At the beginning of this year, I had to attend one of those perennially unhelpful workshops on work/life balance. I strongly despise the whole concept of work/life balance, partly because it implies that your work is not your life and your life is not your work, and partly because balance is a static position that doesn’t last. (For more useful ways of looking at this issue, see David Whyte’s The Three Marriages.)
The speaker at my workshop was earnest and helpful (as they always are), and enthusiastically drew a big pie chart on an easel in the front of the room. The pie chart was supposed to be “your life” and we each got three areas: love, work and play. The “activity” was to divide up “your life” into these three areas, and put different aspects of it into whatever area made sense to us.
I hate these kinds of categorization activities, I think because they seem relevant for exactly the length of time that you are doing them. But when I realized that I was looking down at a pie chart of my life with everything in the “work” slice, it was really depressing. Not surprising, but depressing. And overwhelming. I felt like adding: “Fix entire life” to the work pie slice.
I also hate these activities because they create an artificial sense of boxing things up and separating them from each other when it’s my experience that this is neither realistic nor helpful. But it still revealed something important to me when I saw everything about my life–my job, my family relationships, my marriage, my home, taking care of myself–in the category of “work.”
As I wrote above, trying to “fix” this seemed like even more work, which was not the purpose of the workshop, so I tried to just sit with the information and not judge it or feel miserable about it. Then I was blessed by this awesome thought: “move everything into love.”
Folding laundry, cleaning the house, driving my kids around, making good meals (still not quite there yet), can all be seen through the lens of love–I do all of those things, or rather, all of those things need to be done because I am committed to all aspects of my life and what they require. Laundry can really be an act of love.
And when it is an act of love, it feels more like a choice, as if the actions of my life emanate from me, instead of being endless and tedious burdens dragging me down. This changes everything.
The laundry doesn’t get done faster, the house isn’t very clean, and I am really not doing well with the whole cooking thing. But the bigger picture is that my life as a whole is motivated by love, is lived in love, is supported by love. It’s like having access to an endless source of hope and comfort. For that, I will be forever grateful to the presenter with her pie chart and easel.
Thank you to all who wrote in with their life savers! As always, I love, love, love hearing your thoughts.
A poem today, which you may recognize, by artist Michael Leunig. One of my favorites.
Love and Fear
There are only two feelings, Love and fear:
There are only two languages, Love and fear:
There are only two activities, Love and fear:
There are only two motives, two procedures,
two frameworks, two results, Love and fear,
Love and fear.
Peter Gabriel, one of my favorite musical artists, wrote a song entitled “Fear is the Mother of Violence”. The older I get, the more I see any kind of fear-based thinking to be destructive and to impede authenticity and undermine being in a state of love – with yourself, with life, with the world.
Well, thank you! I love the quote from Gabriel, “Fear is the Mother of Violence.” How true. And when we someone as alien and totally “other,” in now way connected to us, we become violent. I have been working a great deal on fear lately. What a helpful response to Leslie’s blog.
We each live our life in different ways, a mix of choice, necessity, enjoyment, familiarity, dedication, stability, and how we view change. I probably left out a few… but what works for me may not for you. To the extent someone might stir a mind to evaluate is good, but it can also generate anxiety – not so good. It’s nice an employer makes the service available, but attendance should be a voluntary thing.
This was a helpful blog, Leslie and the responses were helpful as well. This is so often the case. I really appreciate your concept of shifting everything to the “Love” section of the pie chart. I have for some time seen taking care of my home, especially laundry as not only an act of love but also enjoyable. I see folding clothes in particular as praying. I often recall my late mother running down to the basement to check on the clothes so when I do, I think of her. My problem is that life seems too full of loving acts with often not enough time to do them with grace and true care. I dislike this aspect of our culture. It is not the acts but the time factor. It seems, as Anne Lindbergh once noted in Gifts of the Sea, a matter of difficult choices and choose we must.
Since I have only this one life, though, it is my personal choice that to the greatest extent possible I am going to use my energy to “work” for the people I love.