Sunday, May 17, 2009

Am I a workaholic if I love what I do?

There's lots of talk about work/life balance these days. And it's true that there are those who sacrifice all - relationships, friends, health - for a misplaced passion. Workaholism in my mind shows all the marks of other addictions. There's the shame/reformaton/abstension/fall cycle to them all, whether it's reaching for the dirty syringe, the liter bottle of wine, or the fatty doughnut.

But on the other hand, I think we underestimate the rich benefits of community that work provides. We spend time with some of our co-workers than we do with some of our family and friends. All that investment of time and commitment very often builds in to something good.

Then there's the matter of how much time I have to invest. I'm in the happy place of middle age where my children have flown the nest and are building their own lives. If I want to spend an evening working on a proposal, I can; and I do so without sacrificing time elsewhere.

So am I workaholic? I am not slaving away at the tasks with no thought to time, health, or relationships. The time I invest I enjoy, and what I produce is it's own form of creativity. I don't hide away when I spend on these activities.

Creativity can be all-consuming, but I don't think that is necessarily bad. In those moments I can enter a flow state. These are moments of intense pleasure, with no fear of a subsequent crash.
Which brings me to a pet peeve of mine. There's talk of limiting hours that workers can access their work account. Due to my peculiar cycle of hot flashes, I am often my most creative and productive at 3:30 in the morning. I know this is unorthodox, but it's me. When I am engrossed in an idea, the fastest way to rest is to put the idea down. Then I am at rest. If I were limited to government hours, it would increase my distress, not reduce it.
I borrow the picture from

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's a dog's life

My daughter recently adopted a senior dog to take care of. The dog's name is Ariel and she is a sweet tempered Afghan, twelve years old. My daughter has known her since she was a glossy black puppy, and cheered from the sidelines as Ariel won "best in show" and gave birth to two litters of award winning puppies.
Ariel is now grey, and mostly sleeps and eats. She's only been with my daughter for a few short weeks, but already she's broken all the doggy rules. She loves to sleep on the couch and on the bed. She happily takes scraps from the table.

My daughter indulges. After all, if you have lived a long, full life, you deserve to break a few rules, don't you think?

I reminded my daughter to "take notes" because there are a few rules I would like to break when I am old and tired. Chief among them is to drink as many aspartame-laced beverages as I want, and to cook from aluminum cookware with impunity.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Have you ever wondered how the games we play affect our thinking; our view of the world?

Consider the difference between Eastern and Western game pieces. On one end of our world we have Mahjongg. On the other, we have checkers. The Western games are ordered black and red, up or down, right or wrong. Choices are thereby simplified. Eastern games are not as straightforward. To succeed, one might have to take a path congruent or obtuse to the goal.

Western thinking, through the Greeks, have been affected by this concept of either-or. Do you sacrifice the sickly member of your team in order for most to survive? Make the hard choice.

But sharpening the choice to one or another fails to pattern real life. Sometimes we make the hard choice with the hope to bring back the fallen member over time. In the long view, both win.

I have an example. When my children were young adults; one well and one ill, I had to choose who had to leave the family home. I told the sick one to leave. Why? In the blunt light of either-or, the welfare of the well took precedence. I am happy to say, though, that the story did not end there. The sick child did not wither and die. He learned the hard lessons of the street and became a humbler man because of it. Not to diminish the harshness of the choice, but by reinforcing my love in the face of hard choices over the intervening years, my son and I are reconciled.

The moral of the tale? Be slow to assume the consequences of your choices. Don't give up in the face of a "negative" choice. Hope gives new chances, and life is more complex than pass or fail.