The Order Of True Things, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:42am

A reader posted to Ask LPC. I thank her in advance for the question,

I’d love to hear your reflections on the difference in the rhythm of your life since you’ve gone back to work.  What do you miss?  What did you fail to appreciate at the time?  What are the pluses and minuses on balance? I suppose balance is at the heart of my question – now that you’ve had both experiences, what seems ideal?”

If balance is at the heart of the question, we must deconstruct the term itself.

Think about balance. Balance requires a center. Adjudicating percentages – 90% work, 10% children; 80% job 20% recreation; 60% motherhood 40% selfhood – accomplishes little. Balance, to my way of thinking, requires an understanding of one’s own metaphoric mass. Ourselves, in other words. Without that knowledge, we become the fulcrum to other levers, and the life of a fulcrum is stressful at best.

Right now, because I have no children, because I have now taken the time to explore a long-held desire, because I have been writing on my sofa, standing in my kitchen, and crouching in my garden, weeding, a hall of cubicles was exactly what I needed. Not that I knew it, of course.

I thought I needed to optimize the television shows I recorded.

As it turns out, I wasn’t done with work. I hadn’t yet held the job that used all I’ve learned. I hadn’t yet harvested, if you will forgive a sentimental metaphor, the years of labor. To be sure I do not mean to present an unrealistic, paradisiacal picture. Jobs are work. Work is hard. People are people. People can be hard. That’s why they pay us to manage.

But so far I miss very little from retirement. One is sleep. The other, order.

Sleep. Oh sleep. Little feels better than a solid 8 or 9 hours of neurons falling happily back into place. Waking at 5am knowing one has the time to fall back into sleep. I remember when my son turned 2, and finally slept through his 2am wakeup, I realized in a split second the impact sleep deprivation had had on me since the birth of my daughter, 5 years before. Jobs mean alarm clocks, and staying up a little too late watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix, and tired Thursday afternoons.

But Saturday sleep-ins? Honeyed.

As for order, well, let us say only that my surfaces are no longer so neat. More strewing happens, more stuff  is left unsorted. I miss the days of everything in its place. On other hand, I seem to be in mine. The order of true things.

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  • This is so eloquent, there’s nothing I can add. (Other than echoing the Saturday sleep in belief, in spades.)

  • Nicely put, Lisa, and I am glad you find yourself unstrewn, as is only fitting for the thinking type.

  • Now, that the game is over, I have read and have come to my own conclusions regarding balance. For many years my life was, what exactly it was I can not say. Just, when I decided to return to the world, I knew that there was a need to do something worth while. My struggle is finding the time to be involved in the things that I took for granted. Sitting down to write, reading what friends are writing and yes, I miss sleep and order. I look around my place and sigh in disgust. I have the urge to take my arm and sweep it all aside. However, that would take effort. I pine for the old ways, then I make a trip to the bathroom and when I emerge, the world is back on track.
    LPC, I hope that clears up this balance thing :)

  • That’s exactly what I have discovered since returning to a “real” job as opposed to volunteerism, etc. But those things are not enough to retire – yet again if you will. Hope you are well. xo

  • Ooooooooh you are just so happy, love that you are in the midst of a victory lap opportunity. And really, tidiness works well enough :)


  • Just lovely, these thoughts on balance. I like how you present the idea of being just where you need to be. I always tend to have the sense of trying to get back to some perfect moment, some moment I had no idea was so perfect when I was actually in it.

  • Beautifully written and thought out, as always. For me, now that there are no children living at home, I realize that they gave an order and schedule to my life that I no longer have. Parts of it I miss, and parts I don’t. Because both my husband and I are artists, and work in a studio away from home, I realize that children at home gave me a structure that I do feel a bit lost without. There are no real work hours, time off, weekends, it all sort of blends into a 7 day week, often filled with the feeling that I should be working. No real sense of a “weekend” anymore. I have been giving a lot of thought about whether to change that, and self impose a structure, or just be happy that I can be free, as long as I’m feeling productive.

  • Once my children were in school full time I went back to work.

    I have always worked part time in a school so I have had time to do the marketing, the domestics and keep the clutter to a minimum and be home when my kids would come running through that door famished! I consider myself very fortunate indeed.

    What I miss most when working is sleeping in!
    I do love sleep and so I go to bed early with a book and turn out the light before 10 o’clock.

    You’ll find ways to deal with those surfaces that attract clutter and if all else fails you are in the position to hire a cleaning gal…I have one for 2 hours a week and she is a godsend.

    Sending you hugs from here…

  • Oh my goodness Lisa! I *just* used the word ‘strewing’ in a post…JUST! I’ve never used that word before, or even really thought it before…I’m all kerfuffled! So now I have a question…”What does it mean?!” It has to mean something don’t you think? Anyhoo…okay, calming down now…it’s just stuff like that always gets me.
    Wishing you a wonderful sleep filled and orderly weekend…
    xo J~

  • It does sound like you are getting into the groove Lisa and enjoying the change. I am semi-retured now (does blogging count?) and enjoying the sleeping mornings ……..the best after years of early app’t during my designer days. Now, my favorite is my pajama mornings at the computer as I am not a morning person and it eases me into the higher productive afternoon and evening. I strive to be mentally stimulated so I don’t get downright boring and am going to embark on a “get my bady back into the best shape ever” this winter. I always have a few creative projects that keep me busy. My former careers will highly-demanding and people-pleasing, I have to admit I enjoy the slower and indulgent pace of my life right now. All the things I couldn’t seem to fit in before………..long dog walks, noticing nature, and having time to just be and look around at this world of ours. I am happy…………for now. Good post. XO

  • Is it wrong that the main thing that stuck out at me in this post was that your 2 year old son finally slept through his 2 am feeding? My little one is 18 months and I’m still trying to break him of it. There is hope I see!!!

    Thank you Lisa :) I’m glad you are enjoying your new role. I often wonder what I will miss about my life as a “housewife” when I decide to return to work.



  • It seems, that going back to work, has not meant drastic changes in your life.
    Were I you, I´d lay me down to sleep at an earlier hour, stop watching TV, and if there is time (??), I´d start decluttering stuff ( I bet you have a lot of it ).
    It really is amazing, how much easier it is to own less. Everything stays better under control, no mess on the tabletops.
    You could easily do this in a slow way, though I would probably act just the opposite.
    All in all, entering back to business world, has not caused great changes in your life.
    I also support the idea of Hostess. why not employ someone to do the rough housework for you weekly : )

  • “I miss the days of everything in its place. On other hand, I seem to be in mine. The order of true things.”

    What a deft shift of emphasis, only you could dance on the pinhead of “order” like that, what a perfect ending to an already-perfect essay. I’d clap real loud but I think I’ll bow instead, in awe.

  • How beautifully stated. I’m happy to hear that your work situation sounds very fulfilling. The “strew” though, sometimes is hard to get used to. ;-)

  • So glad you have found the balance coincides with purpose. I continue on my journey. :)

  • Especially with my husband retired (albeit busy with contracts & consulting work) and having just had a term of Research Leave, I catch myself wistfully dreaming of free days, no commitments other than to my own projects . . . But I know that while I have much to keep me busy through several retirements, I would still miss the particular challenges and rewards of the workplace. At this moment, at least, balance still centres on that, for the foreseeable future. But I would love to somehow manage 18-24 months off work to achieve some kind of order, such as you’ve managed, in the hopes that it would see me through to retirement. Meanwhile, I’m trying to be patient with myself.
    And I’m inspired watching your delight in finding work again — you remind me how fortune we are, who find meaningful work in our communities, such a satisfaction!

  • TPP – Thank you. I hope you too are well-rested for the week ahead.

    Mise – It’s true. We who think a lot often require clear surfaces. Thank you.

    Bumby – 100% sir:).

    Sandra – I am well! I hope your job is wonderful and brings all possible satisfaction.

    QBS – What a great term. I can’t really, in all honesty, call it a victory lap. But close enough and I’m going to keep the imagery in my mind. Still in the race though, still have to win this one.

  • priscilla – Yes, I think it has come with age. Just coming to understand the things that are good right as they are.

    kathy – Thank you. And I did find, when home doing nothing structured but the writing, that it was harder to let go and feel happy on whatever I might define as a ‘weekend.’ It’s harder to judge productivity when there are no constraints to the problem.

    Hostess – You’ve had a nice gradual transition. I think that’s best when possible. Thanks a million.

    Jessica – We must be having some kind of harmonic convergence:). Remember, that’s how we met, when I went to Washington, and you’d just posted about it?

    A Gift Wrapped Life – Sounds like you have a great capacity to enjoy where you are now. Good luck on your get in shape project!

  • Your Southern Peach – Doesn’t seem wrong to me. Not one bit. That sleepless era was like years spent on another, slightly hallucinatory planet. And then one day he just started sleeping.

    Mette – Well, the TV is better than two glasses of wine:). My job is demanding, and I am thinking hard all day long. It takes a while to unwind at the end of the day. As for the clutter, it’s not permanent clutter, it’s just the stuff I carry home with me, and the new clothes I’ve had to get for work. Things tend to stay on the settee longer than they should. When I moved back into my house after the divorce settled, I cleared out all the unwanted clutter.

    Flo – Thank you so, so much.

    Deja Pseu – Thank you. The strew! Yes. It’s a noun, from now on. Similar to “wake” I think, as in the wake that follows a boat.

    Marilyn – And I suspect you will wind up some place really great.

    Mater – Those years off made such a difference. I am sure that I will get tired, as the months progress. So for now I am treasuring the renewed energy. I hope you get a break too.

  • This reminds me so much of Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. She has a long, beautiful meditation on balance, and finding ones’-self as the hub of a spinning wheel of responsibilities. Have you read it? Highly recommended.

  • The working life does seem to suit you Lisa. You seem really happy and that’s the most important thing. In my case I used to really miss work but now I don’t. It’s hard to pinpoint when the change happened. I think it was more of process of redefining myself, not in terms of achievements, but in terms of other ways to engage in life with direction and purpose.

  • The essence I take from your post is that you’re doing what you want, now. Balance in life is like physical balance, fleeting, wobbly, never lasting long. Hope you can get enough sleep, though- it’s hard to give one’s best at work without it… at least, it was for me.

  • Friday Night Lights is a very good reason to stay up late.

    I once stayed up until 2 a.m. on a worknight to finish reading Lonesome Dove. Also well worth it.

    My husband was not interested in watching either FNL or the Lonesome Dove DVD, but I got him to watch the first few minutes of each one and he was hooked. Some things are worth spending time on.

  • Lisa,
    Funny how we spend so much of our life working to find our career path and then the realization that no matter what one’s profession, it is indeed to routine of a job and the daily regimen of one’s duties that make life fulfilled.
    My Father has always told me to “love what you do it it will love you back!”
    Balance, that is also something one can somehow easily rectify by adding the familiarity and order work brings.
    There is a clear delineation when Monday morning arrives and the “honeyed” weekend has past.
    Good luck to you striving for balance and lack of surface abuse!

  • love these posts. they encourage me to go back to work when we get back to the states. thank you for being an example of a professional woman that is not just going to settle for a slow life…and also thank you for – not – doing it in an “angry” fashion. i hope you know what i mean.