New Year, New Endeavorsby Rachel Eden January 29, 2018
Two weeks ago, I was on a plane heading for Atlanta where I enthusiastically shared ideas at three different workshops on achieving ‘epic spiritual fitness.’ A month prior to that, I was in Portland as a coach on a Jewish women’s retreat. My young children are fortunate to not only live with loving parents, but also to live near adoring grandparents and an aunt who perhaps loves them most of all (if toys and candy are any measurements of love!). Thanks to our extended family, the kids barely felt my absences during those professional trips including my mental absence in the ramp-up and aftermath.
Let’s face it, helping with homework and managing tantrums are a touch less glamorous than jet setting to different cities as a coach and speaker. The traveling weeks were productive, meaningful, and – honestly – really fun. Spending time in the airport alone was its own vacation that involved going to the bathroom with no witnesses, buying only my favorite snacks and using my time at the gate doing…whatever I wanted!
But of course, Jewish guilt sets in. Why was I getting so much pleasure from these trips? What did that say about me as a wife and mother? Fortunately, nature intervened. I love connecting deeply with people, but I’m an introvert and began to crave some low-key time at home. That desire for home only kicked in after a month or so, but the point is, it did and I had no reason to worry. Actually, over the past couple of weeks since that trip to Atlanta, I can’t get enough of my home life. I’ve read countless books to my kids, cooked many a homemade dinner (okay, heated up many a dinner), and generally re-immersed myself with family.
In fact, this very article that I now type is my first official evidence of emerging out of my familial cocoon. So what happened? Why the sudden change from professional go-getter to domestic goddess? Why did I gleefully hop into every uber that took me to an airport? Why am I now happy to make pancakes and have a lazy Sunday?
Here’s the deeper truth that may give some of us much needed peace of mind. Anyone pursuing some level of professional success while still maintaining a personal life is trying to achieve what’s known as ‘work life balance.’ No one knows what normal looks like in this balancing act because there is no normal for anyone. Despite the individuality of work life balance, many judgments are cast when people appear to abandon one area for another. For me, I needed to be “all in” to experience the trips I took and, now, some part of me caught up to missing my children and I’m “all in” at home. Work-life balance isn’t a daily tally of minutes spent; it’s an awareness of where life is shining a light on the area that needs our attention most.
If we can hone that awareness, we may be able to avoid judging ourselves in many areas from health and fitness to religion and spirituality. Instead of feeling bad, let’s consider accepting the various phases of frequency, intensity, and mode in which we accomplish and connect. An encouraging article in the New York Times entitled “The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions” by David DeSteno discusses the upside of allowing our positive social traits or middot, such as compassion, dignity, and gratitude, to guide our goal attainment rather than aimlessly striving to stick to worthwhile resolutions. When we rely on self-discipline alone, he says, our health suffers. Then, we feel stressed, and more often than not, resolutions fall by the wayside. By using positive social traits as our guide as well as our own intuition and instincts, we innately know when it’s appropriate to focus on family and when it makes sense to focus on work.
There are days we wake up naturally inspired and others that we’ll barely hang on by a thread. There are weeks or months that are career-oriented, and we gravitate to that part of our lives. Then, there are weeks or months that our personal life attracts us because we need it or it needs us. As long as our families, our jobs, and our sense of selves are not on the chopping block, let’s leap into a radical acceptance of what works instead of what someone else defines as normal.