Life is full of firsts and lasts – both of which we mark with things like birthday parties, baby showers, graduations, photographs and keepsakes. But somewhere in the middle of all of that, we forget to appreciate the in between – the moments that happen as we are moving from first to last. And sometimes, those in between moments hold greater significance than any milestone we consciously look toward or mark.
In my job, I often have the honor of interviewing and talking with our team leaders. One interview in particular sticks with me. I was talking with our COO, Bob Myers, and asked him what advice he would give people on work/life balance. His immediate answer was, “Where ever you are, truly be there”. Since that day, I’ve done quite a bit of reading on mindfulness, taken up some-what irregular meditation and really made an effort to put Bob’s advice into practice. When I’m with my son, I try to put work aside and when I’m at work, I try not to worry about what’s going on in my personal life. I even purchased a clock that makes a ticking noise – as a simple, daily reminder to stop and be in whatever moment I’m in. But it’s not always easy.
Recently, as I watched my 10-year-old dance around the living room, it hit me that I couldn’t remember the last time I held him and danced around the house. As a little guy I often picked him up and together we’d twirl through the rooms, singing, laughing and carrying on. When was the last time we did that? How did it feel and what song was playing? I don’t remember, and I am certain that I didn’t know at the time that it would never happen again. In fact I wonder, sadly, if I spent that time thinking of everything else I needed to do that day and what was happening at work instead of cherishing that last precious dance. Now he is too big to carry and too cool to be held even if I could pick him up. Our last dance has come and gone and somehow missed it. I missed an in-between moment that was actually a “last” because I wasn’t truly paying attention.
We vividly remember the birth of our child and the first moment we held them. But do we remember the last? No. But we need to. We need to enjoy those moments, enjoy the in between. We’re all busy – moving from work to home and back again – sometimes several times within the same day. We take work home on our laptops and cell phones and we take our personal lives back to work on those same devices. That ever-elusive work/life balance is a challenge for many of us. Maybe there is no real balance – but rather a need to make the most of where we are, when we are there. Imagine the joy and wonder we could find in both areas of life if we truly focused on them, one at a time. Work would be so much more productive, and home would be so much happier.
If I had known when it happened that the last dance had come, I would have closed my eyes and tried to remember every detail. I would have celebrated it, cherished it and marked it with every bit of the importance I give to each of my son’s other milestones. If I had been truly in the moment, I’d remember. Work life balance is unique to each individual and constantly shifting each day, week and month. Find what works for you – and wherever you are - be where you are. Remember your last dance.