Truth & a Missed Opportunity
I posted the below words yesterday. I wrote them quickly, in the morning, and they simply felt honest. The truth is that I - like many of you, I imagine? - have been struggling with juggling, with figuring out how to prioritize my life, and be more "balanced" and "present" within its frame. Anyway, my intentions were good and I published and then I got a comment which, well, stung a bit. I debated and then published that comment and then responded to it and then took the whole thing down because it just felt kinda negative and icky. But today I realize that the comment stung probably because there is some truth in it and moreover, that this was a missed opportunity at what is perhaps an important conversation. So here it is.
Ten years ago (hard to believe), I quit my job as a lawyer in a big Manhattan firm. I quit for several reasons, many inchoate at the time: because I was young and foolishly confident and had the financial means to do so; because I knew I'd never feel passion practicing big-firm law; because I wanted to write; because I didn't want my life to be dominated by work.
Here I am. A full decade later. Immersed in a life I truly love. It is nothing but a privilege to be living here in my hometown, raising my bright little girls, hanging with a husband who's also my best friend, writing books and blog posts. It's pretty much a dream and I know this and trust me, I don't take it for granted.
I'm working too much. There, I said it. And it's true. Many days, I'm up by 4:30am to write fiction. Between getting the kids off to school and shuttling them to their various activities, I spend the rest of my time working - editing a manuscript or writing a post or planning the literary salons I host. Even if I'm not seated and typing, I'm still working. When I'm on the elliptical machine, I'm brainstorming a character or a chapter. When I'm on vacation, technically taking time off, I'm watching videos for the online business course that somehow seems imperative to be taking. When I'm kicking back with my family, I'm compulsively Instagramming, which is something I tell myself I love doing, but also something that feels attached, in some ineffable way, to self-promotion and work.
Husband sent me an article yesterday. It's called The Case for Leaning Out.Hungrily, I devoured it. And then again. I felt myself nodding, relating. The author, Nico Lang, writes:
The problem, of course, isn’t just our jobs: We’re working even when we’re not working. We go to happy hour with our coworkers after we get off, share a beer in the office and loiter socially before we leave, take our laptops home when we just have to finish just one more spreadsheet for tomorrow’s meeting, check emails over brunch, and shuffle outside to take an “important call” while everybody else is ordering mimosas. If you’re a writer, your social life likely consists of going to parties with other writers, who will, inevitably, talk about writing; even when we leave work, we can’t shut up about it.
I woke up thinking about this article. I put my girls on the bus to head back to school after a two-week spring break and here I am, at my trusty spot at the screen, thinking about all of this, brimming with questions, craving answers even though I'm not sure they exist.
I feel beyond grateful to be doing the work I'm doing, work that I love. I know that many many people do not have this luck or luxury. Writing is indeed my passion. I know I am so exceedingly fortunate to have flexibility, to be able to make my own schedule, that I'm not stuck at a job I hate to pay the bills. I know with every bit of my being that I'm a million times happier than I would have been had I stuck it out at the law firm, but it is still work and, like the rest of us, I need to remember that work is not life and I must make sure to separate the two. I'm just not sure I know how.
How to do this? How to create limits and stick to them? How to step away from the screen, turn it off, be present for moments that will too swiftly tumble by? How to lean out?
Goodness, I don't know. I really don't. But I will tell you something: I vow to figure it out. It's far too important not to.
Do you ever feel like you are working too much? Do you feel like our 24-7 digital culture makes it hard to separate work and life?