My maternal grandfather's profession was that of a tailor. This was how he earned income. My grandparents had one of the rooms in the house converted into what essentially was his “office”. But it was not called an office. It was more accurately called the “tailor shop”. You got to the tailor shop by passing through a small connecting corridor.
Even though that room was a part of the house, my grandfather had a certain sequence that marked the beginning of the work day. After having a light breakfast, he would shave and have a shower. Then he would get himself ready, with the result being that his hair would be very neatly combed and he would wear one of his many short khaki pants and short sleeve shirt combinations. He would have on socks and dress shoes, the latter almost always having a sheen.
The wear was very practical to our climate as there was no available air-conditioning in those days. Moving air naturally flowing through glass louvered windows had to provide sufficient cooling. It is in the tailor shop that his customers would be measured and fitted. All crafting of suits would take place there as well. The room was designed for work and that is the only thing that took place there.
Around just after 4 pm on a workday, my grandfather would bring his day to a close. He would tidy up the workshop, hit the off switch on this electric sewing machine and leave. He would take off his socks and shoes and put on his heavy leather slippers. He would then go into the gallery to sit and read the newspapers or one of his many books.
Up to this day I can't say porch. It seems inappropriate to me. The open space at the front of the house is a gallery. Period. Full-stop. End of discussion.
The move from the tailor shop to the gallery would mark the end of the workday. A clear line of demarcation. It would have been a challenge to work for longer hours than this as the light would be fading and the fluorescent light bulbs in the tailor shop just could not compare with the natural sunlight for the measuring and cutting of cloth. And even if there was a way for him to work longer, he would not have as he always saw it fit to dedicate some part of his day to his books.
My grandfather seemed to work within the parameters that were set by nature, achieving a natural rhythm. That move from the tailor shop to the gallery was a physical ritual that marked the end of the work day.
The wisdom in this behaviour is proving to be self-evident today.
For most of my work life, technology has allowed me to break the rules set down by nature. Almost always, I could keep on working long after the sun had set and the light was lost. For most of my work life, I never had a “Gallery”. One work day would simply slide and blur into the next. And in the end, what this behaviour earned me was exhaustion, imbalance and ill-health.
For the past few years, I have been very slowly trying to practice what my grandfather did for all of his work life. I have been trying to be consistent with rituals that mark the start and end of the work day. When I falter and try to get my bearings again, sometimes what I use to remember how “it is supposed to be” is the image of my grandfather sitting in the gallery with his book or newspapers.
I have some experiments that I am still to try.
I would like to work only 4 days per week, or maybe even just 3.
I would like to take 1 month off for every 2 months of work.
I would like to only work for 6 hours a day on a work day.
But with all of these things that I want to try, I must say that I have made huge progress in having clearer lines of demarcation of when work begins and ends during the day. So I will give myself a pat on the back for that. I am getting better. I am getting better at this dance.
I love the technology that we have today. But it serves me, I do not serve it.
Though what constitutes my “Gallery” may change over time, my hope is that I will always be able to craft my life so very deliberately that I am actually able to have that place, that spot, that time, that ritual where both my grandfather and I can take off our shoes, put on our slippers, and simply rock back with a good book in hand.