We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Lanoue and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
When I think of work-life balance, I think of the ratio of work to play or rest. I used to think that in order to rest, I had to do a certain amount of work. Rest was like a reward for having done the work or having checked off a to-do list item.
But to be honest, I didn’t rest after checking off the one item. I felt that I could only celebrate with rest by completing the whole to-do list which is never actually done.
And I work slow. I’m not sure I’ve ever been fast at anything. I know this, yet accepting that fact about myself has been a journey and continues to be. Because of this, I always feel behind even when I’m caught up on my daily goals so celebrating the small stuff of completing one thing on my to-do list? Well, there’s no time for that.
I feel behind all the time. I am a music teacher, a writer, and a stay-at-home mom, and it is hard to juggle it all, to unplug when I need to. I’ve heard it said that women are supposed to be good at multi-tasking, but I am going to make a bold statement and say that I don’t think anyone is actually good at multi-tasking. Something is inevitably going to fall through the cracks or not get the attention that it needs.
There are times when I know I need to stop, my body and my brain try to tell me, but I wait until I crash into the proverbial wall to take that rest, and what happens is that forced rest comes with some other unwelcome guests–shame and guilt and self-loathing for having needed the rest. This is the kind of rest I have given myself in the past.
But recently, I’ve found that creating rhythms of rest and play and incorporating those into my day and my week are so much more rewarding. I’ve begun taking breaks even when I don’t feel like I need it. I’m learning that rest is not a reward for having done work. Rest is a human necessity. So I try to take the break anyway because I’m learning that this natural rhythm of rest leads me to true rest, and I feel more ready to continue my creative work when the time comes.
It’s nurturing your inner artist as Julia Cameron who wrote the book The Artist’s Way would say.
One of the difficulties about creative work is that creativity ebbs and flows, and once I’m “in the flow,” I don’t want to stop working. “The flow” is a precious thing that must not be squandered…at least, that’s what my workaholism says.
What’s funny about this line of thinking is that if we’re in an “ebb,” no amount of striving or working harder is going to change that. I am learning that the best way to move an ebb into a flow is to do things that seem counter to what we’ve always done–stop working. Go for a walk, take a nap, do some creative act that is completely different from what you do for work, go play for 10 minutes with your toddler and try to forget about work while you do it.
I’ve learned that when I get a creative energy surge to just go ahead and record the idea using the voice memo app on my phone. It has become my best work-friend because it helps me to get my thoughts out quickly and then I don’t have to worry about losing that great idea, and then I’m able to stop myself from having to work on it right then, and I can come back to it when I’ve gotten that much needed (and much deserved even when I don’t believe it) rest.
So I suppose I create work-life balance by creating rhythms of rest and play and I try to stick with them so that my mind and body don’t have to demand it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It took me 37 years to say it out loud, but I am a writer. I am just starting out, and I haven’t made it professionally yet. Right now, I rely on my part-time gig as a music teacher to support it. I taught elementary school for 6 years before moving overseas to teach English. It was here that I was exposed to many new perspectives, and I learned so much about belonging and self-acceptance and community which is what I tend to write about.
During this time, I also became a stay-at-home mom–something that we would never have been able to do while both working as teachers in the U.S.A., but after a while, I started thinking about going back to work…and teaching just wasn’t it.
I realized that I had spent a large chunk of my life choosing my next step, my career included, based on what other people wanted or what was expected of me, and too many times, I chose the path of least resistance, and teaching seemed like a good fit, and it is still a big part of who I am now.
But I started feeling like it was time for me to figure out what I really wanted, apart from the expectations and desires of other people.
I had no idea where to even begin. I knew I wanted to do something creative. I am a musician and also a songwriter so I thought it would be something along those lines, maybe finally record that album, or maybe it would be some kind of teaching that I hadn’t thought of before.
A friend and mentor of mine met me for coffee one day and recommended the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and due to some of the recommended activities in the book to help tap into my “inner artist,” I went to buy a magazine from a local bookstore. I decided to let my inner artist lead me; I picked up several different magazines about all kinds of art and education. I picked up a songwriting magazine, and I actually felt my inner artist say, “that’s boring.”
I found myself picking up a magazine for freelance writers, and I felt my inner artist leap with joy; it was like an electric shock through my body. Needless to say, I left with that magazine, and now it has a place of honor at my writing desk.
It’s been scary to start something new like this midway through my life, but for the first time in my life, I’m doing something because I want to do it, and I’ve never felt more fulfilled.
It’s been hard in a lot of ways. I am a beginner at everything. There’s a lot of up-front investment with any type of creative endeavor, and there’s so much to learn–who my audience is, website design, blogging, social media management, all the publishing lingo, and sorting out what opportunities I want to go for next (like should I start a podcast or start working on my book or both)…so many things.
Here’s what I’m learning, and I will invite you to learn with me: 1) I am allowed to change. 2) I’m allowed to do more than one thing with my life. 3) My pace is my pace, and this isn’t a race. 4) It’s ok to be a beginner, and I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I’m doing this for me.
And I’m also doing it for the person reading or listening to what I write who needs to feel a little less alone. And that’s a big part of what I write about, how we can find or make home right here, how we can find belonging right where we are on our own unique journeys, whether that’s within ourselves or with others.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in a little mountain town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina called Waynesville. It’s about 40 minutes from Asheville, NC, which is great because we get all the benefits of living near one of the most unique cities in America without having to fight the traffic everyday.
A lot of my favorite places are places that I can bring my 4-year-old where I get to relax and she can entertain herself. If you want a super-local experience, the 10-Acre-Garden in Canton is great! It’s free to go, and you can bring your own beverages and they serve brick oven pizza with ingredients from the garden. It’s by “donation only” but they suggest around $15 per pizza…and it’s worth it! While in Canton, stop by Bearwaters Brewery or Paper Town Coffee.
Our favorite kid-friendly breweries include Frog Level Brewing Company which is here in Waynesville. It’s our go-to on a nice day after work, and then there’s Whistle Hop Brewing Company which is closer to Asheville. We usually make a day trip out of this one and go to the North Carolina Arboretum where you only have to pay for parking. It is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it has lots of hiking and biking trails, a beautiful garden, and lots of space for the kiddos to run around. There are so many more places to go with kids in Waynesville and Asheville, both indoor and outdoor, but these are a few of our favorites.
On our date nights, we love going to see the Montford Park Players at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater. They put on free plays in the park during the warmer months, typically Shakespeare, but they also do some originals. You can bring a picnic and your own wine or beer, or they have a cart where you can purchase from them. They do come around with a hat at intermission so you can donate to the Players–And I’m sure you’ll want to! It’s great and so much fun! It’s also kid-friendly, but our kiddo isn’t quite old enough for it yet.
We love to eat at Nine Mile which has several locations. We also like Bouchon which serves “French Comfort Food,” and our favorite brewery for a kid-free night is probably Thirsty Monk…I’m a sucker for Belgian beer. But honestly, there are so many restaurants and breweries, you can’t go wrong.
Wondering around downtown Waynesville or Asheville, discovering hidden treasures whether that’s a mural or a little hidden-away cafe, or simply the people you run into, it never leaves you disappointed, and simply taking a drive through the mountains, no matter what season or weather, provides some of the best views.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many people have played a role in who I have become, but if I have to choose just one person, it would have to be my husband and partner, Robbie Lanoue. We were lucky to have met when we were young. We’ve been friends for 20+ years (married for 16). While I don’t recommend getting married that young to everyone, I’m so happy that we did. We’re like two trees that grew up together, impossible to separate at this point. We rely on each other, lean into each other for support, and when I write, I write for him (and my mom) because I know that no matter how good or bad my writing is, they’ll love and support me.
Other: I’m also on TikTok a bit @LaurenLanoue,
Jakub Misik Photography Before the Foundations Photography