Mar 27, 2009

Lost in the garage

I've been lying to you. Maybe lying to myself. Definitely lying to my children.

I write of a life of balance. Promise my kids oodles of relaxed, fun, quality time together. Promise myself a new life of following passions, honouring relationships, living in right relationship with the world. Have even questioned if I sleep too much.

The reality of 2009 has been anything but balanced. A quick renovation of an old garage into a one-bedroom rental suite and two grant writing contracts have all, predictably, increased in scope to become an all-consuming. These projects have swallowed up every bit of playtime, writing time, friends time, wife time, me time. I haven't taken the kids to school in weeks, haven't played Scrabble or read written a book, haven't slept more than 6 hours. Haven't even started planning or planting the spring garden.

When I did rush up to school to get the boys yesterday, it wasn't until I saw the reactions of the long-lost moms in the parking lot that I realized I hadn't showered, shaved or changed my grubby purple construction pants and rubber boots in 6 days. Even for me, that's crossing a line.

"It'll be over soon," I whisper to my clinging boys at bedtime. "Just as soon as this last project is done." "Just one more week." "I just have to get through this one thing then it will all come back to normal."

How often do we tell ourselves this? And more scary, is it ever true?

It is true that we committed to an insanely short timeline to get our renters in, and that I have no intention of taking on too many contracts at the same time. But it's also true that farming season is about to start, and that I do want to start investing time into writing a book. Those trees that fell over the winter still need to be chopped up. We want to get a sheep and 30 more chickens...

It's also true that part of me has loved this. After a relaxed fall/winter of play and sleep and family, it's felt invigorating to have projects to fully launch my everything into, lose myself in. I feel powerful with every new wall that goes up or grant section that gets written. I feel productive and needed in an instant gratification way that the deep, slow rewards of parenting rarely brings. Where does this drive to martyrdom and hyperproductivity come from; what does it feed?

And it's more true that this is a pattern. I've uttered the "just one more..." line too often to really believe it anymore. Was the slow, balanced fall just a lull rather than a true new lifestyle? Was the relaxed, balanced Rick just a visitor, and now the true, driven Rick is back?

Or maybe this is my version of balanced. Overwork, then crash and recover. Or putting a more positive spin, a time to sow and a time to reap. Maybe I just need to level a bit, shave the top peaks off the manic times and pull in a little more energy into the slow times. And accept that it's OK to be a person who needs to "accomplish" things, and then find a way to make that happen without sacrificing all the other commitments and people and values that I want to colour my life.

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  1. I hear you barkin big dog. Your thoughts are shared by many adults in developed Western countries. I think as long as you can identify what your balance is and be honest with yourself about what you need, want, or should accomplish (which are of course often very different answers), you are on the right track.

    You should sleep at least 8 hours though man, it's good for your heart!!

  2. Um, isn't this the year 2009?
    I love you!