Working from home is the new normal. Thank you, COVID-19. Because it's new for most of us, WFH feels anything but normal. We're struggling with work-life balance.
We don't like to struggle. Most of the time, we don't like to work. We avoid it when we can.
We hit snooze 5 times on our alarm clocks. We have great intentions, but we procrastinate. We're smart people, but we cut corners and take short cuts.
If we can't avoid work, we thank God when it's Friday. We celebrate the end of the workweek like its parole from prison.
We manipulate our children with stickers, money, and ice cream if they'll just do their chores or finish their school work. The word "chores" makes it clear how we feel about the work that needs to be done at home.
Children breathe in the idea that work is something someone has to pay you to do.
We start pushing back at an early age when work begins to take up space in our lives.
As adults, we struggled to find a work-life balance long before the pandemic. Now, we can't avoid the hard stuff at home by going to work, and we can't avoid the hard stuff at work because it's at home with us. Dang.
Maybe it's not the work we want to avoid; maybe it's the hard stuff.
Work and life can feel out of balance when the hard stuff is happening all in one place--and there's so much of it.
I know. I'm writing this blog post sitting in Levure Bakery, just down the street from our apartment.
I get out of the apartment to write because when I'm at home and get stuck in my writing, I decide it's better to fold clothes or try a new recipe.
I don't usually enjoy folding clothes, but if my gut has to choose between working through a stuck place in a writing project and neatly stacking t-shirts in a drawer, folding clothes is all of a sudden my work of choice!
It's not work I'm choosing to avoid, it's the hard stuff.
Working away from home doesn't offer me the chance to fold clothes. But, writing at a French bakery does present a new opportunity to resolve the pain of writer's block.
Two sentences ago, there was no Nutella-stuffed French pastry sitting on my work table. Now, there is.
Feeling the pain of being stuck, I picked a delicious pain reliever. Only time will tell if this sugar rush will help me work through the hard stuff and finish this blog post.
But now, I'm pondering something different.
Maybe we're asking ourselves the wrong question.
We keep wrestling to find a great answer to the question, "How do I find some work-life balance?" But, is balance what's really off?
Balance implies equal weight. Work-life balance implies a scale with work on one side and life on the other. The goal, we think, is to make sure work doesn't weigh more than life--so the scales will balance.
We think if we don't spend too much time and energy on work, we'll have enough left over to really enjoy life.
But what about those times when we binge on work and justify our spending based on our success? I've spent years of my life as a success-aholic.
And, if there's work to do at home and work to do at work--and we believe that life only happens when we're not working, are we really looking for a balance?
What if we're not out of balance?
If we're not out of balance, what is the source of our insecurity?
These questions deserve a wrestling match, too:
Do we feel out of balance because we can deal with the hard stuff at work better than we can handle the hard stuff at home?
What are we really afraid of?
For me, I'm afraid of failure. I'm afraid of being ignored. I'm afraid of not being valued in the eyes of my friends and my family and the world.
Or, I'll be ignored. Not noticed. Not valued.
When work gets hard, I panic. A drip of cortisol causes me to fight with myself or someone else, or run away and do laundry or eat French pastries.
It's better to do the stuff that's not hard--like laundry, I think.
It's better to risk being overweight rather than risk being ignored.
Our culture teaches us that if we work hard enough, one day we'll be good enough. And, when we're good enough, we'll find belonging.
This fear may be why we hate work. We've attached our identity and our value to what we do and how well we do it.
But, that's a lie. We live in a culture built by this fear. Fear is a liar.
The truth is, we find deep satisfaction when we help others when they struggle. They let us help them because they trust us. Trust feels like belonging.
We experience new strength in our struggles when we trust others to help us, too. This feels like living!
We find belonging in our places of need, not our places of perfection. We experience love in the middle of the hard stuff.
We're hardwired and hungry for integrity, not perfection. We're tired of lying to ourselves about the hard stuff. It's better to resolve the hard stuff rather than try to balance it.
A life of integrity will find balance.
Integrity means "I am sound and whole and consistent--continuously. I don't have to be different from one person to another." (Scott Morrison)
When I'm successful or when I struggle, I still belong. I am loved either way.
It's the truth. Truth builds a culture of love--not fear. When I experience love, I discover the truth of who I am, even when things are hard.
I find wholeness. I build strength. I learn how to navigate hard stuff.
I build relationships of trust and we remind each other of the truth. We experience each other's love.
Love builds trust and capacity. Life is still hard, but we're not lonely in our struggles.
Work and life find balance in healthy relationships--not simply routines.
Imagine standing on one side of the scale and someone you trust is standing on the other side. Together, you're balanced. You're needed. You're not alone. You belong.
When life is hard, someone's got your back. When life isn't hard, you get to celebrate together.
You're not perfect. Me, neither. But, if I hadn't trusted God to help me through the hard stuff today, somebody might be counting on piles of neatly folded t-shirts or pounds of delicious pastries because life feels out of balance right now.
If that's you, I with you. You're not alone. You're the reason I wrote this blog post. When you get up tomorrow morning, remember life isn't balanced by spending enough time and energy piling up enough success to hide the hard stuff.
Work at home. Live at home, too. Hold hands in the hard stuff. Success and struggle are better when they're shared.
Life is balanced in healthy relationships.
P. S. -- I risked trusting God's love because I experienced the love of Doug and others who love me well. I trust in the finished work of Jesus for new life and a shame-free identity.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV) tells us "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me..." This is the original good news!
We believe when people experience the love of others, they'll risk trusting God, too. There is great hope!