There is no balance in “work/life balance”

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Every time the topic of “work/life balance” comes up, I cringe a little.  Here’s why:

First, I think the phrase encourages a weird kind of binary thinking about our daily way of being.  There’s work, and there’s everything else, which falls into the category of “life.”  Somehow, we are supposed to “balance” these two areas of existence.  But that doesn’t work for me, because there are seasons where work demands more of my energy, and seasons when I have to devote more attention to the other stuff.

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Secondly, the phrase has potential to be sexist, to tyrannize women more than men.  Think of the times you’ve heard the phrase, and most likely it’s been in a gendered context.  The idea of “work/life balance” often walks in lockstep with “having it all” – that a person (usually female) should be able to maintain a home, nurture a relationship, raise amazing children, advance on the job … and do each of these things at tip-top, 100% levels.  And look beautiful while doing it.

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Here’s a new way of thinking:

What if it’s all just “life?”  What if the “balance” isn’t binary, but a three-legged stool of mind, body, and spirit?  What if we acknowledge that we can’t do everything, and the most noble use of our time is to choose those things that are most important to us, whatever others might think?  What if we give our best in each area of our lives, and realize that on any given day, our best might not be 100%, and that’s ok – what might happen then?

I don’t claim to have the answer, but I’m no longer interested in “having it all.”

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Once upon a time, I thought the world had a handle on top that only I could turn.  Then a funny thing happened: I became ill.  I was hospitalized for five weeks.  In the middle of a semester, my classes were suddenly being taught by somebody else, I missed every meeting, attended no conferences, wrote no articles.

And the world went on without me, while I turned 100% of my attention to getting well.  It was a season in my life, a chapter, but the lessons have continued for years.  I had gotten into this mess in the first place by neglecting my health at the expense of work, and my body demanded its due.  It’s time, it said, that you pay attention to me, and I’m going to stop functioning properly just so you get the message.

In other words, my three-legged stool had become wobbly, and it collapsed beneath me.

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These days, I’m being intentional about feeding my mind, body, and spirit every day.  Some of this feeding takes place through my job, some through physical care, some through tending my environment, and some through nurturing relationships.  The combination of activities will constantly shift and change, but it adds up to a whole life.

A life that’s composed of a lot more than just what’s left over after my workday is done.

 

 

 

COVID chronicles: A strange Easter, your “watch,” and being locked in – really

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Hi friends!

It’s been an odd Easter day for many of us.  If you’re used to a big meal with family, or going to church, you probably missed those events today.  I attended “virtual church” this morning (which is nice, but not the same), and made myself waffles for my solo brunch.  But these lonely times are also times for reflection.

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Scripture tells us that at the moment Jesus gave up his spirit, the temple veil was torn open.  What does this mean?  Up until that point, the ordinary person could not enter the “holy of holies” area, only the priests could.  The common man had to seek absolution from the priests.  When the veil was torn open, the barrier between us and God was torn open.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray to “our Father” – i.e., the father of us all.  We are siblings.  We are challenged to treat one another as such.

Where is God in the pandemic?  Where he’s always been – in the hearts and hands of his people.  Look and you’ll find him.

People in positions of power – presidents, governors, mayors, hospital administrators … nobody asked for this, but it’s happening now.  It’s happening in their time of leadership.  So it goes for every human.  We don’t always get to choose what happens to us, only how we react to it.  May all of us react in ways that lift one another up.

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I live in an apartment, and I got a call the other day from the office, saying that someone in my building has COVID.  Suddenly this pandemic isn’t so abstract.  We’ve been told that an exterminating company will spray everything down with disinfectant, but in the meantime, we should stay inside for at least a few days.  I’m going to have to go out mid-week to refill a prescription, but I will “suit up” accordingly and not touch anything.

While we are afraid for ourselves, we mustn’t forget to pray and feel empathy for those who are going through this.  My neighbor (whichever one it is, of course they wouldn’t tell me) is undoubtedly sick and frightened, and doesn’t deserve this disease (nor does anyone).  Let’s not allow our fear to make us cruel.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter.  Take some time today to reflect – on the empty tomb, on the resolution of uncertainty, and on the fact that the risen Lord first appeared to women.

Blessings,

Annette

COVID chronicles: Auto adventures, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and sewing for days

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Hi friends!

Sorry for the radio silence the past few days.  I’ve been busy!

Got my car back yesterday – finally.  You may recall that I hit a deer on March 1st, which buckled my hood and bashed in the front end of the car.  It’s been in the body shop all this time, and I was driving a loaner.  Tuesday morning I got a call saying it was ready, so I went to the body shop, dropped off the loaner, signed a bunch of papers, and drove off the lot with my car.  Whew, right?

Nope.  Nothing is ever that easy.

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I got halfway home, and the whole dashboard lit up with every possible warning.  A message was flashing, “Go to dealership immediately” and luckily, it was just down the road from where I was at the time.  I’m still under warranty, so I got to drive in on the “VIP side” of the garage.  I explained my problem, and it turned out to be just a system reset issue.  Nothing was wrong, except the car’s computer needed to be rebooted.

However, they couldn’t do it right away.  So they put me in a loaner.  Sigh.  Got it back yesterday, though, and it’s like brand new, inside and out, so I think (fingers and toes crossed) that this particular adventure is finally over.

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As a gesture of kindness to the human community during this pandemic, Andrew Lloyd Webber will be putting his musicals online so we can all enjoy a reprieve from worry.  Starts today, with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”  Each musical will be available for 48 hours starting on each Friday at 7 p.m. British Time, which is 2 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time.  So, if you are interested, be sure to tune in during a 48 hour window after the start time.  Search for the Youtube channel called “The Shows Must Go On.”

I’m still sewing masks for the local hospital, and I’ve got a bit of a cottage industry going here.  Fabric all over the place.  I haven’t sewed in years, so this is different for me, but it’s for a good cause.

Please observe all the “rules” during this time, and keep yourself well.  The world needs you.

Fondly,

Annette

 

COVID chronicles: The need to know, and the need to do something

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Dear friends,

Hello!  How are you holding up?

I’m curious to know your level of news consumption during this pandemic.  Are you a person who has the news on all day?  (That’s me).  Do you check once a day?  Or are you trying to tune it out as much as possible?

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I’ve always been driven to face the worst.  I figure if I do, then I can start absorbing the blow, and I can’t be blindsided by outcomes. (I don’t do very well with reading mysteries … I get partway through, and then I just have to flip to the back to find out “who done it!”)

I suppose, deep down, it’s a control issue.

I’ve been sewing masks for the local hospital, and again, I think it’s a control thing, a way of feeling like I have some agency over what’s happening.  Keeping busy helps me avoid crossing the line into helplessness and despair.

Could there be a bright side to all of this?

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I believe so.  We have all been asked to put our lives on pause, and this gives us time to reflect on what’s most important to us, and to appreciate all that we have.  I realize how much I value my ordinary life, teaching my classes, interacting with my students.  I miss my church community.  I miss feeling carefree enough to run to the store without worry.

I hope we can all find something constructive to do during this difficult time – start a journal, learn to bake, deep clean the house (that’s on my list too).  We’re allowed to be frightened, too, to cry and to worry – but let’s do our best to keep ourselves and each other from crossing the line into a state of despair.

Storms always pass, and you will find the strength you need.

Blessings,

Annette

COVID chronicles: How are ya?

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Hello lovely friends,

In our Interpersonal Communication course, we talk about secondary meanings of certain words and phrases – such as the question, “How are you?”  In our culture, it’s a throwaway line, a form of saying hello.  When we say it, we are not inquiring after the other person’s physical, mental, or spiritual health.  We just say “How are ya, how’s it going?” and walk on by without even getting an answer.

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The past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed something interesting happening.

People are checking in on each other (mostly by mediated means).  We’re asking “How are you?” and we mean it.  We want to know.  Are you feeling well?  How is your family?  Is there anything you need?

In the discipline of Communication, we emphasize the interdependence of people, the ways in which we live in community with others.  If anything good comes out of this time, it will be a reminder to us all that yes, we are our brothers’ keepers.  We succeed and fail together.  We must look after “the least of these.”

I miss you, my friends.

Annette

COVID chronicles: Kidney surgery in the midst of all this other excitement

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Hello friends,

On Tuesday, I had a surgical procedure to remove a large and impacted kidney stone (some things won’t wait, even in the midst of a pandemic).

I’ll tell you about the process, but you might want to stop reading now if you’re squeamish.  It’s not too graphic, but still.

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Fortunately, this surgery didn’t involve cutting me open.  The surgeon passed a tube up through my urethra to the kidney, then lazered the kidney stone into pieces and removed the pieces through the tube.  So it’s gone, but there might be some little particles / shards left over that will have to pass through – and that might be uncomfortable.

The procedure itself was painless.  I was very nervous, but it really wasn’t bad.  I remember dozing off from the anesthetic, then waking up thinking I had just drifted off.  I asked the nurse, “Is it time to go into surgery?” and she answered “It’s over!  You’re done.”  I was surprised, and there was no pain.

I’m recovering really well.  I haven’t had to take many pain pills – I’d call it more “discomfort” than pain.  When I “use the restroom,” there’s a little discomfort, similar to a cramp, but otherwise I’m feeling fine.

I had heard stories from people who’ve had this procedure, and have told me how terrible it was for them.  Everyone’s experience is different, but I really had no problems.  The worst part was the kidney stone (it was 9 mm!) and now it’s gone.

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Going to the hospital in this time of COVID was a bit scary, but they were extremely careful.  There were people at every entrance door, screening those who came in.  Sanitation procedures were being followed carefully.  I did not feel I was at risk at any time.

Thanks to those who sent prayers.  Please keep praying as I’m recovering.

Fondly,

Annette

COVID chronicles: This is real life, and we can still do stuff

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Hello my lovelies,

Entering week 2 of this self-isolation thing.  It’s starting to get to me a little.  I miss people.

I’ve been thinking about something I often hear my students talk about, and I’m also hearing the phrase a lot on the news nowadays: the “real world,” or “real life.”  It’s the idea that these days are just an interlude, a pause, and one day we’ll get back to routine.

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When students talk about the “real world” as though it’s something that comes later, something that’s “out there,” I like to remind them that this is life, right now.  Today is a day in your life that you’ll never get back.  There’s a lot you can do, today, to develop your mind, body, and spirit.  You, and your one precious life, are not on pause.

I keep thinking about this as I hear news items about COVID, and the talking heads on television speak of this time as something to be endured, to be gotten through.  I see a lot of similar memes on social media.  While I understand that many of these are meant to be encouraging – “Just hang in there!” – I wonder if we’re missing out on precious opportunities to live our best lives.

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This is an uncomfortable time for many of us.  It’s also a unique opportunity to reflect, to slow down, to rest, to get to know ourselves in a way that we usually don’t have time for.  Have you always meant to start a journal?  Learn a new skill?  This might just be the time.

Sending special love to all of those who must continue working, and interacting with others, during this stressful time.  I see you, and I appreciate you.  Your sacrifices are not going unnoticed.

Have courage, my friends.  I am keeping you in my prayers.

Fondly,

Annette

COVID chronicles: What’s that sound?

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Hello friends!

Just another day in paradise ::snerk::  But really, thankful for all my blessings, including YOU.

Last night, I fell asleep in the recliner.  I had my phone in hand at the time.  Woke up this morning to the alarm going off from somewhere inside the chair.  Jumped off the chair (startling Winnie, who was in my lap) and frantically groped around for the ringing sound.  Had to extend the whole chair to find my phone in the depths.

So that happened.  I’m awake now.

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I am thinking of all of you, and miss seeing my students!  Please, everyone, stay in touch with friends and loved ones, and let me know how you are doing.  We can lift each other up.  This is just a season in our lives, and it will pass.

Fondly,

Annette

COVID chronicles: Introverts and Extroverts

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Hello friends!  The odyssey continues.  Hope you are looking after your physical and mental health.

During this period of seclusion, I’ve seen a lot of people posting on social media about introversion and extroversion.  The introverts are the most content, of course.  The extroverts are getting lonely, especially if they don’t live with others.

Back in the day when I took the Myers-Briggs, I was right on the line between introversion and extroversion – an ambivert.

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I can see both qualities in myself.  I enjoy my own company, and am content with being alone, but I also love interacting with others (in person … I’m not fond of talking on the phone).  Right now, though, the extrovert part of myself is starting to feel lonely.

I’m keeping in touch with family and friends, but I really miss the human contact.  I miss going to church in person, rather than via livestream.  I miss teaching my students in the classroom.  This might be easier if I lived with others, but I live on my own (well, there’s Winnie), so I’m feeling pretty isolated right now.

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^ With some of my high school friends

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?  How are you coping with this time of seclusion?  I hope you are well.  I’m thinking of you.

I’m about to have dinner – homemade chicken soup (comfort food for all occasions) and a piece of cornbread.  Life is good, and I’m one of the lucky ones.

Blessings,

Annette