In a time and place when millions are out of work and others working for minimum wage with no paid sick or vacation days, balance is a joke. Long commutes add an hour to two to three to the workday.
The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, is devoting this week to an interesting discussion of how and where — if at all — workers find a balance between their private life and the demands of their paid work. Says a Montreal mother of two:
I’m not sure the balance is actually working.
Two weeks ago I was wishing I’d get a cold, just a 24 hour virus, so I could get some forced rest. I knew if I just took a sick day I’d end up organizing the storage room. I got my wish on Tuesday. Full fever. Be careful what you ask for.
I know what she means. I ended up, in March 2007, on an IV in the hospital with pneumonia and a temperature of 104. It was painful, exhausting and terrifying; the spot on my lung was so large they thought it might be cancer.
I had been endlessly rewriting a major magazine story when I was asked to go out and cover a speech by Anita Hill for The New York Times, for whom I’ve been freelancing for 20 years. I had been sick for a week or so, and by then could barely hold my head up I was so ill, but needed the money, didn’t want to let down a long-time client — and went.
It took me a full month to regain my strength, napping for two hours to get enough energy to stay awake for the next two. Luckily, I have no kids or pets relying on me and I work from home.
Those three days forever changed my view on work, income and stress. I remain ambitious and want to retire. I live in a very costly part of the world so a lowered income is a problem.
But when I watch the endless stream of chest-thumpers on Facebook — I did this and I did this and I did this! — I sit back and stare at the sky.
I now, by choice, limit my work schedule and stay away from clients who will make me crazy with their insatiable demands, no matter what they pay. As a result, I make less money than I could, maybe than I should, certainly far less than my skills and experience would suggest.
But without my health, I have nothing.
How do you try to tame the demons of too little time and too many tasks?
Where and how do you make time for yourself to be quiet, calm down and re-charge?