Creating Balance

Woodworkers know that a cheaply made tool will break under stress: a slight torsion or too much mallet, and the tool breaks. The ends are fractured in a hackly fashion- all rough and jagged. Not something you can salvage and makeover. Into the recycle bin it goes.

Relationships do not usually break that way. Instead, its’ the slow stress of years of bending, tension, not being cared for, or not respected. Woodworkers should know better because they care enough to clean and sharpen the tools that make them successful. So why not extend that principle to the relationships they depend upon for human sustenance?
I think it’s the blindness of human thought that we fail to transfer sound reasoning from one area of our lives to others. I know colleagues who’d never put away a plane without caring for the blade first but will ignore their children habitually.

I was witness to one sharp rupture. It had been years in the making. The wife walked up to the husband while joking with a client at a boat show. She pulled him aside and bluntly told him that she was through and he could go home to an empty house. All the bonhomie of a minute ago was gone. In an aside, as she strode away, she issued the cruelest of cuts and told him that she had never really loved him. Their relationship had been full of cancelations. The shop, ship, or boatyard came first; until it didn’t.

At that boat show, just a few booths from my booth were examples of different relationships. My friends Tom and Helen were partners in a mast-making business, happily in each other’s pockets for thirty years. Beyond them were Pat and Iris. Pat was a model maker, and Iris came to knit at all the shows and watch people. Both couples tended to put as much care and attention into their relationships as their craft.

I have to admit that getting back into the marine trades was good for me. When I was an anthropologist, I worked jobs that took me away, soaked up all my energy, and left me frustrated at home.
Falling back into the trades, I luckily was exposed to people with a considerable balance in their lives. Indeed, this is not universally true, but we tend to be small shops at my end of the spectrum, and family models are not uncommon. Those examples impacted my family life – more time spent with children and attention paid to my wife.

There is always an unavoidable noise to information ratio in life. We need to learn to filter out the noise and listen to the information. We live disjointed lives because we can’t seem to parallel good examples in life from one part of it to others. Can you live a good life being ethical in business but ignoring family?

There has been a lot of attention paid to work/life balance in recent years. Unfortunately, the emphasis seems to be mostly on how you balance time. I think this is a misconception.

It’s not just balancing time. It’s also balancing care, concern, and values.

10 Replies to “Creating Balance”

  1. I think one unfortunate part of this is making ends meet. People are working just to pay for daycare! In my eyes that means stay home. But then what about health benefits? This can go back and forth but in the end it is the relationships that count and not focusing on them is going to leave you empty and alone.

  2. Maybe it is reasonable to focus predominately on career and/or hobbies if it is done in short bursts?
    During my working life there were many men and women who worked long hours but would be quick to defend this by arguing they spent quality time with their family. I Quantity of time was sadly under-rated. I sound very old fashioned.

    1. Well, you’ve raised an issue I didn’t consider while writing the post, and I think you are right. I think creative activities have to be a part of finding balance.

  3. Someone brought to my attention recently, that when we do speak of balance, it shouldn’t be work/life balance; instead, it should be life/work balance. I like the sound of that better, and have used it ever since.

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