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.