I am going to stop striving for work life balance. It’s unattainable. It suggests that work and life are independent of each other.
That age-old quote “If you have a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life,” I’m sure it was said or written by someone incredibly insightful whose name I should probably remember; but it’s actually a fallacy. In my experience it is the people who love their jobs the most who work the hardest.
Sometimes I feel like my job is my life; they’re indistinguishable. It becomes a little too true when having discussions around the dining table with my three youngest children, about friends and what makes a good friend etcetera, and the youngest proudly proclaims, “I know who your best friend is Mum; Paul!” Given that Paul is my boss, I might need to talk to more people on the phone when the kids are around. Granted, any phone conversation I have while driving and a male voice that’s not their father’s comes through the speakers, they assume is Paul… They are usually correct.
My work and my life are intertwined. They are not definitively separate from each other, and this is not something I am working to change. My life is inclusive of the fact that I have a job. My life is a tapestry of various threads. For some people one of those threads might be work. For me, work is multiple threads of the tapestry, intricately woven to help form quite a satisfying piece… Mostly.
I am far from the first person to propose that there’s no such thing as work-life balance; however, most conversations I have or papers I read simply call it something different: Work-life rhythm, for example. Work life satisfaction was a new term that was afforded to me by a wise man I met with some weeks ago. I would remove ‘work’ from that phrase and simply say that I am continuously striving for satisfaction, or perhaps striving to maintain it. Am I entirely satisfied with each thread of the tapestry of my life all of the time? No. Is anyone? Tapestries are a beautiful example of collaboration and interconnectedness. A perfect metaphor for the different threads of your life working together, each playing their part to complete a work of art.
I am not yet an expert weaver and sometimes the threads I use are frayed or flawed. In these times I may reinforce the thread with a more reliable one, I may choose to treat the vulnerable thread with tender hands and gentle tools, and sometimes I may stop using that thread all together because it doesn’t contribute meaningfully to the piece.
Parts of my life’s tapestry are a chaos of textures, some are taught, organised and coordinated. However, the blank canvass yet to be adorned with whatever threads are selected from the enormity of possible opportunities, the limitless sprawling canvass with unbound edges fresh off the loom threatening to unravel; this is the space I find both terrifying and exhilarating. This is the space that fills me with gratitude for the comfort of the secure threads and complimentary shades and textures that I’ve woven in the past. This is the space that fills me with confidence and enthusiasm to continue to grow. Sometimes in this space I feel stuck – like an author with writer’s block. Where to from here? What do I do with a box full of threads that don’t complement what I’ve already woven? What if I’m out of thread?
I’m finding myself staring into an unappealing selection frequently in 2020 – and I know I’m not alone. But sometimes, you don’t know what goes well together until you put them on. And sometimes, probably more often than we realise, what we first thought might be a gaudy contrast, is in fact beautifully abstract.