Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Call your sponsor

I was reviewing a project with one of my colleagues yesterday, giving him some feedback from the customer, and raising some concerns on some instability in the program. And he said, "Well, by Monday everything is going to be done and locked down tight." And I felt a chill run down my spine . . .

I used to be that guy, I thought. I used to be the one who foresaw huge amounts of work getting done over the weekend. The weekend is seductive, that way. To an unregulated workaholic, it feels like virgin territory, and undiscovered gold mine . . . two whole days where no one calls you, where you can work as early or late as you want, when no one has extra expections but you can get stuff done. And the thought of all that extra time, relieving your time-pressure stress to managable levels . . . and the thought of everyone being so surprised and happy to see what you've accomplished in that weekend. The weekend starts to feel like two weeks instead of two days.

I am not that guy any longer. I see a different weekend in the future for my colleague. I see someone getting up a little later than he intended, because he's so wiped out from the week's work and all the stress he has internalized. I see a wife with a six-month-old, who will have a lengthy honey-do list and will want some rest and freedom for herself -- after all, she too foresaw a huge expanse of freedom coming in the weekend. For a while she will accept the "I've got to do this to get established in my job" excuse. It might last a few years . . . but eventually she'll realize that he does it because that's the life he has chosen: constant, frantic, reactive, never-ending work. Resentments will build: he'll be frustrated by all the seemingly unimportant chores he is saddled with; she'll wonder why he doesn't spend more time with the family. Neither will say anything about it . . . that will come in a few years.

Even if he gets all the time and freedom he longs for this weekend, the end result will not quite be what he expects. He is, after all, only getting two days. In his mind he really saw two days and two late nights as well. And all the stuff he thought he would get done . . . well, it will probably be 80% of what he hoped to do. He will have spent too much time trying to get certain things right. The kind of guy who works on the weekends is also the kind of guy who has a hard time prioritizing, compromising on some items, pushing back on others. And, even though no one is calling him, he will still have accumulated some new stresses from ignored obligations. A big thick folder with tax stuff will stare at him accusingly from across his office. Emails from friends will go unanswered. His back will ache, because he's carrying a little too much weigh, and not getting quite enough exercise. And he will tell himself the next lie, the grandchild of the original lie. "I'll get it done this weekend" inevitably begets "Someday I'll have time for those things."

I couldn't tell him all that, though. I know that he won't understand, yet. All I can say is what my boss said to me: "You live your life the way you want. But your job description does not say, 'Must work all weekend.'" And in response he told me all the same things I would have said, not too long ago: "But I want to get it done. I'm close. I like coding. I like this project. I'll be ok."

My prayers go with you, my friend. I hope you are not thirty-seven before you realize how much pain you are causing yourself.

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