As George says, ‘Don’t work harder, work smarter’

As George says, ‘Don’t work harder, work smarter’

The winter sun is brilliant and stark, reflecting in a million gleams off the surface of several inches of snow in my backyard.

I make a second pot of coffee this morning before I sit down to write, and my toes feel cold against the floor. I have a scramble of letters in my brain begging to be put into the shape of a poem or essay, maybe even an ode to my survival tactics. One day at a time, I tell myself, just one minute, hour and day at a time. A savory quiche sounds nice for supper.

Tiny electric shocks travel through me each time a new idea forms, and I furiously jot down the fragmented idea of it before it slips away into nothingness, that abyss where all the ideas go to hide. My tentative list of ideas/goals calls out to me and laughs at my nerve: write your fiction novel, reply to that email, interview people for that article idea that never leaves you, promote your book, take time to read for pleasure.

It has been difficult to shuffle my thoughts into sequence, and even more difficult to put into action. I will not beat myself up over unproductivity. I will be a better manager of my time.

Life, especially these days, is really too short to beat yourself up. Some days are meant for working hard and churning out what needs done. Other days are meant for fat slices of chocolate cake for breakfast.

I haven’t been able to read properly in years. Anyone else having the same issue? Last week when everything threatened to overwhelm me, I sat down in my silent house and forced myself to read. I left my phone in the other room, and as the paragraphs soaked into the dry sponge of my mind, I could feel the weight of the world lifting with each sentence. Humans aren’t meant to grind out endlessly each day until we drop.

My grandson is 6 months old this week. He loves to chew on everything and tries hard to talk to me in gibberish over FaceTime. He knows the phone and that it holds people and noises, and his dad let him hold it as I talked to him. I needed a grounding in reality because the air in our world seems vaporous, paper-thin, an unbearable pain that makes my skin feel tender to the touch. When I want to question why I do what I do and say what I say, I hop on the phone with Nico and watch him babble and coo.

I made beef barley vegetable stew the other day. I received a red Dutch oven for Christmas, something I have always coveted, and I fried the beef cubes in oil and a bit of butter, salting and browning them nicely.

As I stirred the beef, adding onion and a sprinkle of flour, I thought about the things we do when much seems upside down. We do things that comfort us, rounding off the rough edges that make us bleed and wonder. I chunked up carrots, potatoes, celery and mushrooms and added them to the pot, along with ½ cup barley, tomato paste, tomato sauce, a bottle of beer and beef broth.

Maybe attaining goals is as simple as making a beautiful stew, ladling it into a bowl, and serving it with a slice of homemade bread and hunk of cheese. My daughter told me the cheese was a total grandma move, alluding to my own mom, who always served soup with a slice of cheese.

Ideas and the doing of them will always be there. I no longer desire to live in a society that places emphasis on productivity over people. It’s upside down when the profit of one is more important than the good of all.

I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t want to be so busy making a living that I forget to make a life. My husband works very hard at a business he created long ago, but he also knows how to rest hard. He has always said, “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” And with that, some reading for pleasure is calling me.

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