I’m Coming Up For Air

Photo by stratic, via Flickr

This coming week, we will launch the newest (the fifth) version our website, www.massmed.org. It’s consumed 18 months of planning, research, coding, and everything else that goes into a big site re-launch We started with a blank sheet of paper and no assumptions. The version we launch this week is by means the end of the game; lots more is coming. I have loved this project.

The last three weeks have been especially intense. All hands were on deck. We worked days, nights and weekends. We ran into problems, fixed them, and found more problems. No doubt, others remain. And all this, while we tend to the other things that the Massachusetts Medical Society pays us for.

This project pushed a lot of other things to my back burner: My RFP for a communications consultant (sorry, guys). My reading. My trips to the gym in the morning. And my writing – including this blog.

I’m happy to report that nothing urgent fell through the cracks. The bills got paid, the kids got fed, and the cars always got gassed. (But let’s forget the community meeting to which I showed up 11 hours late, okey-doke?)

I could feel guilty about letting some things slide a little, but I don’t. And it’s not because I lack a conscience. It’s because that’s what happens when life is working.

There are many metaphors for the phenomenon of a life with many elements, but there are two that work for me.

The first is rhythm. Todd Henry writes a great blog and podcast, The Accidental Creative. He is committed to coaching people who create on demand for a living, and offers tools for a continuously healthy creative life.

Todd’s biggest contribution to my life is a series of posts about how he plans his day so that he will always have the mental and emotional resources to create, manage his business, be a father, and not feel used up by life.

He purposefully nurtures his creative side. For example, he schedules one hour a day for doing nothing but reading and learning. Without that, he believes, his creative life would die as quickly as would a plant that hasn’t been watered regularly.

As Todd says, our lives flow in rhythms. Sometimes, to something done, we must work really intensively on something. Without that focus, there are no results. But if you do this forever, you bankrupt your mind, your heart and your body. So if you experience burnout, all you need to do is break this rhythm and create a new one.

Or, you could feed the part of you that you have neglected. The other metaphor that works for me is nourishment. Like you, there are many parts of me, such as work, family, community, physical, and spiritual. When I neglect any one of them for too long, I experience a certain hunger. I feel a need to feed it – by spending a Saturday working. Or volunteering. Or cuddling in the living room with my family to watch a light movie. Or attending church on Sundays. Or by going to the gym. When I feed myself, the hunger eases.

One metaphor that does not work for me is balance. This metaphor drives people crazy, because it leads them into dark mazes from which there is little escape. “Balance” implies a perfect geocentric moment. The pitfall of “balance” is that its existence is fleeting. You will be unsettled at least 99% of the time.

Seeking “balance” is really, really, really hard work. It is ultimately unsatisfying. Wouldn’t it be better just to feed yourself, or simply acknowledge that life has a rhythm, and just go with it?


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