Friday, November 22, 2013

A Balancing Act

Today’s coffee: Tanzania… and who would have thought that pouring espresso over pudding would be so delicious?

Actually, this was last week's mocha, but I forgot to post the picture. Isn't it pretty?
Over the last several months, I’ve been very busy, as I wrote last week. In the middle of all that busyness, although lots of good things happened, I got rather stuck in a pattern which I call “bingeing and purging.” No, it has nothing to do with food or alcohol or anything like that. Other people might call it procrastination, but it’s not just procrastination. It’s nose-to-the-grindstone followed by complete exhaustion, coupled with thinking-I-can-do-more-than-I-actually-can. Guess what? I’m operating in my second language. Everything takes twice as long as I think it should… and it takes a lot more motivation to get started. Also, this is our first time being out of school and having a real job—but that real job is very similar to being self-employed. We are responsible for setting our own schedule, but that takes some getting used to.

Let’s take an extreme example: the weekend in which I had a concert during which I also gave a short talk on Saturday, then I performed several pieces at the same church during worship on Sunday morning, then hurried back to Wakaba to give a completely different talk for the youth group in the afternoon. However, I had also had a concert with completely different music on September 28, so I really had no time to prepare for my October engagements until after that was over. Preparing the youth group talk took longer than expected, and the people who usually correct my Japanese writing weren’t available, so I asked our pastor to look at it… at the very last minute, when he was probably busy with other things. After the Saturday concert, I was up until 1 a.m. making revisions to the youth group talk… and I’m not sure I want to know how many Japanese mistakes I ended up making, since I didn’t manage to get the final version checked.

Somehow it all worked out. After the youth group talk, we split up into groups to talk about the content—I could tell that the girls in my group had listened and taken to heart what I had said, and they shared about their own struggles and hopes. I was encouraged. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that God is still at work even when I’m exhausted. 

The situation repeated itself 2 weeks later as I prepared for a cooking class. The class itself turned out to be really fun, but the preparations were not. (On the bright side, now I have an actual recipe for lasagne! I managed to get pictures from the class and Lasagne recipe on the blog this week! I also posted the Japanese version!)

Keith and I usually go out to breakfast on our day off. It’s not anywhere special—just Royal Host, which is similar to Denny’s, but I can get EGGS BENEDICT there, which is awesome, since English Muffins are difficult to find here. This week we talked about how we’re going to get out of the bingeing and purging pattern—how do we avoid last minute panic and complete exhaustion (and thus lack of productivity) which often lasts more than a week?

The solution we came up with seems a bit too simple: working a little each day on each of the things we need to do—emails, writing talks and sermons, housework, Japanese study, practicing our instruments, and other preparations for concerts. Some days we have more time at home to do personal work, and some days we have a lot of meetings and rehearsals and classes. Even if we are working from home, we need to have regular work hours and regular breaks—and times to spend doing things other than work. 

There’s a hitch: we realized that in a profession such as ours, it’s difficult to define which activities are “work,” and which are “rest.” For example, playing the cello may be fun, but it’s my job… and sometimes it’s not fun, but that doesn’t mean I can stop. Work and rest seem to be something of a continuum which we’re still trying to define. I think both working and resting regularly is the key to escaping from our bingeing and purging pattern, but this is a work in progress for us.

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