This is my briefcase.
It sits in a tiny alcove in my bedroom, and along with this picture of a barefoot angel
which I’ve written about here:
They are, very intentionally, the first things I see in the morning.
I used to carry this briefcase with me. All the time. I used to work. All the time.
It was a time when I couldn't face life. Or the world. Or people. I used my work to hide behind real life. I could easily lock myself in my office and ignore everyone and everything and work gave me an excuse to do that. I would bring my work home so that I didn't have time for other things. All those things I was too afraid to face. Or deal with. All those things about myself I couldn't even start to acknowledge. Work can be a wonderful drug for those who cannot deal with their life.
And then I moved, and in the next 3 years, found an amazing therapist (or more accurately, she found me) met someone who loved me and started a family. And from the day my first daughter was born, I never carried that briefcase again. I wanted to live a whole and healthy life. And as for work - I often thought of that biblical message “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto god what is god’s.” When I was at work, 9 to 5, I gave my all to it. But when I was with my family or friends, I was all theirs. And time to myself was all about self care.
I knew a woman who would brag to me all the time about how much she worked. She was oh so busy and oh so important. 12 to 14 hours days. And not just during an occasional emergency or prep for an important conference. She would attend family reunions at a beach house and stay inside and work. Her mother visited from England, and she stayed inside and worked. She would brag about how she occasionally coordinated with White House staff who also worked 12 to 14 days and oh, they were all so very important. And she was so important for working with them and they were all so busy, busy busy. I would feel such sadness for her. I knew she was using work to avoid her own demons and to inflate her feelings of worth. Sadder still that I think she really believes in her own super importance. And saddest, she continues to drown in depression. No mystery there.
I am fortunate that I recognized my avoidance addiction early on. Even more fortunate that I had a job that allowed me the flexibility to attend every one of my daughter’s special events and athletic games, volunteer and come and go at a moments notice if a friend needed me. Except for strange anomalies that do occur from time to time, my life has been pretty balanced, abundant, and very, very happy.
Last month I semi-retired. Work has taken an even more remote back seat in my life and I am trying to discern how to use my time now. That will be the subject of a different post. For now, I am waking up and looking at two things - one barefoot angel to remind me to do the things I love, and one briefcase that taught me a very valuable life lesson.
I’m thinking it’s time to get rid of the briefcase. I have not looked in it for over 22 years. I have no idea what’s even inside. For a few years it was used as a drug. And then it was an every day reminder not to use that drug ever again.
I think I will let it retire with me. It has served me well.