Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What I'm Reading

For the work I do, I read a great deal. In fact, I could do nothing but read for 24 hours a day, and still not be caught up on everything there is in my line of business. It's important to know what superstar has written what cutting-edge thing so that I can at least appear knowledgable at conferences and cocktail parties. Of course, I write, too. A lot. It comes with the territory.

Clearly, I wouldn't do what I do if I didn't enjoy it a great deal. However, I find that many people in my line of work have a tendency to infuse who they "are" with what they "do". A few years ago, I found myself doing this too. At the time, I was sharing a lovely apartment with a friend, and I never left my bedroom because my office was a delightfully-lit alcove attached to my sleeping quarters. Because I typically don't prefer working at a desk, I would make myself more comfortable by plopping on my queen sized bed and working from there. This work style would lead to reading and napping, and dreaming in the language and literature of my profession. Inevitably, stacks of what I was working on would end up in bed with me, and I literally started sleeping with my job. Only, at the time, I didn't see it this way. I merely considered myself to be a purist, and the books in my bed (literally under and between the sheets) were evidence of my committment and passion. This way of life gobbled me up and consumed me. If I couldn't sleep (which, go figure, was often), all I would have to do was turn my bedside lamp on, reach over, and choose from the human-sized stack of ink and parchment next to me.

Fortunately, it didn't take me long to realize that this relationship wasn't going to work out. I was way too co-dependent. My sense of self became wrapped up in knowing everything there was to know about my partner, ie, my profession. Meanwhile, the benefits I received in return were diminishing. Sure, I could say I knew more. I could navigate through a greater number of highly nuanced arguments with my colleagues. I could play the game of "I have read more than you have", but this really wasn't that important to me. At the end of the day, after work, I had nothing to come home to but more of the same. I wasn't dating. I was alienating myself from my friends. My sleep was fitful and disturbed. I was becoming someone I typically felt sorry for. Something clearly had to give.

The fabulous thing is that just as all habits can be made, they can just as easily be broken. I realized that I needed to set a boundary between work and play. I also needed to make my home a sacred place of rest, more or less a neutral zone, where I could entertain and relax, and most especially, not sleep with my work. Eventually, any relationship of diminishing returns must find its way to the curb. For me, the bed is not a place of continuous toil, but solely a place of pleasure, and sleep is as sacred as the sabbath.

I didn't take long for me to realize that it is entirely possible to simultaneously be an extrovert and still have a vast place inside of me where I can go to recharge and do my thinking. I reserve the daytime for the hard work, the spinning, the diplomatic endeavors and the enriching of others. I pour myself into it, and very often have little energy at the the end of the day to pour much more into myself. However, now I have put a reserve on that last 45 minutes before bed, where I give myself the time to let my brain unwind. It's the only time of the day (besides during yoga class) that I allow my mind to breathe. I journal. I draw. I read far beyond my field. Currently, I am reading Paulo Coelho's latest book, "El Zahir". I also keep an Arabic textbook next to my bed, because I like to lightly read and learn new words before I go to sleep. I wake up knowing them in the morning.
The phone continues to ring, which is nice. I have a fulfilling social life. And when he's not curled beside me, my latest love partner likes to send me a text message at night, telling me that he misses me and bidding me sweet dreams. Oh, if only he knew...

No comments: