Work. Life. Balance. Part 2 – Direction
It’s a chilly day around the cabin. The Lady has been busy in her kitchen all day fixing some delicious goodness for us and her gaggle of fans who put in requests. I spent the morning hunting and making sure we didn’t miss any calves yesterday when we rounded up the cows and moved them all to the winter pastures. But as the rain is threatening to turn to sleet and all the chores are done, I’ll take some time to come inside by the wood stove and work on this work/life/balance series.
One of the things that made a huge difference for us came down to something that wasn’t exactly easy, but it was simple. Making a definitive decision on how we were going to live our lives. This sounds relatively cliche’ on the surface, but I can assure you it wasn’t. One of the things I see regularly are people who are mostly directionless. They’re good people. They go to work. They pay their taxes. They do all the things that everyone else does. But, they’re also operating under an assumption that all of those things are leading them somewhere. We were like that. But the reality is that life just causes you to float around like a ball in a swimming pool and just bouncing from wall to wall. There’s perpetual movement, but an absence of direction.
There’s a freedom that comes from making a decision that says, “I’ll go this way.” By its nature it makes a lot of other decisions easier because they are either leading you toward your destination or away from it. The decision itself becomes the compass and the compass becomes the guide rather than accessory.
For me it was the internalization of a very simple fact. That no institution outside of my family really had our best interests in mind. Plain and simple. The government didn’t. My employers didn’t. Wall Street didn’t. Our church didn’t. Nobody was going to make sure that we were fed, housed and taken care of . Period.
I know that seems like a cynic’s approach, but it’s just realism. The modern political environment of the United States is about dissent and demonization, not leadership. Politicians mostly serve their corporate sponsors. Somewhere there was a shift from serving the people to serving the companies of the people. Though there are welfare programs that help some folks, they don’t exist because governments want to take care of people. They exist because a systemic, broken-down and homeless population creates a much bigger problem for society and drags the overall population resources down. So welfare really isn’t for those who need it, it’s for the rest of the population who doesn’t. Corporate America’s focus turned away from serving their customers and employees a long time ago and now focus their attention on profit margins and the happiness of shareholders. It seems most churches lost their focus along the way as well. While there are certainly some wonderful people out there, the institution of American churches seem primarily focused on supporting their own particular institutions and dogmas rather than the purpose they were originally called. But, all of these are topics for another day.
So let’s just call a spade a spade and marinate in that glorious reality. If you want to do more than bounce between the edges, you’re pretty much on your own. It doesn’t matter the size of your wallet, the accent of your voice or the color of your skin.
So what are you going to do about it? We can deny it. We can devolve into a world of self pity about it. Or you can do something about it.
For me it was deciding that I didn’t need those things anymore. Work is still important to me. Faith is still important. Leadership is still important, but the institutions that currently control those have lost much of their value in this modern age. I’m not going to wait for an employer to decide if I deserve more money. I’m not going to let a dysfunctional institution to decide how I should behave. I’m not going to invest my time and resources in things that have no intention of reciprocating. I wanted a log cabin so I built one. I needed a way to make more money than my employer paid me so I started my own business. I needed a way to raise food so we planted a garden, raise cattle and hunt. I decided I wanted to be healthy so I stopped eating crap and started getting a fat body in shape.
And no, we don’t have it all figured it. But, we picked a direction. We do things that take us in a direction. We don’t do things that pull us away from that direction. We buy things that move us toward the direction. We don’t buy things that move us away. We learn to navigate by recognize the reality that is instead of the reality we want.
It’s really that simple. Don’t sit around and wait for things to get better. They won’t. Stop thinking something else is going to take care of you. It’s not. Stop letting others make you feel insecure about your life. Move on. Stop asking yourself what kind of career best defines you and start asking yourself what life best defines you and then go that direction. Stop wasting time on things and people who are only good at sucking your energy. It’s your life not theirs.
This doesn’t mean you have a license to be selfish. You don’t get to be an ass while in this pursuit. You still have a responsibility to your family, friends, your community and the land you walk. Making your own way doesn’t give anyone the right to trample on someone else’s life. Focus on honorable things. Good things. Productive things. Things worthy of your time and resources and you will begin to find that the balance between work and life becomes far more in focus.
So in the meantime… live well… laugh often… love always.