That would describe my life in the last few weeks. I quit my job last August in order to reevaluate my workaholic tendencies. I wanted to spend more time with family and friends, find time for exercise and take time to enjoy my days. I was tired of living life on autopilot. I started my own business, and things were going really well. And then, less than a year into redesigning my life, I blew it.
It was a perfect storm. Literally. I drove for nine hours through tornado force winds, though in my defense, I didn’t know at the time that it was a tornado. The rains came on fast and furiously, and I suddenly found myself unable to see out the windows. I needed to pull over, but was unsure where the side of the road was. I knew there was a semi behind me; I was afraid he would hit me if I stopped. I drove, very slowly up a hill, unable to see anything. The semi passed me, and as he went over the hill he rolled, landing on his side. I was terrified. What in the world was I doing?
I was driving to give a presentation at a major conference. Work called, and once again, it became my first priority. It never occurred to me to call them up and say, “Hello, I’m sorry, but due to a tornado, I wouldn’t be able to make it.” I risked my life to fulfill a work obligation. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time. It was my old life calling to me- give up everything, come and join me, taste success and the esteem of your professional colleagues. It was like a drug, and I could not resist it’s seductive charms.
When I wasn’t paying attention, excessive work was once again creeping into my life. This summer I am teaching two on-line classes, both with a large number of students. I am taking on on-line business class myself. I am the president of an organization, and I need to put together agenda, minutes and work flow tasks as well as create a webinar. I have a rapidly growing blog and a freelance writing business. I am working on a new project, an education related blog and podcast my partner and I are hoping to launch later this summer.
These are all projects I care about, and I choose to put them into my life. Yet I felt overwhelmed and frustrated, knowing that I had more things to do than I had hours in the day to do them. It was not a new feeling, but after almost a year of finding better work life balance, I found it stifling.
I did what every newly minted life redesign guru ought to do when overcome by the enormity of too many tasks, I revolted.
I spent an entire glorious morning sitting in my Adirondack chair guiltily reading decorating magazines. I took my niece and nephew to the beach. I went to a baseball game- twice. I joined my Dad and sisters for dinner. I went to a movie. I read a novel. I sat on the porch and played with the cats. I did what normal human beings are supposed to do in the summer, I relaxed.
The world did not stop turning. Through my defiance, my heart was telling my head that I deserve to have these things in my life. Perhaps due to years of academic training, I find it easier to listen to my head than my heart, but slowly, I am changing that.
I still sit at my desk every day, chipping away at my tasks. I stop to swim laps and read the Sunday paper. Everything will get done, just not as quickly as I hoped. I still feel guilty, but I’m working on it. I realize that the only one screaming at me to accomplish things is me. It has always been me, driving myself into a frenzy, accomplishing great things but sacrificing myself in the process.
Blame it on the influence of the beach, or the baseball; I am changing my game plan. I am playing by new rules. I am not driving through any more tornados. This is my new normal. I need to get used to it. Do you see that that Adirondack chair? I am determined to sit in it.
What about you? Do you pressure yourself to achieve things? Do you have to force yourself to relax? If you have any tips and tricks to achieve life balance I’d love to hear about them.