Saturday, August 02, 2008

Balancing, an Act

If you ever ask my mother, Ellen, about me, she would mention that I put way more hours into the jobs I've had than I ever get paid for, that sometimes I'm downright "lazy" and other times a complete workaholic. She is mystified that I don't have weekdays and weekends, a balanced life.

My mother, on the other hand, is an eminently practical woman, always busy, never sitting down until the kitchen is cleaned in the evening. But she only exerts exactly enough effort to get "okay" results. Her house is clean, not immaculate, her cooking good, not great, her patience moderate, but not extended, her clothing lightly used, neither old nor new. She enjoys and reads a great many books (she always is juggling 4 or 5) but doesn't remember the plots a month after she has read them as she has moved on to an equally enjoyable series of books. She has a green thumb but just manages a modest group of pots on her deck, a garden being too time-consuming.

She doesn't consider herself a success but in my eyes she manages to accomplish something I have never been able achieve->she achieves the greatest results with a minimum amount of effort. She does this by having the discipline of not expecting perfection, in fact, she would never ever expect that from herself. What she does expect is to be"good enough", to face tasks head on, even or maybe especially unpleasant tasks. She's a true Virgo and her chief strength is to persevere until her common sense tells her that her efforts would be best spent doing something else. She is economical in all things and, as a result, gets a lot of work accomplished.

I am quite the opposite, almost the polar opposite. Maybe because of the dominance of middle-of-the-road, suburban rationality in our home growing up, I was always drawn to the margins, both left & right, north & south. I am able to do absolutely nothing for long periods of time, just meditating, listening to the birds and watching the world go by like it is 1908. Another day I might get up at 3 am to work on a job I care about accomplishing and put in 18 hours.

But I am too cautious a person to live in the extremes of culture. I'm not to the manor-born, type A, go-getter but I also will always be gainfully employed, even if it is checking in books at a won't find me in the White House but you also won't find me in a crack house! I'm edgy & contrary but not fearless.

Unfortunately, except for the arts, most occupations reward steady, consistent, hard work and people who are focused and who chip, chip away on their chosen career path. I am too passionate and ambitious to be a slacker but I also value a low stress life that lets me pursue my varied interests including friendships, faith, and volunteer work.

And so my life has been a series of large leaps of achievement followed by times of stagnation, times of winning awards & fellowships followed by long fallow periods where absolutely nothing is happening. While this might make me an interesting person to have at a dinner party, it has caused me setbacks from which I'm not sure I'll recover very soon. But who knows? Given the zigs & zags of life, I could be poised for a comeback any moment now!

I didn't intend to write an entry on myself, I had decided to write on time management until I realized that I am completely abysmal at it! I work on projects I love until I fall asleep at my desk but there are crucial, important tasks that I never get to. And so, if anyone is reading, please give me your advice on how to maintain a steady pace forward instead of my current habit of running far ahead and then sitting down while the world catches up.

Next post, I promise, will be less self-indulgent and confessional!