ones. For those of you wondering what to do with your freedom and the rest of your life, I spotted a treasure a while ago whilst sipping my capaccino at Starbucks. There on a bookshelf nearby I found a new bible, "The Joy of Not Working: A book for the retired, unemployed, and overworked" by Ernie J. Zelinski, C.L. ( Connoisseur of Leisure) Like The Bible, it tells you everything you need to know to resolve your Life crisis, but doesn't exclude humor in its presentation. Check Chapter 7, "Lighting the Fire Rather than Being Warmed by it", pages 118-120, for a list of 200 activities for your consideration.

As I said, I don't have a problem wondering what to do. For me, there are so many interests there will never be enough time even with a license to live my Life. I am eager but stuck. It is a fact of life that I will have to scale back somewhat to do what I want. I am not a CEO at the Corporation, or an MP or Prime Minister in the government. Thus I must sell my house. Even though I am prepared to make the supreme sacrifice there seems to be a celestial conspiracy: the market isn't moving. I have my sights on a gorgeous piece of property that carries like rent, an idyllic location for me and my Muse, but will it wait for me?

Well, they say when things happen they happen all at once, so we will see.... I'll let you know if and when my Real Life really begins. If I can do it, anyone can!

Copyright 2001 Helga Ross

Rest Room