Work to Live, Live to Work


"I can't go," I explained to my husband as I determined that I was too exhausted to attend a potluck we had been invited to. Normally I am all-in when it comes to gatherings of people with hot covered dishes. My momma raised me right. But the learning curve for my new job--did I mention I work the night shift?-- had me too tired to even think about getting out of the house.

"How's your new job going?" I asked a friend who also has started a new thing about the same time I did.

"It's hard," she said. "I feel like I work all the time or else I'm resting to be ready to work. It's like I don't have a life anymore. I'm living to work and I don't like it."

I could relate. Sort of. She is working more hours than I am, yet in my new schedule working nights means I have had to learn to preserve energy as I press through the weeks and weeks of training. When I was younger I could learn and perform at a high level with only one cylinder fired up. But in my mid-life years, I have learned that sleep deprivation makes me more prone to stupidity and forgetfulness. And with five production lines of automated machinery to learn in fifteen weeks, I have got to be on my game, which means resting is suddenly a priority that has to be managed and planned for.

"I'm gonna be working nights soon," I said to one of the night nurses at the hospital before my last shift had arrived. "Any advice for me how to work night shift and survive?"

The veteran graveyard nurse thought for a minute and then simply said, "Make sure you sleep. Don't skip resting."

Um, well ok then. I was kinda looking for something a bit less obvious, but yeah, let me write that down in case I forget. (sarcasm is my best friend when I am annoyed)

Turns out, her advice was needed. Within a few days of starting night shift, I realized how easy it is to clock out and get home to a myriad of television shows and household tasks that can keep me up for many hours if I let them. And I soon discovered that I needed a second sleep before work each night, which means shutting down whatever I am doing so I can crawl into bed around 9p for an hour or so. Napping used to be a luxury for rainy Sunday afternoons. Now it's a part of my rest strategy to keep my sleep account balanced.

My husband has lived and worked and slept this way for years. He is quite disciplined about halting whatever he is doing and getting his pre-work rest (he has worked graveyard for years).

For me, it means my social calendar has slowed wayyyy down. Life is starting to feel kinda like a workfest, a giant unending cycle of

work/sleep/wake/nap/work/sleep/wake/nap/work/sleep/wake/nap/work/sleep/wake

I know I am still in the adjustment phase of my new job and my new schedule. It takes time to learn how to be a day sleeper with a vampire life. And it's getting easier every week. I'm sure I'll be back in business on the potluck circuit soon... I need to. The holidays are coming! :)

A friend invited me to a music show this week of a local fave artist. I was stoked to go, thinking I could easily make the 7p music set and be home at 9 for my pre-work second sleep. But it didn't work out. He was on last instead of first which meant a late set. About the time I'd be hitting the sheets he would be plugging in his guitar. "This is my new reality," I texted my friend.

And another friend (I am a BLESSED woman!) texted me on Sunday with a last-minute dinner invite. So good and yet so had to decline. I used to be the most spontaneous person with social meet-ups often happening accidentally in the randomness of living easy. Now I have to protect my time, guard my rest and think about priorities.

I love my new job. Jerry and I work the same shift. It is very cool to have my husband pop by to say hi while I'm training on the line. Sometimes we have breaks together. I have more time with him, and after 25 years of marriage, it is incredibly cool to share the world of work together.

Even though the work sched can be grueling, I do not live to work. I am just learning to do life and manage time more efficiently... though I must admit that household cleaning has slid down the priority scale so don't take your shoes off if you come to visit. The floor is, er, kinda crunchy.

Have you ever worked nights? Long hours? How did you do it?

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© 2017 by Pamela Sue Johnson