I hope you’ve enjoyed these dispatches. This week I have a trio of posts that resonated deeply with me. The first is a long, dark read but it spoke to me. Like a great song that won’t stop replaying, this post has bounced around my head since I first saw it.
The second runs with the 40-hour work week and how it came to be. What if it could be better? And finally, your lifestyle has been designed for you. Corporations are plenty happy we’re gasping for entertainment with our limited free time. They’re delighted we’ll toss dollars at them for a smile.
Facebook is surface; Twitter is subtext, and judging by what I’ve seen, the subtext is aching sadness.
So now you’ve got this degree that’s worth fuck-all, a house that’s worth more as scrap lumber than as a substantial investment, and you’re either going to lose your job or have to do the work of two people, because there’s a recession on. Except they keep saying the recession ended, so why are you still working twice as hard for the same amount of money?
—Everyone I know is brokenhearted.
I read this post earlier this week. I’ve since read it a few more times. It moved me. It’s sums up how I am feeling. It’s a long piece and a dark one. But it resonated deeply within me.
It’s how I feel. Brokenhearted. Sad. Depressed. Just rundown and run out like there’s nothing left.
I don’t watch the news, I get my news through social media. And that’ just as bad. I’m still exposed to the suffering everywhere. But I can’t change it. It’s a non-stop misery machine.
There’s so much wrong with our country and our world. It’s overwhelming. And it’s depressing. And we’re working ourselves to death.
The United States now leads the pack of the wealthiest countries in annual working hours. US workers put in as many as 300 more hours a year than their counterparts in Western Europe, largely thanks to the lack of paid leave. (The Germans work far less than we do, while the Greeks work considerably more.) Average worker productivity has doubled a couple of times since 1950, but income has stagnated—unless you’re just looking at the rich, who’ve become a great deal richer. The value from that extra productivity, after all, has to go somewhere.
— Who stole the four-hour workday?
I’m working more and longer hours but not seeing any more money for it. I’m working for health insurance, since one illness could derail my entire life into bankruptcy. Even with insurance, this is still a threat.
I have very little time off which means I savor it, and spend it sparingly. I don’t schedule doctor or dentist visits because it would mean losing hours of paid leave.
Even when I’m not at work, I’m tethered to my digital leash of email and cellular technology. I’m expected to be available or to perform work on my time with my equipment. I’m expected to jump when the company says to and gleefully reply, How high?
Without time off, we lack free time and before long, I find my lifestyle has already been designed for me.
The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce.
I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing.
The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.
Time is the only resource we can’t get back. Our time is finite and there’s no amount of paying, praying or begging that will make more time.
There can always be more money. There can never be more time. By spending 8 hours a day working, we lose our time. Often to things that aren’t worth the investment.
And that’s only the workday. My commute is an hour each way, if I’m lucky. So there’s another 2 hours I’ve lost getting to and from a job.
I savor my evenings, weekend and the rare holiday like I do my accrued time off. But I spend it less carefully.
Weekend are usually time to sleep. And repair myself. To try to bring some balance to a life that’s far off-kilter.
I try to regain some of my humanity before Monday and the grind starts again. As the weeks go on, I am worn down and I make worse choices. I spent more, I try to find entertainment and happiness in things and not experiences or people who bring more and longer-lasting joy.