Tag Archives: Work/life balance

What are You Starting and Stopping?

28 Dec


This sign was placed at my regular trailhead recently. “How apropos for New Year’s,” I thought as I set out.


As my feet began the familiar climb I reflected on the fact that the word “START” was placed on a sign known for signaling “STOP”.


Then when I got to the first look out spot, I noticed the very familiar grafitti on this block of cement. Yes, God woke me up for a reason. What is it that I intend to do this upcoming year and during my life?

I take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve very seriously. For me, it is a time to engage in serious reflection. As much as I can, I slow down and vacate the day-to-day rut of work and domestic life. I try to have very little agenda and a fair amount of solitude post all the holiday revelries. Whether it’s a hike or novels or Netflix, I try to just let myself be. In that process, I can think about the highs and lows of the year, let any residual “ick” float to the surface and release, and begin to imagine possibilities for 2018. And I often find myself pretty tired about now.

As is typical, I have a thousand projects brewing that all feel like they’re going to explode in the first few months of the year. For that reason, I resonate with both “START” and “STOP” for if we’re going to “START” some things, it might mean we have to “STOP” or at least “PAUSE” on other things. There has to be enough space in our lives for creation. And there has to be enough space in our lives to actually live.

It’s important to know when to start and when to stop because we can’t have the foot on the brake pedal and the gas at the same time.

It’s also important to simply look around while in motion. When I did this morning, I was greeted by this sweet friend.


Here’s to 2018 and a wonderful New Year’s!


Just Say No!

17 Apr


When I was in middle school and high school I was expected to get up at 5:30 a.m. to water the plants and take care of our animals before going to school at 8:00 a.m. This was in Southern California where delicate potted plants needed to be watered in both the morning and late afternoon. Much of our shrubbery had automatic drip and spray sprinklers but the plants that didn’t would easily die within a few days without consistent care, particularly the fragile, moisture loving flowers such as orchids and fuschias. These varieties are tropical in nature and not meant for an arid dry climate.

This was also the era of Nancy Reagan’s, “Just say no!” campaign to help young people not sucuumb to drug use. I think of that phrase now. As direct as Nike’s, “Just do it!”, “Just say no!” is a great motto, if you can adhere to it.

I bring this up because these days many of us the minute we wake up log onto the computer or our phones to check text messages and emails. There is little division anymore between work and private life. It’s all mushed into one undifferintiated mass.

I’d rather water plants at 5:30 a.m. and walk and brush two magnificent large dogs like I did when I was young than look at a screen the minute I open my eyes. It’s a more humane way to wake up. It’s more embodied; more centered; more intimate. It’s a semi- equivalent of a toddler jumping on your bed or a lover kissing one awake. When outdoors at 5:30 a.m., you see the sunrise and the way the colors shift with an ever increasing degree of light. Even if engaged in a type of physical labor, there is something balanced in it because it involves the body fully vs. sitting sedentary at a screen.

I was raised with a Midwestern, farm mentality work ethnic and that ethic is in my DNA. However, that ethic can be brutal when it’s not mixed in with nature and natural rhythms and interpersonal relationships.

Sometimes we just have to say no to work and to technology and to get into our bodies and into nature. This actually feeds productivity because relaxation restores the mind and soul. It opens new vistas. As all farmers know, sometimes you have to let the fields lie fallow in order to create a better yield. If you demand the goose that lays a gold egg each day to produce more, she can stop producing all together.

Creativity always demands a tension between inner/outer, surrender/will, rest/activity. There is day and night, light and dark, life and death, order and chaos. There is a reason on the 7th day, the Lord took a break. We must take a moment to see, “That it was good.” Otherwise, we miss the show all together.








Content to be Content

21 Oct

I have 15,000 things to do today but the sun streams in through the windows, bouncing off the hardwood floor, and I am content to sit here. I am content to be content.


Autumn is a time of sweet reflection. The heat breaks. The days are shorter and darkness drops in earlier inviting in cozy and rest. As a young girl, I loved being huddled under the covers in the bliss of childhood slumber. My mom would have to rouse me for school in the morning and I’d slightly protest, wanting to stay in the cave of oblivion that we only really get when young, cared for fully, and unencumbered by the pressures of the adult world.

In her recent memoir, “M Train,” Patti Smith writes, “The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing, no matter how you land there,” she writes. “Oh, to be reborn within the pages of a book.” Although I read voraciously year round, I associate books with Autumn and Winter and the start of a school year. I also think of holiday foods, the crisp in the air, and cherished television specials and films. It is a time of reunion with loved ones, past and present. The smell of a turkey and fragrant pines, reminding us of people no longer alive and memories yet to make with new players on the stage.

Our lives move in seasons – seasons of darkness and depth and seasons filled with the lightness of being. It is the light and the dark that provides perception, depth, and contour. That makes our lives a living, breathing piece of art in the process of becoming.

Harvest. Pumpkins. Leaves and fading sun. Lessons stored and drawn upon like a squirrel’s cache of nuts for Winter.

This is not a season to be glossed over and rushed through. It is time to sip the hot mulled cider, to put one’s feet up and to rest after a considerable amount of work and exertion. It is time to prosper and be content.


Creating Space

14 Mar

When I was a little girl I spent considerable time helping my grandparents in their garden. Well, they worked while I slapped at mosquitoes and sang songs to myself. I remember my grandmother once explaining that a weed was anything that grew where it shouldn’t. Even a rose could be considered a weed if it was in the wrong place or choking another plant from receiving nourishment. I am a big fan of roses so it never occurred to me to consider the flower a weed. Yet my grandma had a point.

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I think about this conversation from long ago as I consider how over-crowded many of our lives are at this point in time. Talk to anyone and most will say, “I’ve got way too much going on…. I’m so exhausted. If only I had more time….” When this is the adage and refrain, I wonder if some weeding can be done, even if some of the “weeds” are the equivalent of roses. Sometimes too much of anything, even good things can overwhelm. If this is the case, we can become more conscious and judicious of what we plant in the garden and where we place things.

On the other hand, nothing is more exquisite than a wild overrun English garden. I’ve always been enamored by this style of gardening for these creations have a random and chaotic feel yet paradoxically bring a sense of calm. In them one finds a dizzy yet harmonious vitality almost analogous to a rich full life.

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Currently, my life feels like one of these wild overgrown English gardens. There is so much blooming at the moment my head wants to spin from the sea of color. And yet, if I’m honest with myself, nothing is choking out anything. Instead, the various items are delicately enhancing the others. Why then do I feel I need to control it all or take something away? Would it not be better to simply pause and sit in the garden for a moment and take it all in? How do we create space in our lives and what type of space do we yearn for? How do we find that fragile balance between order and chaos? I find it a daily process, one that requires the diligence and commitment of any good gardener and the ability to surrender things to Mother Nature as well.

A Room of One’s Own

11 Nov


When I was a toddler, I was told on a family hike not to play too close to a stream in case I fell in. Of course I did, although it wasn’t certain whether this was an accident or my own orchestration. I also drove my tricycle straight into the swimming pool. I was a small child, not fully aware of danger or the concept of defying my elders. I was however beginning to make choices, one of which entailed playing in water at all costs.


People who know me, know that I have an almost bizarre need to be in water. It is as if I need to return to that element from which we came. Colleagues I travel with joke that I am grumpy until I’ve had my swim and have learned that a hotel with a pool is my gold standard. And this weekend, at a retreat where I was one of the speakers, I was teased as the uber person out there at 6:00 a.m. getting a workout in. I don’t know how to explain that being in the pool had nothing to do with some compulsive need to maintain fitness. It is merely a by-product of a much deeper compulsion.


Virginia Woolf, in her essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” makes the feminist case that female writers need “a room of one’s own” and financial means in order to write. Otherwise, without quiet, solitude and time, too many elements intrude, inhibiting women from staking out a professional claim to their work.

Even as a young person, I sought out a “room of my own.” I was an only child so I had my own room at home but even in public spaces, I would stake out a private one. Many of my high school lunches were spent in the library where I could get a few moments to myself free of the social demands of teenage life.

I am now a woman. For better or worse, I am free of the domestic challenges Woolf claimed were such an obstacle for female writers. But nonetheless, there are plenty of distractions and demands that can rob me of my creativity, including my own work that helps finance my passions. Yet I have found that no matter how busy I am or how stimuli-overloaded I feel, if I can get myself into a body of water, my life force returns. It is my “room of my own” – the one place I can get away from everything, including my own mind. Underneath the water, I hear nothing but silence. Looking up at the sky from the water, I see no one but the hand of God. The water is my baptismal font, my ctrl-alt-delete, my rebooting and renewal. And although the exercise plays a role, it is so much more.

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My favorite book, aptly named, “Crossing the Unknown Sea” addresses some of these themes. The author, David Whyte speaks of the need for rejuvenation if we’re to maintain our vocation. Quoting Joseph Campbell, he states, “You must have a place you can go to where you do not know what your work is or who you work for, where you do not know who you are married to or who your children are” (p.157). He then warns of how work can trap us in a type of “postmodern serfdom,” (p.163) if we’re not careful and don’t carve out niches of time for our deeper soul needs. Then while addressing how we so often say, “yes” to everything that can rob us of work/life balance, Whyte states: “With regard to our marriage with time, to say yes would be the equivalent of promiscuity, of faithlessness and betrayal. Stress means we have committed adultery with regard to our marriage with time” (181). Those two gorgeous sentences explain why I swim and surf. The water is my form of marriage counseling when too much is coming at me or when I’ve made other things my idols. It is how I keep myself from cheating on my own soul and God as well.