Sometimes its possible to merge work and life. The times when you type one handed with the baby on your lap. Other times, you have to bide your time. Wait for the right conditions to light the fire. Merging work and life means to dance between the things that sustain you, that need to be done, the work you do not because you have to, but because you have to. Writing, politicking, serving, parenting, cooking, cleaning, talking, reading, sowing seeds, cutting grass, homework, housework, presentations, dissertations. These are the things we dance between. And there is also the necessity to pause, take a breath. Without that, the complexity of the dances we attempt to sustain is well and truly screwed. Right about now, I have to pause. Chapter 3 has been slaying me, emotional rollercoaster and the disturbing of so many demanding ancestors. The baby wants to crawl. My daughter falls over and needs to be held. This is my work, no great shakes. In order to do it, be present enough to muddle through, I have to pause. Look at these logs. Feel the fire contained in the wood, not yet released. Then I finish chapter 3, laugh through bedtime, cheer the first crawl, hang out the washing, hell, maybe even wash my hair. But first, I pause and return to my breath for just a minute. At the end of this sentence. Stop.
Oftentimes it is tricky and maybe even impossible to separate work and life. What does that thing ‘work life balance‘ mean anyway? It implies that work and life are somehow intrinsically separate things. This is a western hang over inherited partly from the booze up of the Enlightenment when that Cartesian division of mind and body got honed and perfected. Dividing work and life is an extension of that. When I try to balance work as a writer with life as a mother of two little people, things get ill. It is hard, draining, difficult to strike a balance between such demanding, consuming passions. I am lost somewhere in the mix, chasing an ideal of perfection in two spheres that can’t be achieved. The result as I’ve observed time and time again is stagnation combined with guilt in my work and irritability combined with guilt in my parenting.
So change the script. Recognise this work-life division is an illusion. When you can. Because it saves your skin. It’s saving mine right now. I’m typing this one handed on my phone. My 8 month old son is on my lap chewing up a piece of bread. I dropped my daughter at school about an hour ago and her pink scooter is under the table in the cafe where I’m getting a bit of breakfast and a cup of tea for 20 pence. Destabilising the tyranny of the work-life balancing act requires sustenance. The working conditions aren’t ideal, but hell, when are they? I can always find a million excuses not to write. Why not just write anyway, as part of the flow of life more generally? Perfection is the enemy of the good. That’s how the Buddha puts it. Sitting here, my son warm and cosy on my lap, another cup of tea on the way, things are good. And that’s good enough for me.