20 percent

2015-01-24 09.38.20I had good intentions of sitting down to write a blog post first thing this morning. I’ve had lots of good intentions to sit down and write of late, lots of snippets composed or ideas vetted in my head. Very few of those words bouncing around my head have made it out through hands.

First thing is usually my favorite time to write but even then today, I found myself mostly staring at the page blankly. So I did myself a favor and gave up. I drew instead. A mandala. The one up above, actually.

Everything I know about drawing mandalas I learned from this blog post from Andrea, which is to say that I know very little. But I can say from my limited experience that it’s been a near-magical way to journal without the need for words. Sometimes I finish and think, “hrmph, amateur doodling”. But more often than not, I think, “yes, that is exactly how I feel right now”. And then maybe I can describe what the mandala says to me (which is, of course, just what I’m saying to myself). Or maybe I can just stare at it and feel heard. Either way, I’ll take it.

pencil mandalas

What I had hoped to tell you about today was how there was a major breakthrough in creating the life I most want this week. For the last few years, I have been quietly preoccupied with figuring out how I can be more in control of my days. To wake up and decide how I need to spend my day more often, to spend fewer days on the hamster wheel. To fundamentally shift away from a strict time for money trade.

So what was the major breakthrough of the week? I told my boss I wanted to reduce my position to 80% FTE and he agreed. It hardly seems like a big event, but I know that it is.

It’s been about 3 years since I went back to working full-time from my prior 80% schedule. Before that, I was down to about 60%, and I took several months-long breaks from working altogether. I know that it can be done. I also know that it’s not as simple as working less. Because while all of those reductions were nice, none of them shifted the long-term outlook. They didn’t get me any closer to the life I ultimately want.

So when I went back to full-time 3 years ago, I assured myself that it was a short-term concession to improve my long-term position. But after three years it didn’t feel temporary, it felt like “the way things are”. These days, when I thought about making changes to reclaim my time, I thought about timelines – “when Dean finishes school” or “when I’ve put in enough time at this job to be safe” or “when we finish <insert project here>” or a dozen other arbitrary excuses for “not now”.

And then something shifted over the last few weeks. It was suddenly so obvious that there would never be a time that was “right”, whatever that meant. It would never be convenient to give myself a 20% pay cut. That being honest with your employers about how you want to give less of yourself to them is never going to be entirely safe or painless. But the timelines and circumstances weren’t keeping me from making the change, I was keeping me from it.

So I leapt. And my boss said yes. And I’m high on the thrill of taking a real step toward the life I want. I can feel the power of today, the power of my intention this year, rippling through my days. And my mind is spinning with all of the possibilities for filling another precious day of every week. I’ve reclaimed 20% of my life that I was trading for livelihood. Someday I hope it’s even more, but for now, 20% feels like a victory.

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