“Work-life balance.” Wait … let’s put those words in a healthier order: “life-work balance.”
I can promise you, though, that I wasn’t thinking about either version of the term when Diane and I recently hiked the trails on Mount Rainier. I wasn’t thinking about work and, with life all around us, I wasn’t really thinking about that either … I was just in it. There isn’t room in your brain for much else when the air you’re immersed in is crisp and clean, the sun warms your arms, the tiny wildflowers sway and the trail under your feet is soft and forgiving.
And balance? The only balance I had in mind was the kind that you need to keep from twisting an ankle when you take a long step down from a weathered Douglas Fir root onto a sand-covered rock. Or how to remain upright when crossing a one-person monkey bridge over an absolutely exquisite stream on the way to the Grove of the Patriarchs. The Grove is an old-growth forest with many trees that have eight-foot diameters at the base, trees that began life during the Crusades or earlier. Being there is truly humbling.
Much is written about how to keep your life and work in balance. Just Google it and you’ll find posts about the importance of meditation, restorative things that you can do in just minutes, the mental health aspects (did you know that you can develop a codependent relationship with work?), and the various other kinds of tolls that being out of balance can have on your body, mind and spirit. One post even claims that life-work balance is dead; that it’s all just life.
There certainly is value in these viewpoints and tips. My book-coach sister, Ginger, recently guest-blogged about ways to sustain creativity using what she calls the Four Ss, one of which is self-care. She mentions a very driven writing client who was suffering through a major life event while facing a big deadline. Ginger asked her how she was going to manage the process if she didn’t take care of “the machine” (herself). The client “ended up coming up with a rigorous schedule of writing—and an equally rigorous one of walks, snacks, yoga stretches, naps, and strategic, timed phone calls to her support team. She hit her deadline.”
Whatever you can do to take care of yourself, to create balance, even in the tiniest of ways, do those things. Meditate, walk with mindfulness, ride your bike, get in touch with old friends. It’s not necessary to fly to Washington State to hike Mount Rainier, but if you can do something like that, do it. It’s restoring, immersive and lasting.
I’ll bet you can make time to get outside, or to meditate, or explore … to get away to it all.
Getting away to it all is not about leaving things behind; it’s about going toward something: yourself.