Work-life balance, in three short scenes

Scene One: balance by choice. Uli and Ursula were typical tourists in a Vermont village, taking pictures. I went out to talk with them, they came in for apple pie, and so began our friendship. Uli's an executive in a German computer firm. When Uli was recruited to head his firm, he made one demand: He would take six weeks of vacation every year—the norm in Germany, but in high-tech there's pressure to take less. Uli and Ursula want to be better world citizens. They see vacations as schoolrooms for learning about other cultures firsthand.

SCENE TWO: calm dawns. During my first few months on the Sentinel staff, I shared the middle of a newsroom with many colleagues. No Dilbert-like angst here over offices with doors. There were no doors. But there were impromptu meetings, laughter, foot traffic, the food table, everything but calm. Going nuts wasn't an option—there were too many deadlines to make. It occurred to me that we can either view calm as an objective tantalizingly out of reach, or as something totally subjective—as a fact of spiritual being, already within us, heaven sent, there to be felt regardless of circumstances. I went with those facts. It made all the difference.

SCENE THREE: calm communion. My friend had been a senior executive during tumultuous times for his organization—controversy, lawsuits, a protracted media frenzy. I asked him how he had dealt with the intensity of those times. "I don't live intensely," he said, "I never have." He hadn't been oblivious to the conditions that cause stress. He had just chosen to live and work in the calm that moment-by-moment praying brings.

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August 5, 2002

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