We all know we need to calibrate our daily activities so we don’t allow work to overwhelm us and take over our world. At the same time, if all we’re doing is cooking exotic dishes and watching NetFlix instead of spending time doing stuff that pays the bills, sooner or later, we’ll get fired/lose that publishing contract/run out of money and have to move in with the in-laws.
And it’s gotten harder with the pandemic because the regular structure of work is often out the window. No more going into the office from 9 to 5 every day. No more rehashing your weekend activities around the coffeepot with your co-workers. And if you decide to pursue writing as a full-time career, who’s to know if you skip a day and read the latest Jodi Picoult novel instead?
I struggle with this, particularly around the holidays. If I work too much, my home life suffers. If I switch my attention to the family, my word count goes down to zero. Somewhere along the line, I’ve bought into the mantra that my daily activities needed to be calibrated so there’s an equilibrium. I’m like Goldilocks – I’m trying to get everything “just right.” Are you the same?
How about this year we give ourselves a break, readjust our thinking, and admit we’re only one person? There’s only so much we can do, only so many hours in a day. And at certain times of the year, instead of balance, maybe we should give ourselves permission to immerse ourselves whole-heartedly in only one direction.
What would happen if we embraced imbalance instead?
IN DECEMBER- PUT LIFE FIRST
The four-week span between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the ideal time to ease up on the work part of your life and switch your focus to family. Gather together with relatives for a feast. Take a day off and shop for presents at locally-owned stores. Haul out the groan-worthy holiday sweaters. Rummage in the basement for the boxes marked Christmas and decorate the house with candles, holly, and wreaths. Go caroling or teach your kids to bake an old family recipe or attend a midnight church service on Christmas Eve. It’s a perfect time to watch Die Hard at home (yes, it IS a Christmas movie) or spring for tickets to A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker at the local playhouse. Throw the doors of your home open for a come-and-go buffet for friends in the neighborhood.
Wait, what about work? If you’ve got vacation hours coming, take them now. Not much gets done during December anyway (ask any writer who has ever waited to hear back from agents the last month of the year). Don’t stress about that paperwork you stuffed into your briefcase. It’ll still be there in January, I promise.
IN JANUARY – PUT WORK FIRST.
The brain may be a bit rusty but before long, you’ll long to get back to that project you were working on. Getting out of the house and going into the office will seem like a treat, not a chore. You’ll enjoy seeing the team again and begin to focus on what you plan to accomplish in 2022. If you’re a full-time writer, you’ll come back to your current work-in-progress with a fresh perspective. You’ll have ideas and plot twists you’ve been mulling over for a month that you can’t wait to get down on paper. The kids will be back in school. The weather will be cold and blustery so staying inside at your desk with a hot cup of tea and the heating cranked up will sound like the perfect way to spend the day.
As for the rest of the year, feel free to go back to that balance goal if you want. It’s not a bad way to be. Just remember, how you choose to spend your time is your decision to make. And if an occasional imbalance slips in, forgive yourself.
You’re only human.