Minus work, my life is balanced…

Kiss Him, Johannesburg (2015)

Kiss Him, Johannesburg (2015)

Since the clock struck 12, just 25 days ago, much has happened. Yet for weeks, I’ve felt that not so much of it has been worth writing about. I went to Joburg for my poor, poor friend’s wedding (you remember her, right?). I went to Durban to celebrate my birthday. One of my very best friends came to town to enjoy it all. I went to work a lot. I met exciting new people for my research. I made a few new friends. I bought the Minaj’s album (as well as that of Mafikizolo, Chris Brown, Drake and Liquideep). I even made my first donation, as promised, to the Whitman Walker Clinic. All  great things…I tell you. And none of that has seemed worth writing about.

I’m jaded.

IMG_1541I’ve always been a bit of an Eeyore, i.e. the cynic (borderline pessimist) who never understands what the big deal is about things that other people considered big deals. But the problem now is that I feel like I’m doing so much that I just don’t get a chance to stop and smell whatever this flower is called, much less appreciate it enough to write about it. My whole life my parents have reminded me that I’m “never satisfied.” No matter how much they tried to make me smile or enjoy a good day, I was always looking for more of a good thing, so much so that it negated their efforts in the moment. And what’s worse, I think I’ve lost the ability to understand how stressful chasing the next satisfaction really is on me and the people I love.

What most might call “a first world problem,” has followed me wherever I’ve lived, wherever I’ve gone, no matter how much I try to run away from responsibilities. So, maybe it’s just a character flaw? I don’t know how to relax. I never have. Is it possible that I never will?

I’ve spent much of my adult life talking with counselors and therapists, friends and people who probably didn’t really care enough to listen with both ears, simply trying to find outlets to vent. But it has occurred to me now that talking about all the things I do, rather than actually limiting those things, will not offer much relief. I watched a really great Ted Talk on ‘work/ life balance’ a few weeks back and I thought “shit, so a gym membership won’t fix this?” (Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work).

When I originally heard the term back in 2009, I was a skeptic of the value of ‘work/life balance’ debates. First, I didn’t have much of a family and I’d just started my job, so work was still exciting for me. Almost 6 years down the line, I’m figuring at this rate either my body or my brains will fight against any willful efforts at procreation, so there’s nothing to balance there. According to the IRS, my husband and I make a family. That should be enough to tear me away from my office, except my sense of work ethic keeps me attached to my seat complaining about people I don’t particularly like and work I don’t find particularly meaningful. Not to mention that at this very moment, my work eats a piece of brain and two pieces of my soul on a daily basis.

My poorly thought out solution was to chase my dream of completing a PhD.  But, there’s a fundamental problem here. I didn’t actually quit my job. How many more hours of the day did I gain by pretending that work isn’t the real focal point of my life? Negative 8 hours.

I genuinely feel like out of a 9 hour work day, when I add the time I spend without my spouse and the time I should be working on my PhD, and divide that by the time I spend complaining, I end up losing 8 hours of life energy per day. The 1 hour retained was lunch.

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So, of all the awesome things I’ve done in the past few weeks to take my mind off things and to relax, much of it – like my PhD – seemed to be fulfilling, but still stress-inducing.  I made work out of relaxing and certainly didn’t take the time to stop and enjoy each moment.

Nigel Marsh says that even adding a gym work out to the mix won’t help me be more balanced, just more fit. And I’m inclined to believe him. It’s already one more thing on my lengthy and never-ending to do list… just above “read.”

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Obviously, for me the question isn’t so much about the tension between work and life, but finding value in both accomplishments and happiness. Being a glutton for work punishment may be an outgrowth of my own inability to separate the two. My own personal sense of achievement comes from seeing something through from start to finish. I value measurable accomplishments. Taking the time to live out my own happiness is hard thing to step back and admire. I’m not sure how to celebrate my days spent at the pool. But, it sure makes me feel energized for the days ahead and it just feels good.

Perhaps 2015 is the year to figure it all out…

Skinnier ever after

Dosas in Delhi

I went home and realized that I was clearly fat again. Kinda sucks, right? Right! Apparently my family and friends are better at lying to me than I am to myself to because they seemed to not remember the time when I was a visible size 4/6. But, I REMEMBER! And the current me and that skinny girl are on a quest to be reunited.

Are there unique obstacles I face? Yes. I can’t breathe the air in this city, so walking outside for a few laps during lunch is out of the question. While we all have to reduce our calorie intake, most people I know aren’t worried that there’s clarified butter and MSG in every meal they eat in a restaurant. But, those are my realities and not excuses.

What about the advantages of putting my fat foot down? Well, in Delhi the cost of a personal training session (in home) is $20 a pop. My maid could cook every meal if I wanted her to. And, frankly, lipo is cheap. Add it all up and I’ve got my mojo back.

I’m ready to try again to be a more fit, healthier me. While this would seem to be a singular process, I imagine that this would take a toll on my friends and family too. How many articles from Men’s Health can I send to work mates before they get pissed? And how many times can I turn down a host’s overtures to have a sugary, sypurey Indian sweet before they are all out offended?

Here’s a short list of the ways that I believe my workout plan will affect those around me. Forgive me in advance and thanks for your support!

Sweets in Paris

5- I’m going to be a lot less fun to be around: I can’t drink as much alcohol or eat out at as many random restaurants. I can’t even consume the proper amount of calories per day for a person of my height and that means I’ll be a grumpy camper. We all know how much I love food, and just the thought of not having it makes me a Debbie Downer. So, don’t take it personally when I try to eat your hand.

 

 

Banana rice in Bangkok

4- I’m going to say “I’m so fat” a lot. Don’t try to stop me: I do not have an eating disorder (anymore, j/k) and I don’t have weird body image issues. I just know that I’m fat right now. So, don’t try to dissuade me. It will not turn out well for you. Trade comments like “you sure can’t tell” for “you sure hide it well,” because I will not buy the idea that I am not visibly bigger having gained 15 pounds in a year. I’ll just consider you a liar or clinically blind.

 

Guadelopean creole fish in Paris

3- I’ll tell you now that I don’t want to go clothes shopping with you: You can fit things and I can’t. So, yea… no!

 

 

 

 

Lemon Tart in Mumbai

2- You should discourage me from buying shoes: When I go overboard shoe shopping, it means I’m trying to find a way around the fact that I can’t go clothes shopping. Yes, I am a shoe freak, but the freak goes Frankenstein haywire when I can’t fit any clothes. If the shoes are particularly fabulous, be prepared to stand down. But, if they are peep toe stilettos, just know that I am trying to overcompensate. Remind me how many training sessions I could pay for with those shoes!

 

Teddy’s Roti in DC

1- I do plan to be your skinn(ier) friend some day and I swear I’ll make up for everything I put you through! I’ll be lighter on my feet when we go dancing, and I’ll make you fresh fruit juices and bake you vegan cupcakes that actually taste good. I don’t plan to be Oscar the Grouch forever, just until I’m satisfied that I am no longer shaped like Big Bird.