This past year I fell out of balance.
The pandemic hit more than a year ago – at the time, no one knew what was going to happen – everything was uncertain, the world slowed down (unless you were a front-line worker), and many people either had nothing to do or no idea why they were doing what they were doing.
I fell into the latter camp. After all, I had things to do; it was March 2020 and the middle of tax season, but I often questioned why I was doing them. If it’s the end of the world, do taxes matter? Do financial plans? Then, the usual April 30 tax deadline was pushed back to June 30 and then to September 30.
Time lost all meaning, and deadlines became vague. Instead of working to a deadline, I began working to find meaning in my life.
I took the extra time I suddenly had to recalibrate. I sorted my clothes closet, gardened, painted my porch railings and cleaned my home a lot more as this was where I was spending a lot of my time. I even wrote more. I came back to being a runner. I did not bake bread (I’ll only go so far…).
Eventually, it seemed like this was our “New Normal:” aimlessly filling our time with no clear direction while waiting for the vaccine, all the while bearing witness to a bombardment of distressing news. “What is the point?” made a frequent occurrence in my thoughts.
I realized that the news was not my friend, and I decided to switch off the news conduit (i.e. Facebook). I also decided to bury myself in work. Instead of deciding what I wanted to do, I decided to go with the flow. I consciously switched into reactive mode. “Perhaps the universe will tell me what I need to do,” became my new thought.
Friends, family and potential clients were in similar situations. Life had become significantly more limited – perhaps it was time to finally deal with all those things previously put off – taxes, financial planning and transitioning to a new life without a partner.
With no concept of time or idea of what would happen, I decided to help as many people as possible. I chose the “busyness route” out of pandemic limbo.
Time seemed endless, people needed help, and I needed a purpose. I said yes to work.
Then, in 2021, the CRA decided to keep the regular tax deadline, and many of my clients had far more complex situations than they had in the past as the pandemic highlighted what the world knew. A large portion of our world community is walking on a very fine financial balance tightrope.
And many people also realized that they were no longer happy in their relationships with their significant other.
And starting January 16, 2021 (the day after my birthday), I ate, slept and worked every day from sunup to sundown.
Oh, I did everything I needed to do, such as preparing meals and sleeping, but the rest of my time was managing my workload. I ignored my children as they became one with Minecraft. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to create a sustainable system. I had been getting close. Sustainability and balance went out the window with the pandemic.
Then, April 30, 2021, arrived, and after submitting my last return for the day, I called my friend, and we got together for a celebratory “end to tax season happy hour.”
But tax season doesn’t end on April 30 – taxes for sole proprietors are due June 15, and many corporate tax returns are due June 30. While I had been putting off other things to finish personal tax returns, additional work and life had piled up.
As I realized I couldn’t suddenly switch back into a sustainable work-life balance, I started to work even more in reaction mode. ” If I finish my next job, I can take a break,” I thought to myself. So I pushed myself to keep going. Ironically, summer, which usually gives me a break after tax season, added more pressure to the system. I still had all the work that I had said yes to, and now I had to help myself and my kids make the most of summer before we got launched back into another potentially bleak fall. I kept pushing myself to juggle work and the other demands of life. What had been a lifeline out of pandemic limbo is now the rope I am using to hang myself.
Not surprisingly, my body started to break down, and I felt chronically exhausted.
It is August 22, and I have reached that point in the summer where my kids are with their dad for two weeks of summer vacation; I feel like a Zombie, I have a cold or breakthrough Covid, and when I’m not working, I’m lying on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy. I’m exhausted, and it’s almost the start of a busy work season again, and I don’t want to partake. What happened?
What happened was that I didn’t trust what I know to be true. When chaos hit, I threw myself into the chaotic stream instead of noticing the eddy that would have allowed me to continue despite the chaos. What eddy? Balance.
I learn best from being the pawn of my life experiments – that is, from my mistakes. I thought I knew how vital balance is before the chaos hit; after all, it is the tagline of my Email signature, but I let it go, thinking that the pandemic had somehow changed the rules of my life. Nope. I see how important balance is – more so than ever before. If you are an experiential learner like me, you may need to conduct your own life experiment to prove that balance is essential, but if you happen to be able to learn from life’s literature, take it from me and bring balance into your life and don’t let it go.