6 November 2007

The full measure of the day

I had an email from a dear reader yesterday asking for some thoughts on a life-career dilemma. Although I don't see myself as an expert on such matters, this is what I think about it, I am sure that there will also be some intelligent and thoughtful comments that may help. This is part of the email:

"I would like to suggest a post idea or just tap into your experience. I am 50 in December. My daughter is well educated and has a job in her chosen profession. I have some financial slack, but not masses. I would like to work 4 days in place of 5 days, but my employer refuses, as once these days are gone, they are gone (so they say). I just really struggle with putting my heart and soul into my work, as it doesn't meet my evolving goals of living simply and well. Although I am pretty well paid, I would like to spend more time on other pursuits. I feel trapped when looking for other jobs due to my age, but probably need another five years if not ten of full timish employment.
How did you/ would you cope during a time of transition such as this? Is it normal to lose interest in a profession as you get older?
My job is not dreadful, just feels stale and some of the people are literally waiting for the grim reaper and can be pretty negative company.
Just some thoughts, I know I can't be the only one in this boat."

While I am very much aware that we all need a certain amount to live on, I think you should also consider your level of happiness and satisfaction. In my own situation, I went from being a very ambitious career woman who competed every day against men to secure work for my own company, to realising that I didn't want that anymore. That happened over a period of a couple of months, although I did have nagging feelings of regret for a year or so before I decided to do something about it. I'm not sure if it's common to most women but I certainly know how you're feeling.

I have always had the view that I should truly live every day of my life. I want to be open to new experiences, I want to learn something new every day and I want to earn happiness and satisfaction by doing the best I can, no matter what I am doing. I love the term, "the full measure of a day" - that is what I strive for every day. If each day holds a different potential that needs to be identified and mined to to its full extent, I am there with my sleeves rolled up every morning, ready for it. Some days that potential is glaringly obvious with a day full of works in progress, and some days it's simply to take in the joy of each hour, to observe and feel truly alive and grateful for it.

Each hour, day, week, month and year of your life is yours to make the best of. I have an old friend who, when we lived in a mining town together, used to say she wouldn't put a garden in because it wasn't her real home and those things would have to wait until she moved to her "real" home. I was of the opposite opinion, that those years we spent there were part of my life just as this is now, and I had to find the best that I could in each day. That is when I learned how to garden, keep chooks, preserve and stockpile.

If you don't feel appreciated or enthusiastic about your job now, and they won't let you downsize your job, can you start looking for another job? I know it's tough finding a job at age almost-50 but there must be some companies who need mature, well trained people. Is it possible to send your resume around? Don't wait to find an advertisement in the paper, just send your resume to companies you'd like to work for and see what happens. You might be surprised. Also, go to an employment agency and submit your resume. Look at work in another kinds of jobs too, you don't have to keep doing what you're doing now. I run our Neighbourhood Centre two days a week, it's the most rewarding and interesting job I've ever had and I would never have thought to choose that kind of work before. So look outside the square when you're looking for work. In Australia now we have more jobs that we have people to fill them, I'm not sure what the situation is where you live but you might be surprised if you venture into the job market.

In the meantime though, and this is very important, remember that each day is part of your life that you'll never get to relive when you're in a better situation. Despite its complications, your job is part of your simple life. If you can't change it, don't let it change you. Take your craft or reading to work with you and incorporate them into your breaks, take your lunch to work, take time to relax while you're there with brief deep breathing or stretching breaks, find some library books that will teach you new skills and read them at lunchtime. Do whatever you can within the confines of your work situation to make you feel better about being there.

I think you should try to get another job where you work the hours you want to work, so you can wrap your life around a job you like. It looks like a two-pronged approach to me. Get that resume out to a lot of companies - even for work you haven't done before but would enjoy now, and while you remain in your current job, stop feeling trapped by it, take the bull by the horns and take your simple life with you to work. Realise you're in a period of transition and you are slowly working your way to a better life. And good luck.

I wonder what gems of wisdom we'll find in the comments box today. : )


  1. We can all do something, even if circumstances are not ideal, to advance ourselves towards the point we want to reach. My life ambition is to become a full-time homemaker, but since it isn't possible right now, I do what I can: work from home; study close to home; practice homemaking skills... life is full of surprises and compromises, and that's the fun of it!

  2. Rhonda and Anna have made some truely wonderful points. If the tunnel you've found yourself in seems really cloudy take a pen and write down all the things that you could change and are willing to and start right now and work on these. Remember you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. You might not find yourself surrounded by sunshine immediately but the clouds will start to lift, I've found this works really well for me and I'm 'biding my time' until finances allow for other changes in my simple life. Good luck and god bless

  3. Rhonda Jean, I left what was a "dream" job 10 years ago! (Oh gosh!) It still is a dream job. Why did I ever do that?! Many wonder.

    While surprisingly, I have no regrets, I do miss being a "mover and a shaker" and all the "kudos" from projects well done. I do miss the salary, but they gave me a huge raise just before I left, so obviously leaving wasn't about the money.

    I have taken other jobs since then, but they just haven't seen worth the money for my time. I might now take a job if it proved worthwhile, fitting my core beliefs, and paid very well, but am unsure, as time is exceptionally valuable to me.

    My advice to your friend -- get out of debt -- as fast as you can! Build up a stash of savings, learn to live on far less. Practice frugality with a vengence while you still have your job and find ways to appreciate the job you have, even if you have to be creative about it. You'll be amazed what freedom this can bring in the long run.

  4. Rhonda and Anna have given some very useful advice. My suggestion is to make this a transitional project - not one of abrupt change but one that happens gradually. To achieve transitional change, you will need to put your head in the right space. Not just dream about simple living but actually - irrespective of circumstances as Anna says - do what you can in the here and now. The other thing in downsizing the job is to say to your boss in these days of life/work balance there can be many ways to skin a cat (forgive the animal cruelty!). Perhaps you could work an hour or two less each day - and no overtime. Or perhaps you could have Monday mornings and Friday afternoons off. In either of these situations, you are there every day but you are working less. There is also the possibility of job-sharing. If a suitable person can be found and trained so that over a period of time she can move up to two days and you can go to three and when you do decide to leave someone will be trained and a smooth transition can be made. And if the other's circumstances permit, she might be able to step up to the plate and take over your role. That way your boss is kept happy. The work gets done - and you are gradually, transitionally on your way. I'm a great believer in the role of sound spiritual belief in life. God inspired direction has led me on many a great adventure! I have found that in this way the most radical lifestyle change can be undertaken to great benefit. Get heart, head and spirit going together in the right direction - this takes time. But gradually you will be enriched and one day.... well, one day you can invite us all to your blog to tell us of your great adventure and how it started with a desire and a letter to Rhonda.

    Blessings and bliss from The Trad Pad

  5. A few years back I was in this situation, couldn't leave my full-time job or cut my hours. One thing that helped was reading books on simple living during my lunch break. It was a small, doable step that made me feel I was moving in the right direction in a difficult spot. It helped me create a vision of what I wanted my life to be, which is what you were asking us to do in your post "Two Simple Strategies". I think your advice on this is right on the money, Rhonda Jean. I kept looking for opportunities to work less, and now I do.

  6. Hello

    I have been there. I would take a deep breath and go and lay your cards out on the table honestly and calmly. I would research other ways of working to present to them - teleworking from home, job-sharing, taking on a consultation-type role where you are paid consultation rates and work fewer days. Perhaps take a good look at your role and see if there is a way you can value add to a specific area and specilize as well as downsize eg. develop your knowledge into a training role. There are lots of different WAYS to work.

    But the bottom line I think is to be completely honest, both from your own perspective and from their perspective. Ackowledge openly the value you provide them, the experience and skill set you bring, your work ethic, your loyalty. Tell them you have no intention of resigning but you are at a stage in your life where you have to be committed to your own needs and your current position is not meeting those needs. Yes, you may be the 'first one' - there always has to be a 'first one', generally the most courageous and the most passionate of us are the 'first ones'.

    I think it's also important to have lots of headspace to get your thoughts around these momentous moments in our lives when big changes are afoot so get plenty of 'you' time, take some leave, find quiet spots to contemplate.

    '50' is a perfect age to start something new...and when you look around, there are more and more mature workers in the workforce. There is nothing stopping you starting to put out feelers, line up referrees and spreading round your resume. Perhaps take a new look at what jobs are on offer -when a job becomes a means to an end - ie. earning a dollar - and not a lifestyle, it is amazing the things we are prepared to consider. I have taken a huge backstep in my current position to enjoy the benefits it brings - less hours, less demands - and yes, a sense that I don't have to 'care' as much anymore that I am not in charge, that my hours outside of work are not filled with work worries. The big decisions are not mine and wow, that feels great.

    Go forth you wonderful, thoughtful, generous soul, and find that 'fit' that is going to make your heart sing every morning you wake up. I say approach your old work, start looking for new work and take some time off as well. Good luck.


  7. I think "Bloom where your planted" applies here. I agree to work towards finding a job that provides a work environment that suits but start changing the way you live, now, where you are. I guess what I'm saying is I agree wholeheartedly with Rhonda Jean...lol

  8. Rhonda Jean said: "Remember that each day is part of your life that you'll never get to relive when you're in a better situation."

    I am 35 and more unhappy at work than I ever imagined was possible. I'm hanging on by my fingernails and trying to make small changes so that I can better appreciate the fulness of this life I have, while at the same time looking hard to move on to new pastures.

    Thank you Rhonda Jean for this blog which I only discovered last week, but which I have begun to look forward to every day. I live in the UK, so I read your morning posts before I go to bed and, because you are writing 'ahead' of GMT, it feels like you make a hopeful start to my day even before it has begun :)

    On a practical note to your reader - because it is so much easier to look objectively at another's situation than at one's own ;) - I would agree with others who have suggested taking practical solutions to make it easier for your boss to meet your request. Your employer may see your initial request for reduced hours as a move on your part towards retirement and he/she is probably rightly worried that if your department loses a day of someone's time then they will struggle hard to justify an increase in staff hours when you eventually leave. And while YOU are probably a huge asset and could do the job standing on your head in 4 days, they may not be so lucky next time. If you want to win him/her over to your request then you will need to wite a business plan which spells out the benefits to the company, perhaps including options like jobshare, home working if these seem feasible.

    If you feel it is time to move on then you should explore all your options carefully and make a plan. I don't know what country you live in but here in the UK, it is possible to get free careers advice at any stage in your career... is this an option open to you? Otherwise, what other contacts do you have that you could make use of? Begin to put the feelers out... 50 is not too old by any stretch of the imagination. You may just need to work on bringing your confidence up to the level of your competence and experience... I wish you all the best in the world xxxx

  9. I think we women as a whole tend to talk down the skills we have. When outsiders see what you have to offer (in a resume, or during an interview), they see the experience and how it can be more widely applied. Recruiting companies are a great way to get an expert eye and audit of the skills you have. They also keep in touch with local employers and would be a good place to begin. Me: I spent 13 years with the same organisation and it was only after I left to look after my family that the job offers started rolling in - literally. I've never knocked back so much work in my life! And my earning power has been diminished a little, but my life is great. The grass can be greener on the other side.

  10. I'm in this age group too, and was feeling thoroughly bored and sick of work last year. I had enough in the bank to last a couple of months, so I just said no to work at an opportune juncture, and took that time off. It was wonderful. Recharged my batteries completely. Do you have some long service leave due to you? The advice to build up a "running away fund" (as my mum used to call it) for this purpose is very good advice I think. It is surprising how little you spend when you are not working, as long as the mortgage is covered. I am a contractor, so I could stop working without actually burning my bridges when the opportunity arose. Can you find contract work in your field? That makes it easier to take longer, more frequent breaks.
    I find that at this age, I to and fro between loving and hating work a lot. I value good interesting work, where I am learning new things, and also value good time at home, but loathe wasting time in either space. And its not so much the work I don't like, as the getting there and back - it seems like time that could be spent better. Another suggestion is to plan a big dream thing to do when you do bite the bullet and leave your job. That could be a great motivation to save, and will give you a renewed purpose for being at work. Set a few goals and time limits for yourself. You will work it out, I am sure - it is a funny transitional time of life, and like everything else, seems to be working itself out in time for me.

  11. ITA with everything that has been suggested. Perhaps another thing to think about is to "go back" to study.... learning about something that really interests you can help you to see the everyday through new eyes. A change of perspective if not a change of heart about your job.
    It doesn't have to be study for a university degree, just an evening class or leaning a new skill or improving a skill you already have. Of course if you want to study for your PHD in Biology then don't let anything stop you. Whatever you do, enjoy :)

  12. Great post Rhonda-I can't wait to see the aprons. My daughters and I keep our aprons on all day. They are a life saver for our skirts or dresses. Blessings, Rose

  13. I've always found if it looks like there is nothing I can reasonably do to get to where I want to be, do nothing and wait and watch. Every time -- and I stress every time -- I've done this, a path opens. But you have to be sensitive to it and it takes a certain amount of bravery to act on it when it does open up. But you know it when it's there.
    It has something to do with intent, something to do with Taoism (or so my son tells me), something to do with intuition -- all that stuff "they" claim doesn't exist but you know, you know, you know it does.
    Sorry to be so vague but, not knowing the first thing about the job market and certainly not the one of which this writer speaks, it's as specific as I can get. It has always served me in times of decision.

  14. I sent a comment, yesterday morning. I think it got sucked into a vortex.

  15. suzen, the last comment I received from you as the one where you were drooling over my homemade lunch. : )

  16. I want to pass on the thanks from the lady who wrote about her work problem:
    "First of all, a big heart felt thank you. I felt very, very down about my situation.I am taking today as leave to give my brain a break, I've got in a loop with it all!
    Your thoughtful post was full of gems to which I shall return and ponder; all of your readers who took the time to post all added their own wisdom - I don't feel so alone now."

    Thanks to everyone who made a comment. Simply by writing your words, you've made a difference in someone's life. : )

  17. Rhonda Jean,
    Lets see if I can remember the jest of it. Still drooling over the lunch though.

    I work a mandatory 10 hour day, 50 hour work week, which many weeks with meetings and such is usually more like 55 hours. Most weeks I have split days off. Most of the time I am just, sheer exhausted. My main priority is sleep, so I can get up and do it all over again; which leaves little time for anything else, especially time to stop and smell the roses.

    I have sat down numerous times, to try to find a way, to see if I only worked 3o hrs a week, doing something else, could I survive financially. I most possible could.

    The main reason I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, is I now have health insurance and disability benefits. The benefits I recieve, is hard to find at a part time job. Health insurance is a must, as I am a 2 year cancer survivior. I am also at high risk for cancer to come back. When I was in the middle of chemo, I lost my health insurance. I can not tell you what a nightmare that was. I now have over $45000.00 in medical bills. $35000.00 of that is for 4 chemo treatments.

    The second factor is the high cost of living in CA. We pay $1640 for a 900 sq ft. apt.

    What keeps all of this in perspective for me, is every day I wake up and go to work, means that I am healty enough to work. That is the blessing I so often, remind myself of.

  18. Dr. Christine Northrup, in her book The Wisdom of Menopause, enlightens us to our life cycle. As women, we fill caregiver roles, in one way or another. At this age, our bodies are telling us that "our time" has come, time to pay attention to our needs, time to refocus our attention on ourselves. I know for me, I take care of my family, I take care of my job, I don't always take care of myself, there isn't always time. Now that I've reached 50, I am coming to realize that no one is going to hand me a banner stating that my time has come, no one will give me that privilege, except myself. Just as I taught my children to eat, walk, talk, etc, I have to teach all those who depend on me to be independent and don't turn to me first. I am taking these steps, as Rhonda Jean has said, small baby steps. I have made a short-term goal to find a job in my town. It will not only give me extra hours a day, but it's getting in-line with my "green" goal. Good luck in this "transition" phase, just remember that the engine can be running, but unless it's in gear, 'that car ain't goin nowhere!'


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