I need to read Mireille Guiliano’s book, Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire, again, just to remind me of the importance of balance in all things. It’s been years since I read that book, and a part of me seems to recall that the advice in it didn’t seem to be especially practical for the average working woman. But at the time that I read the book I was an independent freelance writer about to work for (or maybe I’d just started?) a small marketing startup, and lived in a large metropolitan city where just going to the grocery store meant losing a half day because the closest store was a good half hour drive.
I’d be interested in reading it now, over a decade later, given my changed circumstances. I have what writer and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam refers to as a “Big Job”, and this year I’m in charge of piloting a new service that has a very high probability of turning into a tremendous revenue channel for us. It’s one I’d been wanting to experiment with for years, so I’m thrilled at the opportunity to finally jump in and actually lead the charge, but at the same time, it’s also an awesome, serious responsibility.
I love it.
But even the most even-keeled professional isn’t immune to the stresses of such high profile projects, and I’m not typically even-keeled on most of my best days. So to balance that out, I made the mistake the last couple of weeks of prioritizing this Big Job over almost everything else, including my diet, exercise, relationships, and rest. I did manage to get 7-8 hours of sleep quite a few nights, but I was so mentally depleted that I’d fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and would wake up groggy and disoriented. Clearly just prioritizing sleep isn’t enough. As a Woman of a Certain Age, there is so much more that I need to make sure I incorporate daily in my life, and these last few weeks I’ve sorely neglected them. The fact that I stepped on the scale this morning and, to my horror, saw that I’d gained two pounds in one week and now weigh more than I have in a few years was more evidence of the poor job I’ve done of truly caring for myself.
This morning I went for a short, 30-minute run, my first in over a week. I’ve been a runner for 27 years, and I ran my first marathon (the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon) just back in February, but ever since the lockdowns began in mid-March I’ve struggled to get back to a regular running routine. Which is too bad because of all things that help maintain my equilibrium, running is among the top 3 (reading and sleep are the other 2!). This morning, running under a clear blue sky and perfect temperatures in the high 40s, I remembered for the millionth time just how much joy and peace I get from running, with that rich emotional high lasting for hours and hours after. I still feel that same steady energy as I sit here typing this.
I realized that I truly need all of those things — running but also reading, rest, proper nutrition, and most of all, my close relationships — in order to live a full and fulfilling life, and that they add to the meaning of work, not subtract from it. All of those provide me with the solidity I need to pursue my best work at my Big Job, and without them, that Big Job gets only the shell of my self, while the rest get nothing.
So next week, I’ve resolved to incorporate running back into my life more regularly. It’s hard not having a race to aspire towards — races have always been the greatest and most consistent way to motivate myself to continue running — but maybe this is a good time to train myself to see races as a bonus rather than the reward, that the focus should be on the small, daily, material rewards of boundless energy, that unmatched feeling of health and life.
May you have a peaceful and relaxing weekend, wherever you are. ☀️
Photo: Freshly baked lavender scone from my favorite local coffee shop.