Work life balance: what a waste of time.
Googling “work-life balance” is like getting dropped from the sky, hard, probably by aliens, into the middle of an August cornfield: the stalks (and the stakes) are so high and plentiful that you can lift your eyes to the sky and see the heavens but not much else.
(Did you know that there are “corn-maze consultants”? Neither did I until I googled directions to my local corn-maze at which point I discovered, to my surprised and delighted horror, that there is an entire corn-maze INDUSTRY. There is corn maze art, too, but only pilots and Canadian geese can appreciate the hidden wonder of it.)
I digress. I’m glad that corn-maze consultants can invent jobs around their passion for vegetables. That’s the only explanation for this phenomena, really. I’m convinced that some dude got carried away with the ‘do what you love’ philosophy and voila! a new niche.
I’m also willing to bet that corn-maze consultants are intensely, overwhelmingly busy 2-3 months of the year and just basically make peace with the fact that their lives have gone tilt-a-whirl. They don’t chase work-life balance when it is time to rock out the cornfield.
(I do believe I’m going to have to interview a corn-maze consultant to find out if it is as glam as all that. Maybe it is rock-star. Maybe there are secret drug lairs and groupie grottos and THAT is what you’re trying to find when you pay your $5 and wander around for two hours, getting your shoes dirty and thinking: I just paid $5 to wander around in some guy’s field. Effing hell. What a racket.)
The other criminal racket that perturbs me is the work-life balance syndicate. It has franchises everywhere and it is selling you (me) turn-key, uninspired solutions:
1. Outsource your life. Increases your expenses to pay for services so you can have time.
2. Simplify your life. Reduce your expenses so you don’t have to work as much and can have time.
The objectives are the same the but the approaches are vastly different. And neither approach works for me.
There’s are hidden assumptions in both solutions:
- That you have enough disposable income that you can make sacrifices and pay to gain time;
- That you have enough disposable income to spend frivolously and therefore those expenses can be pruned judiciously in the service of free time.
Either way, both formulations pivot on the assumption of enough, or more than enough cash.
I suspect the eternal work-life crisis comes from the hidden truth that many don’t have enough (any!) disposable income to outsource anything, and, given that information, you’d be safe in assuming that there are few, if any, expenses that can be ‘simplified’.
I also suspect the quest for balance displays a truly sad truth: that we’re doing too much of what we don’t like, and isn’t rewarding, and not enough of the cosmically important stuff.
So the seeking of work-life balance is really about taming the job and the bastards that wear you down. ‘Cuz when you love it, really love it, yes you need rest, but even the work doesn’t feel like work. Because it is play, mostly.
I’m not there yet. I know I’m not alone.
So, what to do when you’re workin’ 9-5 (I am all about 70s women, this week!), raising semi-humans (that’s what they feel like, this week!) and trying to break out and charge after your vision? (And let’s not kvetch that we’re busy: Kelly Diels, I’m a-talking to you.)
Balance? How weak.
Let’s think about balance. Think about teeter totters. Equilibrium is hard to come by, and when it does, you just want to start bouncing up and down again. I know this for a fact. I have kids. The thrill is in the wobble.
(Did you know that teeter totters are an endangered species in North American playgrounds? No word of a lie.)
Think about tightwires. Think about raised bars. Sobriety tests and white lines. Skating and weak ankles. Weak ankles, period.
When I set up a situation where it is imperative that I don’t wobble or fall, I’m in trouble. It helps not to mull on it (bad blog post! bad!) and just keep going. Hold on. Move. Holding on is a form of movement but it is most definitely not balance. Hold. Run. Charge. Close your eyes. Leap. Leap-frog. Keep it hoppin’.
I’m lucky. I’m in love, with my life, my kids, my work, my dream and my extras. They’re all wearing me out just as fast as they fuel me. It is a bizarre high-speed stasis.
Define it all as life and you’re good.
Overscheduled, overwrought and overwhelmed, yes, but at least then you’re not guilty about your lack of balance. Feeling conflicted about being conflicted and guilty about feeling guilty is a lot of work.
Guilt, in general, is a waste of time and energy. It is a smokescreen for a real emotion. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find something real, like anger. Sadness. Aspiration. Those are worthwhile. They’re fuel for something bigger and better.
In the end, the quest for balance is bogus. Love your burdens. Love them hard. And when your loves knock you down or your weak ankles trip you up, stop worrying about balancing – ‘cuz you’re not – and bounce.