Yesterday I was driving a 300 mile trip and listening to stuff. On the way down I listened to Chesil Beach, a novel by Ian McEwan. Florence, one of the characters achieves her life's dream of being a highly regarded musician. The other Edward, does not achieve his dream to write a series of history books. He life sort of fades away and sadly, he recognizes that he has lost his dream. The story is of choices made and paths not taken.
The thread of achieving dreams was continued on the way back. On the second part of the drive I listened to my second audio book. It was Dan Rather's narraration of 'The American Dream: Stories from the Heart of our Nation' – an incredible panorama of people whose stories he told – all in relation to achieving the American Dream. Most involved massive amounts of work, difficult trade-offs, bags of endurance, and fleeting glimpses of the Dream as they reached for it. And many did achieve their dream and got to the work-life balance that accompanied it but not easily or without struggles en route.
On the first half of the drive back I listened to NPR's interview with Andrew Sullivan, author of the blog Daily Dish It's an alarming tale of obsessive blogging.
"Right now I'm writing about 250 to 300 posts a week," Sullivan tells NPR's Guy Raz. "I can barely remember what I wrote yesterday, let alone 10 years ago."
That's the pace necessary to keep up with the massive traffic, material and discussion Sullivan moves on his blog, The Daily Dish. The site is visited by a million people each month, and at some points – in the case of his coverage of last summer's Iranian election – more than a million people a day.
The massive traffic and information Sullivan faces every day takes a toll. "It is physically and psychically so exhausting," he says.
He blogs all weekend, all day, every 20 minutes.
"Not only that, I feel a duty to actually try and get things right," Sullivan says.
… He takes one two-week vacation every year, to Cape Cod, to get off the grid. "Sometimes I just think – if only I could take a year to just read or be quiet," he says.
The threads in these three listenings center around making work-life balance choices. All the characters I came across in my 300 mile round trip were working to achieve something meaningful for them and it's pretty hard to do. However much workplace legislation aims to help people with it, legislation can't account for personality, individual motivation, and the drive to meet expectations. (One's own or others).
Designing a well-lived life takes fortitude, sacrifice, humanity, and devotion. The four words I adopted several years ago as a life guide. They're inscribed on the base of the statue of Edith Cavell in Trafalgar Square. A new book has just come out about her life. It marks the 95th anniversary of her execution for helping allied soldiers flee German-occupied Belgium. Again, a testament to someone who worked to achieve her personal dream. In this case of being a nurse who did her duty.