On Pickles, Particle Physics, and Work-Life Balance

When I started writing this post, I felt pretty good. I had a great day. I made the pickles that have been sitting in brine for the last 5 days. I wrote about nuclear physics for 2 hours, refreshed my memory on alpha and beta decay, and came up with a good analogy. I had a coffee at an actual coffee shop. I made wine in the morning with my husband, and cookies in the afternoon with my son. I even made it to meditation this evening. It felt spot on.

But when I sat down to write about it, I found myself coming again and again to the same question: if I can do so many things, why can’t I make a decent income? Or, truth be told, any income at all? So I’ve thrown out about 900 words on the topic of work-life balance. Because I don’t know what the answer is. And even though I was willing to call writing my work when I started this post, I can’t write any more this evening, because I’m having a serious case of The Frauds.

4 responses to “On Pickles, Particle Physics, and Work-Life Balance”

  1. My knee-jerk response to this lies in the difference between making a decent income and making a decent living. You’re so much closer to the latter than some of us who are making more than the average household income for our area, but have little time for anything outside of the activities that we are paid for, and spend a good deal of that income to support being able to get the income.

    A decent income is only about finding someone who is willing to pay a ‘decent’ amount for something that you are willing to spend the time to produce. I believe that any correlation with the actual value of the work produced is little more than coincidental.

    • “I believe that any correlation with the actual value of the work produced is little more than coincidental.”

      That statement’s a little bit stronger than my actual belief, but scarcity seems to drive the marketplace far more than inherent value.

  2. Have been thinking about this post. It brings me back to something I heard about John Maynard Keynes (don’t remember where! wish I did! want to explore further!), which is that he discounted any unpaid labor as not being work. Or maybe — he didn’t see that unpaid labor contributes to the economy. Which of course is *BS*, but of course we are haunted by this view today.

    When I first heard this story, my first response was of course to think about the unpaid work of mothering. Didn’t think about writing, for example. To me, my writing is on a continuum from the technical writing for which I am paid, to the article writing and blogging from which I hope to generate some income eventually, to the poetry writing, which is unlikely ever to earn me a dime. The poetry is where I am most free as a writer.

    • When we moved here and I no longer had paid employment, people kept asking, “And what do you do?” It took me a long time to not immediately *think* “Nothing,” even though I managed to keep myself from saying that.

      I think this came from somebody asking me (with concern), “Well, what are you *getting* out of all this writing. I mean, other than feeling like you are giving something back to the world?” And sometimes I feel a little like the world only wants what I have to offer if I’m willing to give it away for free. And sometimes, that’s a little demoralizing, because we all know that what we “value” we pay for (economically speaking).