The Balance

I’d like to think my job is to get up in the morning and chase adventures. A trail run. A ride. Some new patch of woods. A challenge.

And some days I can manage that.

Other days I have to wake my kids at 7:30, feed them, chase them back to their laptops in time for remote school.

Emails land in my inbox with a thud. Clients who need things. They’ll gnaw at you, draw you into the glow of the screen, create a false sense of urgency. I like to be responsive. I hate to respond.

By this time, it’s become clear that the house is a mess. If I just put a few things away before the adventure, then everything will be better. But this slope is slippery too. Hours slide past as I sweep, wipe the counters, put away the laundry.

Sometimes I will just tear myself away and head for the woods, the dog in the backseat. Like a jail break. I feel a sickness in my stomach, like the trees and dirt might not be there anymore, that I might miss them.

And sometimes work and life overwhelm whatever urges I might feel. I fall deep down into my inbox and can’t climb out. The house has a gravity beyond its mass. The dog is nonplussed, but I don’t work for him. We’re just friends.

Getting the balance right is hard, and as a consultant I have the theoretical flexibility to make it easier. There are times in the day though, and whole days, when I need to be responsible to someone other than myself. And then, even when it’s just me I’m answering to, it can be hard to convince myself it’s true, like a responsibility bomb might drop out of the sky any second.

Even as I’ve changed my work life to accommodate more outside time, my mind hasn’t entirely changed. My priorities have this legacy guilt that persuades me, too often, to err on the side of work.

No one ever dies wishing they’d worked more. No one sane.