Monday, January 11, 2016

The Monday Blues

- Blue Skies"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

It’s Monday - for many people, the most dreaded day of the entire week, five more days of work yet to go before the weekend.

If some current research about work attitudes in this country is accurate, up to 70% of the people who get up today and make their way into work will “hate what they do.”  Many people are on the road to burnout as they start this new work-week. In fact, therapists and physicians across the country are now reporting that the Monday Blues is now being treated as a psychological syndrome affecting many people in all walks of life who come to work on any given Monday feeling depressed, fatigued, and tired, dreading the week at work that they are about to begin.

I suppose there are lots of reasons why people report that they “hate their jobs.” Many say that the work they do is “tedious and unrewarding.” Many people find themselves in jobs that are very demanding (often forcing them to take their work home with them when the day is done), and yet this demanding work is hardly appreciated and makes little or no impact on the bigger picture of life.

And so, on this Monday, lots of people may well be singing the Monday Blues, showing up for work and doing their best to endure it, working for the sake of work, working to make money, working to put food on the table, working until the weekend comes again when real life takes place.

My guess is that many people find their work so unrewarding because they have “bought into” the popular myth that every one of us is always supposed to do be doing big, world-changing things with  our lives and if we aren’t doing this we are frittering away our valuable time. People graduate from school and they are told that now they are supposed to go out there with their big dreams and big plans and change the world; and then when they land a job (any kind of job) and go to work, it’s nowhere near as wonderful or grandiose as they imagined it might be.

I am reminded of the story of a Zen master who would gather his students every morning and give them a little “pep talk” as they began their day. We might imagine that he would try to motivate them to use the day to achieve great and noble spiritual heights; instead every day he would tell his students:

Today, work at being ordinary.
Now go put on your robes, eat your food and pass the time.

This is probably some very wise advice for a Monday - a good day to work at being ordinary.

In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is quoted as telling his disciples:

Do not do what you hate.

Some may hear these words and imagine that Jesus is advising his followers to stop what they are doing if they hate what they are doing and go do something else. I actually think Jesus is saying: Stay with what you are doing and learn how to love it, stay in the moment and learn how to embrace it.

Because we may imagine that we should always be doing something big and bold with our lives, we may always be planning for that bigger project and that better job when we don’t find it where we presently are; but instead of looking for the bigger and the better, the more rewarding, the more significant things to do with our lives, maybe the goal is to learn how to love what we do, to embrace whatever comes our way in every moment of every day.

When we are always engaged in looking for something more we so easily lose what is already staring us in the face: life in all its fullness.

These few lines of verse seem to be an ideal poem for just another ordinary day, a wonderful antidote for the Monday Blues:

Flapping, flapping, flapping
Not yet ready to fly.
Anchored by too much –
Doubts, fears, expectations.
The past is a chain
Holding me down.
The future is a vision
Not yet clear.
There is only today.
Today I will soar.

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