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maintaining a work life balance

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I remember saying to my husband right before the shutdown happened in early March, “I feel like my life is just on this train that’s moving so fast, and that I have no control over right now.” My life was moving incredibly fast. I work during the day. I’m a live performer at night. I’m very social, and have lots of friends I want to make time for. I didn’t even have enough time to see them nearly as much as I wanted, but I’d squeeze social interactions into the limited free time I had. My life was beginning to feel like a montage scene from one of those Groundhog Day-esque movies, where you just see the main character hit the button on the alarm clock, get up, fast forward through the day, and be back in bed before you know it. In some ways, I was grateful for the busy nature of my life because it meant that things were going well for me. I was lucky to have as many performance gigs as I had. I was lucky to have as many friends as I had. But I also felt like everything was passing me by – like I wasn’t even able to cherish any moment because all of my moments were just so damn busy. “I wonder how or if I’ll ever get more time back,” I said to my husband. Little did I know that around the corner crept a pandemic that would cause the entire world to shut down. Be careful what you wish for, right? After the initial fear and depression calmed down, I did see something great happen: I got my work-life balance back.

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We aren’t always rushing

We were always in a hurry before. I always knew exactly what time it was – I had to, because my life was scheduled down to the 20-minute-increment. I packed so much into each day, that running even the tiniest bit late would mess up everything, or mean I missed some things entirely. I felt like I could hear loud clocks ticking around me everywhere constantly. Now…I rarely know what time it is.

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Or arguing about rushing

My husband and I used to fight about tardiness and punctuality every single day. We drove many places together, so every car ride usually involved a fight about whose fault it was that we left eight minutes after we said we would. Then a fight about whose fault it was that now we’re in trouble with this or that person for being late. Our overly-scheduled life was causing us relationship drama. We haven’t fought about that this entire pandemic.

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In fact, we have no appointments

We don’t have appointments. At least not real, hard and fast appointments that we really need to make it to “on time.” It’s okay if we are 10 minutes late to meet our friends for a picnic in the park or to leave the house for a hike. It doesn’t feel like there is this enormous pressure to keep militant time, or else we’ll mess everything up.

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We see friends as much as we want

It was pathetic before. A friend would reach out about seeing us, we’d look at our calendars, and we’d say: okay how is…13 weeks from now? That truly was the earliest opening we had. We felt like totally pretentious douchebags. But it was just our reality. We had these friends we adored, who we always felt so happy after seeing, and who we only saw twice a year. Now we’re seeing them as much as we want. I forgot how happy I am when I see my friends frequently.

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We have meals together

My husband and I eat lunch and dinner together almost every day now. We used to never have lunch together. Even though we both have been working from home for years now, our schedules were so busy that having lunch together never made sense. We usually just stuffed our faces at our respective laptops, or grabbed something out between appointments. Now we sit down for two meals a day together and catch up.

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We sleep enough

I didn’t realize how tired I was before. I think I didn’t let myself realize it because if I did, it would consume me. Now I’m allowed to sleep enough and…it feels amazing. I didn’t know that I could feel this happy, this positive, and this energetic. I didn’t realize that you don’t actually need tons of caffeine to get you through the day!

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We talk to family more

I feel guilty about this, but I used to squeeze family phone calls into 10-minute slots I had, like when I was walking my dog or driving somewhere. Then I’d abruptly say, “Okay gotta go!” I didn’t give any of my family members the long, quality catch-up sessions they deserved. And they’re my family. They’ve done so much for me. Now I’ll talk to my parents a few times a week for well over a half-hour each time.

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We eat meals we’re proud of

Some of the meals – or, sorry, “meals” – I ate before this were pathetic. Trail mix and beef jerky in the car. Pretzels, yogurt, and half an apple for lunch while parked outside an appointment. We’ve actually started to treat our bodies right and cook healthy, wholesome meals we’d be proud to serve others. It really makes me feel that I’m treating myself right, which is quite uplifting.

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I’ve been reading books

Woah woah. I never thought I’d have time for this. Reading? Regularly? I used to be so busy it felt like I’d locked myself into this life in which the information I’d consume was limited, forever. I just didn’t have time to continue to educate myself, or read the incredible stories of other people. That made me deeply sad, since I knew there were so many incredible books out there.

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More at-home beauty treatments

I’m finally dusting off those charcoal mud masks, sheet masks, facial steamers, bubble baths, and other spa night products that have been waiting on a shelf for years for me. I never really saw much value in them. I didn’t think they’d make me feel all that great. Boy was I wrong.

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We’re finally exploring our city

We live in an amazing city that contains dozens if not hundreds of unique neighborhoods and boroughs. But our lives existed very much in just a handful of areas before. I remember looking out of my balcony at this great city and thinking, “Will I ever know what’s in that corner over there? Or in that valley down there?” We’re finally finding out.

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And exploring other towns

We’re also finally taking those day trips to the interesting towns that are just a couple hours’ drive away. Before, we always said we would, but we never had one completely free weekend day to do so. Now we have plenty. So we’re going to the darling wine town two hours north and the breathtaking beach one hour south.

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Sometimes, we do nothing at all

This is the biggest one of all: real free time. I mean free time that you don’t see, and find a way to fill up. Sometimes we do nothing at all for hours. I hadn’t done that in years before this pandemic. I saw free time as time to fill up with something to do as there was always something to do. I laughed the other night when my husband asked what I was doing – I was waddling around the apartment in a robe, holding our mini poodle – and I said, “Nothing.”

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We’re enjoying the moment

We’re finally taking in these moments. It used to be that if we made time to go on a hike or see friends, we were constantly watching the clock. We were doing it more to be able to claim that we had some sort of work-life balance, but really, the entire time, we were focused on the next obligation or the next appointment. Now, we’re soaking it in. We’re present.

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I’m with my husband more

I’m getting all of this quality time with my husband that I’d really wanted. He seriously is my best friend and I have the most fun with him out of anyone. But we used to look at our calendars and say, “Okay, looks like the next opening for a date night is in…three weeks. See ya then!” Then we were ships passing in the night in our shared home.

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