The Sandwich of Life
I grew up watching my mom, a teacher, and dad, a mechanical engineer, struggle with it. I’ve had relationships fizzle out because of it. I’ve watched friends shed tears about it. I’ve battled it in corporate life myself.
The work-life “blend,” as I like to call it. Why “blend,” not “balance”? Because even the most talented yogis fall down eventually after teetering on one leg in yoga—even if they practice daily. Balance—be it in life, relationships, finances, food—is simply not possible.
Case in point: One-third of Americans work weekends and holidays, two-thirds of us claim a total imbalance, and the U.S. ranks in the bottom 20 percent of all countries in terms of its work-life blend, according to the results of a 2018 survey reported by Entrepreneur magazine.
OK, so that firm and strong Warrior III pose (or that 9 to 5 job and 5 to 9 home schedule) isn’t something we should aim to achieve. But we can strengthen our muscles—be it core muscles or our hearts to care for ourselves—with time. As cheesy as that sounds. And we need to.
Those who work 55-plus hours per week are at higher risk for a whole host of ailments, including depression, heart disease, anxiety and stroke.
Personally, I battled this while working for a corporation and trying to intermix several side gigs, my family, a relationship, charity work, friendships, my health and sleep. Eventually, while trying to excel at juggling all of the balls, I felt like I was dropping each and every one. My sleep suffered. I was losing weight. I bailed on plans. My nerves were frayed.
So I did what felt right in my gut, and I did what I don’t ever remember doing in my previous 31 years: I quit. I left my safe corporate home of 10 years and struck out on my own. It was so scary, but I realized that my Dagwood sandwich of life was overstuffed and spilling in my lap.
Let me explain. Bread is good, right? But what happens when you add a slice of cheese between two pieces? Thumbs up. And if you butter the bread and griddle said sandwich? Even better! Toss in a few pickles, a couple slices of ham and turkey, and slather on a condiment or two? You have a masterpiece.
So while having one thing you dedicate yourself to (the bread; your job) can be OK, the symphony of flavors that can occur when you curate the just-right blend (a sandwich built on wholesome bread with quality ingredients; your job + family + partner + volunteer work + friendships + wellness + spirituality + rest) can be downright euphoric.
Admittedly, I struggle with this to this day, even as my own boss. But each day is a new chance to build a more delicious, well-balanced sandwich.
So tell me: How’s your lunch looking?
Karla Walsh is a freelance writer and restaurant brand manager who has happily called Des Moines home for seven years. Contact her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org when you need a break and want to play hooky.