Is it an illusion?

Early summer in New England is a magical time. The weather is perfect, especially at 5am which is the time I wake up each morning. We're not yet deep into the summer months where mosquitoes and oppressive humidity would make the indoors more appealing.

Yet rather than enjoying the cool temperatures, the fresh air and the sounds of nature, I choose solitary confinement. Upon waking, I step onto my walking pad, open my laptop and begin my workday. I walk and walk essentially going nowhere while diving into emails, appointments and invoices.

What on Earth is wrong with me?

About two years ago, circumstances took a turn and I needed to adjust to a new way of life. Yet, 22 months later, I am still chasing that healthy work-life balance. What I thought was an adjustment period has become a new rhythm of life.

My day often starts early with a photo shoot, followed by drivers ed lessons, and ends with me editing photos late into the night. There have been moments when I thought I had found a balance, but they were fleeting. Add to this the volunteer organizations I am involved in, and there is little time remaining for something as simple as down time.

One of the biggest myths I’ve encountered is that balance is a destination. If that were true, I should have "arrived" some time ago. Instead I have learned that it’s more about the journey and the small adjustments I make daily. I now time block and set boundaries with clients, but it’s a continuous process of trial and error.

There are days when I am energized and in a flow. And there are days when I am convinced I will become a statistic of burnout and stroke.

The question remains, why? Why do so many professionals struggle to strike a balance? I know I’m not alone in this matter. I see friends on social media posting memes about going on a beach vacation and carrying their laptop into the waves with them to meet their work demands.

And I think many of would agree that we do indeed love our work. I am grateful every day for having not one but two jobs, for being able to provide for myself, for doing something I am passionate about that has an impact, and for being able to buy those overpriced blackberries every once in a while.

Several years ago I read an article on the ways we as Americans define "success." I then went on to ask those around me what success looked like for them in their lives. The responses were quite fascinating and quite varied. A very small percentage had to do with acquiring wealth which is what we often associate that word with.

I've begun to revisit this for myself as I have felt the tides of unbalance rising. At this stage in my life I define success as establishing and maintaining a healthy and fulfilling work/life balance. It's about finding joy and peace in both of those spaces. For my introverted personality and sanity this means finding that on a daily basis: quiet time in the morning pursuing a hobby, a lunch break with friends or an evening stroll or time spent with family.

I'm not sure why it is easier to say "yes" to work than it is to self. Perhaps it's the culture, perhaps it's personal circumstances, or perhaps it's part of the human condition. Whatever the motive may be I am recognizing that I have more authority than I often believe I do.

A friend of mine recently said that she tries to find ways to make work and play intersect. It caught my attention. Does it need to be either/or? Maybe "balance" is both/and.

At this stage of my life, one thing I know for certain is that everything is a work in progress. Self awareness and the ability to adjust and adapt are what create a manageable flow to our lives. It's a deeply personal journey and one that will look different for each of us despite the underlying commonalities.

I pray each of us comes to a place of "balance" and that in doing so, we may have compassion and patience for one another. We are figuring this out together.