Riel is Teaching Me About Work-Life Balance

It happens nearly every time I sit down at my desk to do some work. It won’t take five minutes for Riel to jump up on my desk, take a quick scan, and then lay down directly on top of whatever I’m working on. Even if I’m sitting on my recliner staring at my iPad or iPhone, Riel will jump up on the arm of the chair, sus out the situation, and then step on my crotch and start rubbing his cheeks on whatever device I’m working on.

We get into meowing matches. He resists when I push him away. If I bemoan him with a whine, he’ll just stare at me. When I start swearing at him, he’ll snap back with a quick swat of his paw. This morning, he bit my hair when I tried to nudge him with my forehead.

The only thing that seems to satisfy him is me sitting on the floor doing nothing. Then, he’ll rub his cheeks on my knees and hands before laying down next to me, until he feels like getting himself a treat. I always think that that’s my opportunity to get back to work, but he’ll find me sitting at my desk and then come lay down in an inconvenient place.

It occurred to me this morning that maybe he’s trying to teach me a lesson about work-life balance, something I’ve been struggling with. I think he’s trying to tell me that I should just put the work away and focus on the things that make me happy, like spending time with him. I could hear him saying, “Stop staring at your fucking iPad for a minute and pay attention to me, you git.”

He’s probably right.

I’m always busying myself with something. I can’t remember the last time that I looked up from a screen to open a book or take a walk. It’s not that I’m always being productive, but I’m never very still for very long. It’s a rare occasion when I brush Riel or play with him. It’s even rarer for me to sit quietly and just be.

I was once dating a woman who told me that I’m addicted to stimulation. It’s as if my eyes and ears are always open. Any flashing light or unplaced sound will grab my attention. I think that’s why I like dark, empty bars so much. That’s probably also why I’m rarely without my iPhone or iPad. The sense of loss that I feel when I’m left with myself is unbearable.

Riel, though, can sit and stare at the wall. He can just perch himself on the window ledge and look out the window. Even in the dark, when I’m watching a movie in bed, he’ll just look into the closet.

When I get home, he’ll come find me and start rubbing his cheeks against me. I’ll step over him to go pee, find a bag of chips, and then sit in my recliner. I’ll turn on the TV and push him down so that I can see the 19″ screen. (I can barely read the listings in the guide, the screen is so small.) Riel will just find a spot on the arm- or foot-rest, curl up, and just lay there.

He finds peace.

When I was younger, my family would go on road trips a fair bit. That was how we spent our vacations. My dad bought a Ford Aerostar XLT – a most comfortable family van. He would drive through the night, while the rest of us slept on the bench seats that folded down into a bed. In near silence, my dad would stare at the dark road ahead of him and navigate the turns gently enough to not wake us. He was at peace.

I can’t sit on the shitter without my phone.

I really think that Riel is trying to tell me something. He’s trying to tell me to look up at nothing and just enjoy being here, now. Nothing that I’m doing is more important than what I’m not doing.

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