It has been an unusually hot summer, even by central Virginia standards, and I’ve taken to walking my dog, Wyatt, very early in the morning. He’s always eager to get going, and so, of course, am I; I want to make sure he relieves himself so I can start my workday. I’m a busy guy. Once out the door, however, the dog generally takes his time. His objective is not to cover a lot of ground quickly but to investigate everything of interest along the route. And it’s all interesting.
Wyatt, a Treeing Walker Coonhound, has only been with us for a month or so. We found him through a “Pen Pals” program sponsored by the Virginia Department of Corrections, and he came to us fully trained. In fact, while in prison he earned the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) designation by passing a series of tests prescribed by the American Kennel Club. He knows some tricks, too, including “bang you’re dead.” He’s a great companion. We suspect he was abandoned because he is gun-shy. As they say in these parts, that dog won’t hunt.
Many of us work constantly. If we have operational responsibilities, in particular, we tend to be in motion from the moment we reach our workplace until day’s end, when the adrenaline wears off and we discover we’re exhausted. We don’t have time to eat, and sleep is a rip-off. In addition, e-mail and other forms of instantaneous communication have made the boundary between business time and personal time porous, and many of us, especially in global organizations, are never long unavailable. We check our messages while stumbling to the bathroom at three o’clock in the morning. In this environment, it is easy to let work become all-consuming, not only the primary focus of our attention but also the key to our identity and the source of our self-esteem. Work is a greedy institution.
Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Do not be dilatory in action, muddled in communication, or vague in thought. Don’t let your mind settle into depression or elation. Allow some leisure in your life.” (Meditations, 8.51.) We have learned that depression and elation have a biochemical substratum; they are not merely states that one can enter and leave at will. Otherwise, though, his advice makes pretty good sense. Act decisively, think and speak clearly, and take the time to have a decent meal, get a good night’s sleep, and walk the dog. He’s waiting at the door for you.