Sunday, April 15, 2012

Work-Life Balance

Posted: March 26, 5:23 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

Here’s a popular concept -- balance -- that seems logical on the surface, desperately needed, yet I’m just not sold on it. Balance? Balance implies some good, some bad, some black, some white, and lots of shades of gray. Finding compromise between competing goals of how you spend your time, accepting some of what you don’t want. My image is a seesaw, “work” on one side and “life” on the other. Trade-offs and a zero-sum game. When one goes up, the other must go down. That’s not what I want in my life. Why do I want some bad, some gray? I want no bad, no gray. I want passion, exuberance, saturated bright colors. Instead of a “balanced life” I want what my former colleague Imogene Bynum called a “congruent life” – one where work life and home life point in the same direction, toward parallel goals. Doesn’t mean bad stuff won’t happen, and it doesn’t mean I won’t sometimes have to do work I don’t like. But I don’t want my goal to be “balance,” I want my goal to be “extraordinary.” What if I aim for mediocre, and fall short? Where am I then? “Aim for the moon,” the quote goes. “Even if you miss, you’ll land somewhere among the stars.”

My congruence has been water. It has been the thing my work, life, and play are organized around. When I had a career, it was all about various aspects of water – water pollution, water supply, water quality, floods and droughts and water law. Water was also what supported my home and my recreation; with living on the boat and sailing as recreation, I’ve been unusually aware of environmental concerns and how they affect my life afloat.

But a vacation in Aruba last year was my first serious introduction to life under the water. My father, Mel Lindner, had been a pilot, and he’d often joked with us about navigation. He said that he had to think in three dimensions flying at various altitudes, while we in our boat were restricted to the surface of the water and only had two dimensions at our disposal. But going scuba diving changed that. Here was our third dimension, but it was down rather than up. We floated weightlessly in fantasy landscapes, and with weird creatures. Our guide, Manon Houtman, at a unique dive shop/pool/café called Aqua Windie’s, was an extremely competent and (patient!) instructor and tour guide, who became a friend in the time we were there. She was also a wonderful photographer; the stunning images here are all hers and I hope will give you a bit of a feel for what we experienced. Saturated colors and exuberance indeed! The t-shirt I brought back said it all – “same planet, different world.”Seeking the congruence of water in my not-balanced life afloat has given Dan and me access to new adventures that were magic far beyond our expectations.

dan diving small IMG_8260 c

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IMG_8460 c [All photos by Manon Houtman, 2011, and used with permission and my deepest thanx.]

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