This week I came to an honest realization: that I love my life when I am living in the present moment and am living in some form of escapism when I am not. As I mentioned during last week's post, it is really tempting for me to get sucked into work/logistics and thinking about all the tasks that often comprise my day-to-day.
My work at Immigration Legal Services in Portland, Oregon has been an interesting insight into the intense legal process behind obtaining family and humanitarian-based relief. The majority of my day is spent looking over hundreds of papers for U Visas for victims of crimes, T Visas for victims of human trafficking, VAWA for victims of abuse, family-based petitions, and DACA. Some of the individual client files literally have hundreds of documents attached to them—talk about paper chase. Many of these files contain stories that are filled with harrowing stories of abuse and frankly makes me look at my own United States citizenship with a new lens. One that feels full of privilege for being a citizen in a country where I generally feel safe.
Last Wednesday, I had hit the wall by the end of the work day. Nearly literally eye-deep in papers, it seriously almost felt like a work/life balance calling: go and do something to decompress after the work day, my inner voice said. And then the to-do list in my head started to rattle off all its miscellaneous items, but there was an inner wisdom inside of me that said: seriously. You need to take it easy tonight. It can wait.
The present moment was calling. And I better damn well answer the phone.
I ended up going to a Portland Meetup where I met a group of really great people—who have actually become friends and I feel that some of us may be in touch for awhile. I am glad that I didn't let the siren call of my to-do list win the battle that evening. In fact, I remember driving home thinking that may have been the best night that I have had since being on the road.
Being on the road for almost a couple months now (!!!) is so great for a number of reasons: I love working in direct legal services and am already so fascinated by how it differs in California and Oregon (I cannot wait to see what's next); I am meeting some inspiring fellow attorneys in the field; I am learning so much about the diversity (in every possible) way of our giant, wonderful country.
But last Wednesday night made me realize that (if I am totally honest with myself and you): my work/life balance has been a little (okay, a lot) out of whack. Most of my days since leaving Los Angeles have been pretty frantic and I want to feel like I am in control of my day—not vice versa. It's true—there is a joy to working when one is in alignment with oneself. But we are all holistic, complex people. We all need balance—time to work, time to play. Time to be with others, time to be with oneself. The list goes on—too much time in one domain and I start to feel a 'lil squirrely.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am in a profession where deadlines and timetables are saturated everywhere. It is part of the industry, no doubt about it. But the to-do list items that can wait, the inevitable chores that will somehow get done—it started to dawn on me as I mentioned earlier: were these to-do items a means of escaping what really matters? Am I somehow holding myself back by occupying myself with tasks instead of more experiences and interactions that give me joy?
So—the ultimate test came today I suppose. Here is proof of me trying to put this all into action! ;) It's Tuesday, blog post day! And I am 100% committed to making sure that I am relaying how this journey is going for me and sharing it with you all. I look forward to writing every week—I love writing and I want to create more space for it. But my original window today to publish it? As John Lennon said, life is what happens when you make other plans.
I had intended to publish this post during the lunch hour, but it was an unexpectedly hectic day at work, so then it was plan B—right after work. And then after work, I had a social invitation which again—my gut told me that I needed to say yes on. It's already been a pretty intense work week and that inner voice was saying "you need some social time." (Hence, the later time on this blog post because I decided to catch up with a dear friend who I used to work with in San Francisco; and saying yes to an impromptu stroll around the neighborhood.)
I've often thought that those who stay in the social justice/public sector need to figure out some type of strategy for avoiding burnout and staying plenty recharged for the fight ahead. It's tempting to take work home with you but I notice the weeks when I am seemingly working round the clock, things feel a little foggier. I think it's the lack of perspective. When I am not having some external comparison to what my own experience is, I feel like my vision gets a little fuzzy.
In other words, the to-do list can wait. The present moment can't.
And with saying yes to the present moment and listening to what one really needs to try to stay balanced—is a step closer to staying plugged in for the long haul for this fight.
And even though this post is going out a little later than I had originally intended on my to-do list—I know tomorrow morning I will wake up feeling recharged in a totally different way. I'll be glad that I lived in the present today.
How do you say yes to the present moment?