I’m sitting at the delivery end of my press. I’ve just finished off six strawberry cream cheese strudel bites and downed about 1/3 of a half gallon of milk drunken straight from the carton. But that’s okay, because even though a single ‘bite’ takes more like three bites to consume, the fact that they call them ‘bites’ makes me feel like I had six bites versus the actual 18 it took before my mind pulled the hand brake and cut me off.
It’s 10:25pm currently, and that has placed me at work for about 14 and a half hours. If I guess conservatively, I would estimate that I have about 2 more hours to go before I have completed what I needed to today.
Notice that I used the term ‘needed’. I didn’t say should, or could, and I didn’t say want or required. Yet all of these terms contribute to this need.
I’ve been hit with a rush of end of the year jobs where business and departments are trying to use up a budget or want to get stocked for the new year. Along with these jobs we’ve had a few clients who have simply procrastinated placing their order over and over again and now they have pulled the very last one from the box and have called out of desperation needing us to expedite the production of their particular item.
And finally, our largest client has sent three rush orders, on top of the rush order that was placed two days ago, which was on top of the standard order that was placed last week, that was on top of the two standard orders placed at the beginning of that week.
With Monday being eaten up by taking care of part of the tasks of a sick employee and working with a technician to solve the issues of one of our main machines until after 9pm. Then Tuesday being eaten up with many, many interruptions, a birthday party, working out a new inventory system and a few quotes that needed to be worked up and submitted; I find myself being ridden by the need to clear out this work at all cost.
It’s work that should be done, that could be done if I focused on it, I want to do it to satisfy our customers, and I am required to do it because of the commitment I have made to my customers and the need to keep them happy in order to stay in business. So, just like the cowboy who doesn’t work from 9-5 but gets up early and works until the work is done no matter what that time ends up being, here I am taking care of what I need to get done today in order to keep things moving forward tomorrow.
So I sit here at this table, my headphones in my ears as I listen to some Imagine Dragons on Pandora, and the sounds of the press tick-thumping (I don’t know how else to describe the sound other than a tick and then an overlapping thump…..a tick-thump) behind me in a steady, rhythmic, march.
I check the clock again. It’s now 10:49pm.
I was once asked: “What would be the first thing you would do in the morning if you didn’t have to go to work anymore?” Well, that really took me back. The obvious answer was that I would still have to go pee no matter what I was planning to do that day. That’s just the first thing that has to be taken care of! But obviously the question was intended to be deeper than that.
As I really paused and tried to ponder on that question and allowed my mind to consider what the options could be had work not been a requirement any longer, I suddenly felt a stampede of possibilities come crashing in. I immediately felt a jolt of energy as my mind raced like a giddy little boy. And that’s the truth of the whole scenario! You take away some of those required tasks of adulthood and you are a kid again!
You see, its time. Have you ever sat back and considered what the reality of time has done to us? I mean really think about it. In our adult lives we eat up time like its chili cheese fries being handed to us after living off of bananas and coconuts on a deserted island for the last three years. And the worst part about it is that it literally seems like it keeps gaining speed with the passing of each year!
We have careers and families, deadlines and dance classes. We have honey-do’s and civic duties. Lifestyles to maintain and ladders to climb. And heaven forbid we happen to get sick or some unexpected life event interrupts our day to day time matrix and throws off the balance of the universe!
Now before your head explodes and you start to dial your therapist, just take a deep breath and close your eyes. I want you to imagine you. But instead of the slave to time that you are currently, I want you to hop in your Delorean and travel back to the age of about 7.
Yes we had school and dance (not for me of course, I was never involved in froofy stuff like that………) but it was somehow different. It was as if the days were just running into each other rather than any formal beginning or end.
Here’s an example; back then if I got tired, BOOM!, I’m asleep. And I stay asleep until my mom comes and rolls me off of my Hot Wheels covered floor for dinner. After dinner it’s play time and then somehow the magical ferries of dream land all work together and I go to bed at 9 and sleep very, very soundly until I’m awoken again at 7 the next morning.
I mean Sunday wasn’t ever really a day was it? It was more like an event that happened between Saturday night and Monday morning. Why? Because I’d get up and we’d all go to church as a family. Then I’d come home and have dinner and go to bed. Then somewhere around 5 or 6pm I’d get woken up for dinner, but I guess this was more of a second dinner because I already eaten earlier before I went to bed-first dinner……and then after second dinner it’s back to bed and then it’s Monday.
And the best part about the whole thing was:
A. I didn’t care that I just slept all weekend! I wasn’t missing out on anything and anything that I didn’t do over the weekend I could just do during the week or next weekend. No big deal!
B. I could sleep all day and turn around and sleep soundly all night too!
Now contrast that with adulting; It’s Sunday and I’ve come home from church and I am feeling good and tired. I deliberately sit in my chair, reclined back with my feet up, and I allow myself to doze….but that’s it!!! Why? Because if I actually sleep that would be a huge waste of time. This is MY time. I don’t want to waste it sleeping. I should do something, anything! Because I’m here and I don’t have to do anything so I should do something!
The other sad, sad truth is that if I do sleep comfortable for longer than 1/2 hour that somehow gives me rest overload and instead of not being able to sleep for the first 1/2 hour of the night to make up for that nap it somehow multiplies into 5 hours and I toss and turn until 3am Monday morning.
The other issue I run into is ‘Project Completion Anxiety’. This is defined as an anxiety that motivates you forcefully to complete the project you have started NOW because if you don’t who knows when you will be able to finish and if anything goes wrong alarms will sound, tools will fly, and you will commence screaming at the top of your lungs in a 3-year-old stomping temper tantrum that will be seen, and heard, by all of your neighbors. Oh, and by the way, there is pretty much the guarantee that something will go wrong because you having so much anxiety over the completion in the designated amount of time that you are rushing every aspect of the project.
It is now 11:37pm
One of the things that I would call my hobby is working on my 4×4 toys. I had actually decided that I was going to go to a tech school to be an automotive mechanic before I met my wife and headed down the path of owning this print shop. But that’s a story for another time.
I really enjoy working on things mechanical like that. There is a lot of satisfaction to doing it yourself and mending something that was broken. I also like to do it because I learn the vehicle better and understand better how all the components work together. This is especially advantageous if you run into a break-down out in the middle of nowhere. Part of the love that I have for ‘the drive’ and the vehicle that I partner with is the work and effort I have put into that vehicle.
Recently I started hearing a consistent ‘ticking’ noise coming from Sami’s (my Suzuki Samurai) transfer case. After trying to diagnose it several different ways I finally decided that I would have to pull the transfer case apart and actually look inside to see what the issue was.
As I realized this was my only option that ‘Project Completion Anxiety’ began to build within me. I knew that once I found the time to pull Sami into the shop and start that I wouldn’t be able to do it all in one shot. Because I would have to open it up, find the broken part, order that part, wait for it to arrive, and then I would have to wait until I had another slot of time open in order to put it all back together and who knows when that would be!!! Meanwhile, Sami would be sitting in the shop, taking up space where I work to do other projects, lifeless and unusable. So if I happened to have an evening that I could just take off and go for a ride for some ME TIME…..I wouldn’t be able to do that.
But all I could do is bite the bullet and get to work. Because if I didn’t resolve the problem it could strand me completely or it could cause more damage than was already done. So I dropped it out, opened it up, and found the broken piece. The part was ordered, shipped, and arrive a couple of weeks later.
The evening soon arrived that was an open time slot where I could piece the transfer case back together, re-install it under Sami, and be up and running again. And that’s when it all started again; ‘but what if something goes wrong and I can’t finish it tonight’. Or ‘what if I don’t do it right and not only waste this evening but also another evening having to re-do it again’.
Well I got to work piecing it back together and just as I was almost finished I realized something was wrong. I would check the gears to make sure they were all meshing together and spinning freely, then I would do the final tighten of the case and check them again and this time they would be frozen stiff. So I would loosen the case and then they would spin freely.
I kid you not when I say that I took that thing apart and re-assembled it three times, each time running into the same perplexing problem and each time with rage building more and more inside! I WAS RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!!!!!
Finally on the fourth try I realized that a shim was just thick enough that the final turn of the case bolts put just enough pressure on that shaft to stop the gears from spinning freely. A simple fix and the case was together and spinning like it should. It was then bolted into it’s new cradle, lifted up into Sami’s belly, and all bolted back together. An attentive test-drive confirmed that I had done the job right. It may not have been pretty or timely but it was done and functioning like it should.
I remember relaying the frustrating story to my wife, how each time I pulled the case apart in an attempt to figure out what the issue was my blood pressure would rise more and more because the nagging aspect of time was constantly there taunting me by saying ‘this is your only chance, if you don’t do it now who knows when your next chance will be’. I told her that it took all of the fun out of the process. Instead of me enjoying my hobby, it had become a burden.
This type of thing happens too often to me. I find time controlling my thoughts and even worse than that; my emotions. It is such a large part of our every day lives. It’s like one of those glass half full or half empty things except for me all I see is the glass filling up and overflowing and making a huge mess that is just another thing that eats time out of my day as I clean it up.
Well……I guess it’s officially Thursday now. 12:10am
So back to the question: What would be the first thing you did in the morning if you didn’t have to go to work anymore? My answer: I would just take my time getting ready at a leisurely pace and deciding what to do that day.
Just typing those letters feels so calming and gratifying. Even when I do ‘sit back and smell the roses’ it’s really just an act because somewhere in my thoughts the responsibilities, restrictions, and requirements of my adult life still echo back and forth to each other. Time is still there.
So what do we do? Welp, I have no clue. That’s why I am writing this post. I want to hear what your ideas are. What do you do to battle this thing called time. How do you revert back to your childhood in an attempt to lower your blood pressure and enjoy a solid nap on the floor? What is your antidote to the ever present pressure of time weighing on every decision you make and every activity you participate in?
Well, I guess that’s it. I’ve finished the run that I needed to, cleaned up, shut down the press, and I’m ready to head for home. Tomorrow, or should I say today, is A New Day.