Tuesday, May 5, 2020

on my terms: my work-life balance in the time of COVID

I just did a really rash thing.

I turned down a Bar Mitzvah student.

While there are some perfectly legitimate reasons for doing this, including spotty wifi where we live and the fact that teaching private students online is not my ideal, the honest-to-goodness truth is that

I am burned out on working with kids, and

I am burned out on wrestling with my synagogue's leadership.

As soon as I saw the email, I could feel the pit rise in my stomach, and the sorrow trying to creep in.
And I knew that in this time and place, I would get absolutely no support from the synagogue leadership, or even from my spouse, for the processing I still have to do with my decade-long struggle regarding my ongoing involvement with my home shul. They've moved on. And so must I.
So I turned down the family, and then I sent an email to the shul asking to be removed from the tutor list.

Right now I am doing reasonably well.

I am scavenging bike parts and other ephemera and flipping them at a profit.
I am taking bikes in from friends and their friends, for tune-ups and repairs.
And honestly, that is about all I can handle.
It's all I want to handle.
I like not working forty to fifty hours a week anymore.
And if I can pay the bills and work less, well, that's what I plan to do going forward.

Is it selfish? Well, yes, on some level it is. But right now it seems okay.

In this time of COVID, we are all being given an opportunity to reconsider the way we use our time, talent and energies. And I have decided that at this point in my life, if I can't count on a "retirement package," I can still choose how I spend my time. Now that we're not shopping for entertainment, now that we're staying home and giving ourselves permission to breathe a little biut, I am fine with things as they are for the time being.

I am also in the beginning of a process of rethinking not only my professional life as a Jewish musician, I'm looking at my personal Jewish practice (such as it is) and wondering what pieces of it remain relevant and useful. In this time of self-isolating and social distancing, how am I connecting with other people? If we really are looking at least another 12 months of this before it's safe to come together again, what will stick, and what will fall away like chaff?

It's too soon to tell.

But I do like being able to do be useful on my terms. And after so many years of having to do what others demand of me, in the way they expect it to be done, it is really lovely and restorative to be able to be useful on my terms.

I can enjoy making bikes good again. I can enjoy the novel solutions I come up with that are unusual but which work just fine. I can encourage people to ride more and drive less. And I can decide how long I work each day and listen to my body for signs that I need some rest.

If I can't have financial security in this time and place -- if a ruthless, narcissistic President I didn't vote for truly has the power to starve me out, then I don't need to be productive for him or for his cronies.

And I can be useful and creative and all the rest in as quiet and gentle a way as I can, and call that a good life.

I look forward to the end of this emergency, AND I know we have quite awhile yet before that happens.
So for now, I'll do what I do and be grateful for all I have, all I can do and all whom I love.

Happy riding.

1 comment:

anniebikes said...

Oh Beth, this sentiment is timely to me and I imagine lots of others who are struggling to find balance when so much of our normal lives has been upended. I was furloughed weeks ago, back when we thought two weeks out of work was an opportunity to get to projects we'd put off. Fast forward 6 weeks in and I've found balance, which means doing little projects - nothing major - and taking good care of myself while helping my mother and brother. Nothing too taxing either as I've found that grocery shopping is stressful enough. I'm not bored either, as we're in the midst of selling our house, moving in June into a newly constructed house. There've been decisions to make, etc. so keeping busy and looking forward to a new location.