Did you have a dream or fantasy of how it might be when you retired? Or left your job to start your own business? Theresa Souers, our ownTheresa-Venus, offers this creative and thought-provoking look at achieving life balance when we may not be able to change our job or retire. Enjoy!
Life Balance: It Might Just Be A State of Mind
by Theresa Souers
Balance: The condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. At least once a month I am accosted with inspirational quotes stressing the importance of achieving balance. These “words of wisdom” have the same affect on me as “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it“, and “Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in and it will come naturally. Grrrr. How many therapists are padding their retirement accounts listening to folks that tried living these philosophies and found themselves in bankruptcy. Nice ideals but not everyone is so lucky.
It appears I will be not be retiring in the near future. I may never get to retire. Who knows. When and if the time ever comes, I may not want to retire. I would like the option to choose though. Over the past several years, this reality has weighed heavily on my spirit. As I watched my friends, one after the other, celebrate their retirements and future plans, my green eyes felt as though someone had pumped up Photoshop’s saturation, vibrancy and luminance all at once. I was bogged down with dreams of quitting work. I didn’t want to talk to people any more. I didn’t want to run an office. I didn’t want to have the responsibilities of owning a business. All I could think about was camping in my trailer and playing with the grandchildren. I daydreamed of growing herbs, wearing jammies til noon and reading at least a novel a week. I longed to play my guitar, write songs and photograph with no time constrictions. I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do them.
Be that as it may, there are two issues that have to be faced. One, like it or not, I am not in a financial position to retire and two, I actually do like my job. I am fortunate enough to earn a good living with a great deal of flexibility in regards to the hours and locations in which I work. So, what’s the problem? I was burned out, bored and resentful. The days were too short and the months were flying by too quickly. I felt as though I was running out of time and there was nothing I could do about it.
Over the last few years, I started catching myself with glimpses of contentment surrounding my work/play life. This moments occurred when I was out of town during vacations or business trips. Keep in mind that I don’t have the luxury of “unplugging” when I take time off. For me, disconnecting is not a luxury. I know myself well enough to accept that if I touch base with clients, emails, and timelines every day, I enjoy my play time more. I don’t worry about what might be happening. I know what’s happening. I know there won’t be a pile of work waiting for my return. I stay on top of things. It became blatantly obvious that when on vacation, I could accomplish in two or three hours what would take eight hours in the office. No interruptions. No idle chit chat. More focus, hence more efficiency. The work would get done, the clients were happy and I would have the majority of the day left to play. There was balance and with that balance, joy. Why was that?
The “ah ha” turning point in my life occurred when I recently moved to a new home located a half hour from my office. Although the commute is beautiful and the time in the car listening to favorite tunes is relaxing, I knew I didn’t want to make the drive every day. At the same time, between setting up the new home, entertaining guests during the holidays and winter weather, I found myself working from home more often. In fact, I was only going in to the office three to four days a week. Without thinking about it, I found myself working in the same routine that I did when on vacation. And with the same results. When I did go into the office, I had a new appreciation for being there as well. I enjoyed connecting with my employees on a personal level. I enjoy donning a professional look. I liked looking around at all I had accomplished. I liked being home and I liked being in the office.
The holidays are over, the guests have left and my home is comfortable. Within the new calm, I made a conscious decision to keep in place my schedule of splitting work between the office and home. My calendar cannot reflect a rigid structure. It simply isn’t going to happen that way. But I do look ahead a day or two to see what my options are.
For example, I am working from home. It’s ten am and I have finished my banking, discussed options with a client, answered emails, played a few turns of online Scrabble and cleaned the kitchen. I’ll take a break soon to throw on some sloppy comfy clothes. I won’t put on a bra. I will wash my face and run a brush through my hair. I won’t put on make up. I will take a look at the “to do’s” for the day and set up the priority list with a goal of being done by three this afternoon. There will be some breaks throughout this time in which I will take care of some laundry, enjoy some snacks and whatever else I might come up with. I will soak in a hot tub, start a new novel and pull out the guitar for the first time in months. All while the sun is still in the sky. Maybe I won’t do all this, but whatever I do accomplish today will be my choice and at my pace. Balance.
By allowing myself options, I am more in control. The days and weeks seem to have slowed down. I am more relaxed and not longing for that which I thought I did not have. Indeed I do have time to pursue ventures I imagined only retirement would bring. There’s nothing I can’t do if I truly want to. This new balance in my life is healthy. I sleep better. I eat better. I am a better person. I won’t be retiring in the near future. I may never retire. It doesn’t matter. There’s no rush and I am happy. And if one day I wake up and find myself bored with this schedule, I will explore new options.