By Bryn Bamber
I didn’t want to write the email. I sat staring at a blank screen and started to second guess my choice. Is this really a good idea? Is the timing right?
I had just been promoted at the not-for-profit that I work for and was in the midst of salary negotiations. I wanted to ask to work four days a week instead of five. What was I thinking? Shouldn’t I wait for my promotion to be settled and then ask for the change? I wasn’t sure.
I was beginning to write a memoir. The story wove through my experience growing up and how I found the courage to stand up for the groups of young women I work with.
The project was both exciting and terrifying. I had doubts: I’m too young to write a memoir. Nothing interesting has ever happened to me. No one will ever buy it. Who do I think I am?
But everything in my heart wanted to embark on the project. I chatted with my mentor and he was both calm and supportive. I took some time to think about it and made the decision to write.
Writing a book is the biggest creative project I’ve ever taken on. And one of the most essential ingredients is time. Hence me sitting in front of a computer wondering whether I should ask to go down to four days a week at work so I could have more time to write.
The request didn’t seem completely unreasonable. My organization has let people work part-time so they can go back to school. But this was a less conventional request. In this world writing a book seems more frivolous than completing a Master’s degree.
I spoke to my mentor again. “It doesn’t hurt to ask,” he said, “And it’s more upfront if you let them know now what you really want in your new position. It’s better than negotiating salary and then asking to only work four days a week as soon as you start.” I was scared but I knew he was right. I took some more time to think. I wrote the email, pressed send.
To build the life that I want, I have been practicing discernment. Sakti Dakini, the goddess of the first cakra, holds a sword. Swami Radha, the founder of Yasodhara Ashram, writes about it, “The essential and non-essential must be recognized and sorted out. When the strong tool of discrimination is used during the time of reflection, mistakes are cut down very quickly, emotional and mental pain is minimized and mechanical habits are controlled. Life becomes enjoyable in a very positive and good sense.” (Kundalini Yoga for the West, pg. 59.)
I often wish to be perfect. I wish that I could work full time, cook healthy food for every meal, keep my apartment perfectly clean, be liked by everyone that I meet, and write this memoir that I care so much about. But I can’t do it all.
I have to make choices. I have to decide what is essential and cut away the rest. The essential things for me right now are being kind to my family and friends, taking care of my body and mind, doing a good job at work and now writing this memoir.
Sometimes I eat out. I often decline invitations to go to parties full of strangers. I try not to travel much. I go to bed at a decent hour.
These changes haven’t always been comfortable to make but they have made an impact. And as I get better at prioritizing what is essential my life “becomes enjoyable in a very positive and good sense.”
At work, they’ve agreed to let me go down to four days a week on a six-month trial basis.
I picked up the sword and I am ready to fight for what matters most.
About Bryn Bamber
Bryn Bamber is an educator, writer and Yasodhara Yoga teacher who is obsessed with bridging the gap between dissatisfaction and the desire to live a life filled with meaning. Her writing has been published in Scratch Magazine and at brynbamber.com.
Read her other articles in Finding Yoga.
“I often wish to be perfect. I wish that I could work full time, cook healthy food for every meal, keep my apartment perfectly clean, be liked by everyone that I meet, and write this memoir that I care so much about. But I can’t do it all. I have to make choices. I have to decide what is essential and cut away the rest.”
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