Work-Life Balance and Other Myths

“You exist, Work-Life Balance.”

Or do you? Now that the marathon is over, I’ve had time to re-evaluate my schedule. For a while there it seemed like every spare minute was taken up with running. But in hindsight, I wasn’t really even running THAT much. For one thing, I was tapering. And also, I often felt guilty for missing should’a could’a would’a runs. Why would I be missing runs? I wanted to do well in the race, I don’t mind the runs, and I feel much better (healthier, less-stressed, more accomplished) when I get my run in for the day. So what gives?

Work, that’s what.

Early morning runs, and showers, and blow-dries, mean I may not get a cup of coffee before the workday is half-over. Working out in the morning means I show up the minute the workday starts, which is precisely five minutes after I receive 1294573 e-mails, 6 missed phone calls, a walk-by check-in from my boss, and “where-do-I-file-these” from some new hire. Since a coffee-less Blob is a humorless Blob, and since that’s terrible for everyone, (and I do mean EVERYone), I have frequently guilted myself out of running in the morning to get to work earlier.

After-work runs? Every day I hope, and every day the hope is lost. See, work has an even tighter grip on my evenings than on my mornings. At least in the morning it’s just my own guilty conscience wrangling me to my desk. In the evenings I’m already at the office. I’m already theirs. For as long as they want. It could be all. night. long.

Working Late
Image by iKeito via Flickr

Lunch runs, then? Nope. Never. Call me high-maintenance if you must, but as a blobby jogger who takes 90 minutes to stop sweating after a 45-minute run, planning to do anything after a workout that necessitates looking even halfway (even a quarter-way) decent is simply not an option. So when can a bottom-rung blob fit in a decent run? Surely even bottom-rungers deserve a measly 60 minutes to work out each day. And in adding up the hours I spend on other things (Yes, I do that. I do it habitually, absent-mindedly, incessantly, on the phone, on the back of a paper tablet, over the crossed-out text of a worked-over draft. I do that. I’m that blob.) I can see that I certainly have 60 minutes to spare over the course of the day. But those are 60 aggregated minutes. 3 minutes between phone calls when I contemplate whether to eat my homemade lunch at 10:30AM so I can get in on the office pizza party at noon, 4 minutes while the coffee is reheating at 3:00PM, 6 minutes when I contemplate what I’ve become after a client chastises me for calling after 7:00PM on a Friday night. These could be a run. These lonely islands of time, isolated and worthless on their own, could afford me a solid hour of pounding pavement, the cheapest hour of therapy no money can buy. They could be massive, could be life-changing, could be everything.

I just have to find a way to squish them all together.

It’s hard to believe that at the same time you’re grinding out a 60-hour work week you can be insufferably lazy. That’s what I am. That’s what this problem really is. Laziness. Blob. I’ve given in to a schedule that does not accommodate things I want to do. I have the power to change the schedule, to MAKE time, but I do not. I am too tired to think of a new time of day to work out, or a new workout to do that takes less time, or a faster way to do my job in less time, or a faster way to do my work out in less time. I am inefficient. I am a sad product of inertia. I am a bottom-rung blob.

Steve Runner, in his beloved podcast “Phedipidations,” often talks about The Couch of Doom as a metaphor for the inertia that new runners must overcome. Well I’m chained to The Desk of Doom. The desk that is always there, covered in files, computer seductively emitting the blue light and dulcet whirr promising more productivity. The desk upon which I will write letters that change lives. The desk where I will be sitting when my Million Dollar Idea strikes me. The desk that I will ride from the bottom rung, through the glass cieling, and into the wild-blue corporate yonder with reckless abandon.

Desk of Doom
Image by neuro via Flickr

Wait, what the heck am I thinking? It is not the Work-Life Balance that’s a myth. It is this. This idea that the Desk of Doom will ever be anything but just that. A pitfall, a hurdle, quicksand in the dreaded fire swamp, a silly siren’s song signaling me away from that which exists, that which is real, and that for which I should truly be striving.

Fitness. Self. Balance. Life.

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