Chyina nailed it the other day. She was commenting on the post I wrote Tuesday about slowing down; and said she’s “equally worried about those who go so slowly, they grow moss on their feet. And by the time they get around to smelling the flowers, the flowers have died.”
Although she never mentioned it explicitly, what she was saying is, we need to have balance in our lives. That’s the ideal. The goal. And she’s absolutely right.
Easier said than done, my friends. Much easier said than done.
We have SO much juggling to do. Careers. Spouses. Kids. Grand kids. Aging parents. Caregiving. Homemaking. How does all of it get divided? Fairly? With enough sleep time and ‘me’ time.
Ha! If I had the answer, I’d be taking over from Oprah. She’d be working for me.
It’s difficult even if you’re single. Take me as an example.
Advertising is a gruelling and demanding business. It eats up your life. Working weekends and into the wee, small hours of the morning, day in and day out, is the norm. It is not an industry for the faint of heart, let me tell you. It reaps havoc on both your mental and physical health; and it’s hell on relationships.
I’m single, with no kids. But how are you supposed to fit a life into a schedule like that? The only advantage I had (and still have) over married folks is, there was no husband who was fed up or resentful children waiting for me at home. One less issue to deal with. But even so, whenever my parents came to visit from Montreal, they often ended up in a restaurant by themselves, while they waited hours for me to show up. By the time I got there, it was time to go home to bed. And ask any of my friends. Whenever we had plans they’d expect a last-minute phone call from me, cancelling.
No balance there.
As my mother got older and her health worsened, she needed more and more of my time. There were days when I felt like I was the rope in a game of tug and war. At the time I was running an ad agency, which placed even greater demands on me. Thankfully I quickly realized there was no way I could handle it all. My personal plans went on hold indefinitely. I concentrated on my agency and my mother. They were my only two priorities.
Oh yes, I’m well aware that was still not giving me ‘balance’ in my life. I never deluded myself into thinking it was. It was a realistic, practical solution. It relieved me of the stress and frustration of trying to cram a personal life into an already over-crowded schedule. If anything, it was a compromise. And it worked beautifully for all concerned, including me. At the time.
There’s no question I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. But make no mistake. Holidays and evenings out weren’t part of the ‘plan’.
So no balance there.
The generation behind us are very different. When we’d be hiring at our agency, every interview I ever conducted was exactly the same. Before I could even open my mouth and ask the first question, the applicant would say: “I won’t work weekends or late nights unless it is a dire emergency. I’d like four weeks vacation to start. I won’t take a job where I can’t also have a life.”
Period. Thank you very much. Take it or leave it.
And you know what? We hired the good ones anyway. Because the twenty and thirty somethings are pretty much all the same. Because they’re right. And because they can teach us a thing or two about having it all. Or damn close. A lot closer than we ever got.
So what about now? My mother is gone. No more full time job. I freelance. Have I achieved ‘nirvana’? Have I got ‘equilibrium’ in my life? I’m getting there. It’s a helluva lot better than it was. Working on my own gives me control. I can have as few, or as many, clients as I choose. I can accept, or turn down, work at will. Provided I’m willing to make the lifestyle adjustments, earning less requires.
I have freedom. And it gives me time to volunteer. To travel. To see friends. To pamper myself. To meditate or do yoga or pilates. To go for long walks. To daydream. To write for my own pleasure. To do nothing at all.
As yet I haven’t taken full advantage of it. But I’m working on it. What about you?