I had an actual vacation this month, meaning I left my home to go elsewhere and didn’t take any work with me.  During the week I was gone, I neither responded to phone calls or emails unless they were from my husband (who was not with me on the trip).  When I returned home, I felt rejuvenated and relaxed…and started thinking about the benefits of having downtime from my usual routine.

Now, I’ve come back from vacations feeling relaxed before, but usually that was because I was overseas without access to email or a mobile phone…or camping without access to email or a mobile phone…or, well, you get the idea.  This recent vacation involved a six-hour drive to the destination and a week of hanging out with friends and my deliberately not accessing email or my phone unless, like I said, it involved my husband.  It’s become obvious to me that my vacations should not include anything work-related or, rather, that my vacations should actually be vacations.

So why is this a startling concept for me?  I am a corporate trainer and constantly preach about work-life balance, usually with the following exercise:

  1. Raise your hand if you’ve missed a doctor’s appointment due to work.
  2. Keep your hand up if you’ve missed something family or friend related on a weekday/night due to work.
  3. Keep your hand up if you’ve missed something on a weekend due to work.
  4. And, finally, keep your hand up if you enjoy this.

At this point, the hands come down and everyone is either looking around the room at one another or sending messages through private chat (if I’m training via web-meeting).  I then launch into ways to actually achieve balance between job and non-job which, in my experience, is incredibly difficult for Americans working in corporate environments.  We’re beaten and battered with the idea that timelines matter and metrics matter and key performance indicators matter and corporate objectives matter to the point that we start to believe they matter more than anything else going on in our lives.  Friends take a back seat to work, as does our health, and our family, and anything beyond the next status update we have to give to someone above us in the corporate hierarchy.  And right about when we feel like we’re going to keel over or run screaming through the cubicle maze waving a stapler…they bring me in to speak about work-life balance.

It’s a joke, really.

Except, it isn’t.  Without that balance, we wither.  Without that balance, we falter.  Without that balance, we’re never going to be able to be who we truly are and that, for me as a FlameKeeper, just isn’t acceptable.  If I am Divine, and my colleagues are Divine, and everything we do impacts the Universe and alters it in one direction or another, what are the consequences of having thousands of parts that aren’t healthy bumping into one another?  How do things grow and improve on the large-scale if we cannot take care of ourselves on the smaller scale?

If it took my most recent vacation to really apply the idea of balancing work and life, after working in corporate America since 1997 and following a religious philosophy that requires self-care, how many other people are having the same issues???

I’m not going to give tips here on how to prioritize your life, or filter the amount of useless communication that comes in each day, or get off the email hamster wheel.  I’m not going to preach about doing tasks in 25 minutes bursts with 3-4 minute breaks in between, and I’m certainly not going to list out the habits of effective people for you to follow.  I’m simply going to write this rant and hope, and pray that it makes one person think about balance.  If one person thinks about this topic, I’ve done my work as a FlameKeeper and helped shape the Universe.

And, really, that’s the goal here.


3 responses to “(Down)Time

  1. THIS, all of this, is what I’m wrestling with right now.

    I have actually recently come to the realization I don’t know what a vacation is. I’ve never traveled away from all of the attachments that comes with my connectedness from work. Now a decade in to my work career, I’m already burnt out. My response to the questions would be hands up on the first three and hands down on the last one.

    It’s not like I get a pat on the back for the overtime, in fact, it’s been expected of me. There is no recognition for going what should be considered above and beyond.

    As I’ve been working with self and life, I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t keep feeding this system, because it’s eating away me slowly.

    • Exactly. It’s taken me TOO LONG to realize that I have to actively seek out balance.

      Maybe for Paganicon we can make a pact to keep each other from doing anything work related?

  2. Pingback: For Everything There is a Learning Curve | The Twisted Rope

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