Thursday, January 12, 2012

Life Balance: Falling Asleep At The Wheel

I changed jobs.

My children were able to drive themselves to high school and were about to enter college. I worked for a family-owned company in a small suburb and was the only female from the Director level up. At one point I set that as my goal - I was going to be the first female VP. In fact, three of us had a pact to see who would be the first to get to the VP level, although I was the only female in the pact.

It was safe and secure, two miles from home, always easy enough to get to the kids' schools if they needed me or to stay home when they were sick. Slowly I began to see that my VP goal wasn't going to happen. Actually, it was Mr. Lane who told me it would never happen at this company. That was like a bucket of cold water thrown in my face. At the time, I thought it was mean. Slowly I saw that he was right. I was not a good ole boy, and it was a pretty exclusive club.

Mr. Lane and I built a house in this sleepy suburb and turned our 3/4 acre property into a virtual botanical garden. 300 roses, hundreds of daylilies and iris. A pergola, a gazebo, a water fountain.

There were very few perennials that I did not have. We loved to work in the garden and smell the roses. Most nights I would get home and we would run outside to play until dark forced us inside to cook dinner.

I realized that at age 44, if I wanted to see how far I could go and how much I could make I would have to leave my comfy job. And be willing to give up that five minute commute. I found a job 45 minutes away at a sizable pay increase. But this was a large global company, with much higher expectations. At the family-owned company the employees actually ran from the buildings to their cars at 5:00 pm. Now, if you left at 5:00 you were considered a slacker.

I worked hard and got a promotion. And then I worked harder. Now I had to travel a few times a month, stay late most nights, bring my computer home to keep working every night. I loved my job. It was varied, I got to go fun places like Rome, Monaco, Switzerland, St. Thomas and Maui. And it was considered work! And I got paid well and had a pension on top of it! I knew the forces of the universe had put me in the right spot at the right time. Everyone wanted my job. Especially those who had to work in cubes every day with no hope of being sent to Caribbean islands for "work".

Working late and oftentimes driving home in the dark, coupled with long hours and corporate pressure, finally took its toll. I fell asleep at the wheel while driving home one night. Fortunately it wasn't on the freeway but on the two-lane road that cut through the town. The sound of my car hitting the gravel jarred me awake. Then I was on slick grass headed towards a large pole. Turning the wheel as far left as I could, I slid sideways through the grass and managed to keep from hitting the pole head-on. But I didn't miss the pole, it scraped down my car from the front bumper to the rear bumper. Once I got the car back on the road the car did what cars do when over-corrected. The rear went wildly right, then left, then right again. At this point I was just trying to keep the car greasy side down.

I looked in the rear view mirror to see if anyone was behind me to witness this embarrassing and humiliating feat of vehicle manipulation. Fortunately no one was around and I drove home the rest of the way shaking until Mr. Lane came home. He entered the bedroom wide-eyed and searching to see if I was OK. The car was not to fit to drive, and ended up costing $5,000 to repair.

That was my wake up call that I couldn't do it all. I used to take care of three kids, have dinner on the table every night (no frozen dinners for my kids), work full time, even go to graduate school part time. But I couldn't maintain 300 roses with my new job. Something had to give. My gardening expectations had to go down and I stopped trying to do it all. I was fortunate not to have fallen asleep at the wheel when I was doing 70 mph, rather than 40. Life balance lesson learned.


  1. Glad you were okay! This is a lesson that hits us all at one point or another (and for many of us--numerous times.) The balancing act is not easy because as soon as you seem to be walking straight along the balance beam, the beam beneath you changes, in texture, thickness, and height. Yet, we become more skilled at walking.

    I'd love to see this post linked to your "about me" section. Just a thought. I think it shows a lot about where you're coming from.

    Also, looking forward to an upcoming post on how to maintain the perfect rose garden. Or start one.

  2. Thanks! It definitely changed how I look at life and how much time I devote to the different partitions of work/family/spirit enriching.I will take your advice on the link - good idea!


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