Isn’t it funny how one word can produce such an array of emotions?
We have blackberries on our farm, big, out of control, never-been-sprayed blackberries. While I recognise that they are considered a weed in our part of the world, I also recognise great resources when I see them. They are mostly in the middle of open paddocks and they are not really getting in the way. In fact, since we now have a bee hive in the scrub section of the farm, I am keen for the blackberries to keep flowering and for the bees to keep pollinating. It’s great for the bees and gives them plenty of food to store, to eat and to turn into luscious honey. The second advantage of having blackberries on the farm is the future promise of blackberry jam. One of my favourites, and if the flowers are anything to go by, we shall have plenty of fruit for jam making in a couple of months’ time.
And yet they are considered a pest. There is only one type of blackberry that I would consider a pest. It’s the technological type on which one can receive emails and work phone calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since when was it okay for our bosses to be able to contact us anytime of the day or night? The words “on call” don’t appear in my employment contract. Somehow in about the last few years a lot of people have been encouraged to feel like they should always be contactable by work – I used to be one of them. Perhaps it gives us the sense of being indispensable – and if I’m indispensable they can’t get rid of me, right? Wrong. I’ve read the Fair Work Act and Australia’s National Employment Standards and there is nothing in either of these legislative tools that protects workers who carry work-sponsored communication devices any more than any other workers.
I had a blackberry for a while in a former job. It went with the executive title and was considered by many of my colleagues as a perk of the job. I was expected to answer it whenever it rang (even on Sundays or at 10 pm at night). I was expected to respond to my boss’s emails on the weekends. In the end it was one of the reasons why I left that job – I wanted my life back. When my new boss ‘kindly’ offered to get me a blackberry – again promoting it to me as a perk, a reward that I had ‘earnt’, I turned down the offer – she was a little surprised. I suggested that if it was urgent she could ring or text me on my personal mobile. So far there has only been one urgent and I still have my weekends. It is so easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life and forget to stop and smell the roses,or the cow manure, or the pine needles, or the fresh unpolluted air, or even the jam boiling on the stove top.
Pretty soon my weekend is going to be ruled by blackberries again, only this time they will be the real deal, the edible kind, and I will be spending time picking blackberries and making blackberry jam.
Changing my life and deliberately choosing to slow down and live deliberately and consciously sometimes means that I have to move out of the main stream, protecting myself from being dragged back into the madding crowd, the fast pace and the futile commercialism to pursue what I know is really valuable in life – blackberry jam, spending time with people who allow me to be myself and all those other things which give me energy and life. I guess when the times comes, I will have to bake some scones too …