On the verge of falling down.
Need some loving care.
When we visited Bradford on Avon in 2002, this old tea room was obviously closed, not just for lunch, but until a new owner could be found. I have not been back, since, so I have no idea whether it has been re-opened. I felt that the rather bedraggled look added to the olde worlde charm. I also felt that the TV aerial was a little incongruous, in the circumstances.
The idea of being closed for lunch is a fairly important one. Although most people have a work contract that specifies a lunch break, many are expected to forego their break or to eat their lunch at their desk whilst working, or to have a working lunch meeting.
Yet having a complete break during the day was a requirement identified many years ago. The risks of not taking sufficient breaks are well documented. People get careless, or even care less, if they have not been given an opportunity to relax and recover from work activities. Still, the pressure to relinquish breaks seems more intense than ever, especially in the face of the current economic situation. I once had a colleague who tried to insist that the receptionist should use part of her lunch break to take the mail to the Post Office, even spending time in the queue if items needed to be weighed before sending. This, even though the queue at lunch time often extended through a double line, inside the facility, and back out the door.
When we are under such pressure, we can easily lose track of ourselves. We become so focused on the task at hand that we come under the disillusionment that we live for the task, rather than the task fulfilling our needs. Basically, we start living to work, rather than working to live. Eventually, we become dissatisfied with our work and start looking for ways to relieve ourselves of what has become a tedious way of life.
If we have cultivated mindfulness, however, we are aware that there is a hierarchy of needs. We become aware that unless we are sufficiently relaxed we will not perform to the best of our abilities. We are aware that we are there to meet our needs and those of our families.
Take a Break
When we manage to get away from our place of work, for lunch, what can we do?
We could go along to a local coffee shop and spend the time pondering our position. We could go for a walk around the neighbourhood, if it is safe to do so. We could spend some time reading, or meditating, or on some creative task that takes our mind away from work.
Even if we take a report from work to read over our lunch, being on our own to do it will make the reading more effective. But that is not the best way to leave the office.
Cultivate a Minimalist View of Life
We are also aware that we do not need as many things as advertisers would have us believe. We are aware that there are only so many essentials in life, and that fulfilment is not about possessions. Indeed, it is often the case that the more possessions people have, the less fulfilled they are, the less content they feel, and the more frustrated they get.
That is why I chose to write a Haiku about tender, loving care, or TLC, as it is often abbreviated. It is easy to look at a colleague, acquaintance, or even family member, and identify a need for a little TLC. Strangely, however, many people who identify such a need in a colleague or acquaintance will recommend that the other person should spend time on caring for themselves. Yet those same people may label a family member selfish when that one complains of a lack of companionship or care. And to look after oneself is seen as the height of self-interest; something to be avoided at all costs.
Why should it be that way? Are we not happier when we care for other people? But how can we care for others if we do not care for ourselves? People often quote Jesus’ words, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” I have no doubt that other religions have similar phrases. But if we are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, then it must be taken for granted that we also love ourselves. How can we love ourselves if we do not spend time on ourselves?
So Where Does Our Lunch Break Fit In?
Time away from our workplace, be that a desk, a machine, or an environment, is time that we should be able to spend on ourselves. We need that time to clear our minds of the day’s clutter. We need time to relax if we are to survive the remainder of the day, unscathed.
But what if our employer demands that we work through lunch? There are reasons why the law in most countries insists that everyone has recovery time built into their contract. We may want to remind our employer that being allowed to take our entitlement to relaxation time will make us more effective employees.
Still, if our employment is governed by one of the many unreasonable managers in the workplace, today, then we may have no other recourse than to ask ourselves just how important that job is to us. If we can remember the basic principle that we have only a few real needs, then we will be able to have a realistic view of the job.
I’m not suggesting that we all walk out on unreasonable employers. That would be foolish. In many areas, now, finding a job is so difficult that many people are forced to take a job at any cost. But that does not stop us looking. If your job is making you forget yourself and your needs, then maybe it’s time to take a serious look for another position.
This is something that I have learned in the last week. This time, last week, I was procrastinating over finding a new role. I have been aware, for some time, that it is time to move on, but I have done very little about it. On Wednesday, I was told that I am being considered for redundancy. Today, I met with an employment adviser and was told, in no uncertain terms, that my job is to find a job, especially if I want to receive my statutory benefit entitlement. I already knew that, but having it spelled out with such lucidity still focuses the mind.
And, if we are struggling to maintain a balanced view of ourselves because we are not allowed to take our lunch breaks, then maybe it’s time for us to refocus. We need to remember that there are things in life that are more important than the job in hand. But we also need to balance that with the need to care for our responsibilities.
And the best way to do that is to make sure that we care for ourselves by taking regular time out for our own needs. Be closed for lunch. It could rebalance your life.