People talk about having a work/life balance. A friend who recently graduated from a very progressive graduate program in non-profit management just posted something about it. It’s a legitimate topic, as I know from personal experience: when your work/life balance is out of whack, bad things happen. My job was literally killing me. Sure, I was having all kinds of success at work, but in the meantime, I was going to the doctor all the time, gaining weight, having nightmares, crying out of nowhere, drinking wine to get to sleep, drinking coffee to wake up, hemorrhaging money on god knows what. You know what I’m talking about. If you claim not to, well congrats.
Anyway, I quit all that. I took that work/life balance warning to heart. I quit the deadly job, moved to the country, started raising chickens and bees, growing my food, running in the woods, that sort of thing.
Now I have a new and interesting problem: I have a life/work balance issue. As in, the arm-wrestling match between life and work is looking to come out decidedly in life’s favor. Go life!
But what about work? Okay, caveat being that the life I’ve chosen IS a lot of work (maintaining an old house, a vegetable garden, raising meat and layer chickens, tending bees, preserving and cooking and making everything from scratch) it’s not breadwinning. But aside from not just being profitable, all the worthy tasks I shoulder into here on the homestead tap into only part of the skills I have worked very hard to acquire in my life.
I AM a homesteader, without a doubt. But I can’t just walk away from the other very important part of who I am. I am a lawyer.
And I’m proud of it. Yeah, that’s right. See, I’m not the kind of lawyer that (deservedly) features in jokes where Satan, a lawyer, and a pile of poop walk into a bar… I’m not an ambulance chaser or a corporate shill or a politician. No, I help people. I mean, I really help people. Simple, real, frightened people who walk into my office and don’t know where to begin. I help victims of domestic violence. I help refugees. I help the poor who would otherwise get chewed up and spit out. And I do it by providing big-city lawyering to small town folks at a fraction of what I should charge.
And there’s a lot of work to be done in that department, believe me.
But meanwhile I’ve got the garden to plant and the animals to take care of and the house to tend to and the bread to bake and the cheese to make and the projects to finish. Oh, and don’t forget to save time to look at the stars and count wildflowers and live in the moment.
The gist of it is that I am feeling a bit underwater. I just recently – out of a real desire as well as serious financial need – dove back into the work thing in a big way. It’s been quite some time since I’d worked a full lawyer-week (i.e. 50-60 hours at a desk, on the phone, with clients, writing writing writing), but that’s what I’ve been doing. And what timing! Last year I swore I would make sure to take a month off in April/May so that I could get a real handle on the madness of the winter/spring transition tasks. I should be planting the garden, cleaning out the animal pens, tidying the yard, weeding the flower beds, mowing and weedeating around the house, refinishing the deck, tending the bees, working with my horse…
Instead of doing all that, I’ve been sitting at a desk for hours on end, not even looking out the window.
I guess the lesson is that the tension between life and work, work and life never really ends. Whether you’re trying to fit in time to travel (god, I wish!) or exercise or read a book, or, like me, trying to maintain a degree of professional success while running (and hopefully enjoying) a homestead, the juggling act seems inescapable.
Rather than get bogged down in the struggle (I must remind myself) it’s better to focus on the highlights. A successful first attempt at raising broiler chickens. An upcoming oral argument in the California Supreme Court. 6 to 8 eggs a day. A thriving new colony of bees. Public speaking engagements and community outreach. An ever-stronger relationship with my fella. A glorious sunny Saturday and some free time to dig in the garden. If these are the reasons why I continue to wobble along the life/work tightrope, then I have to say it’s worth it.