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