Balance is a Moving Target
Blogger’s Note: This post was hanging out in my “Drafts” folder, and I have no idea why, because when I re-read it, it seemed complete. Maybe that’s part of finding balance in my life – not working every creative project til it is (or I am) worn the hell out!
Blogger’s Note the Second: Now I remember why I didn’t publish it three months ago. I was looking for the perfect image to go with the post. Isn’t that ironic? I held onto a good message because I couldn’t find the “perfect” visual accompaniment. Wisdom, I has it.
I was intrigued to find two very similar blog posts in two very different places this week: What Does It Mean to Have “Balance” in Your Life? at Mark’s Daily Apple and Ten Reasons to Slow Down at the Unclutterer. Well, I guess those two blogs aren’t all THAT different – they’re both about cleaning junk out of your life, just different kinds of junk. Still, it’s rare that their topics overlap.
I think it’s important for me to take a moment (or an hour, or a day, or a week!) to ponder the points made in each post, because although I feel pretty good about where my life is now, I think there’s still room for improvement. Mark describes the plate-spinning trick that most of us are doing in our lives, and I have to confess that in the past, I’ve often feel like I was running around like a crazy person, keeping all these plates going-going-going. Dude, that is EXHAUSTING, and as Mark says, it is sometimes REALLY liberating to just say, “Screw it,” and let a few of those plates crash to the floor.
For instance, I realized sometime around Garrett’s sixth month that I was going to kill myself if I kept trying to do EVERYTHING that needed to be done every night. No matter how much I did or how hard I worked, there was always something else to do, and I ended every day exhausted and resentful. So one day I made a list of things that HAD to be done every night and taped it to one of the kitchen cabinets. I decided that as long as I did these things:
- make and eat dinner
- wash bottles
- pack the diaper bag
- feed the dogs & cats
- get coffee ready to brew in the morning
…I was ahead of the game. If I had the time/energy to do other chores, great. If not, I went to bed and decided not to care that the laundry wasn’t folded or the floor needed swept or the dishes weren’t done or WHATEVER. Having those five things taken care of when I woke up made my mornings a million times more peaceful, and just giving myself permission to not have a perfect home – or even TRY to have a perfect home – made ME more peaceful.
A year and a half later, this is still something I’m working on. Garrett is older and needs less constant attention. I don’t have to change him every hour, or give him a bottle every three hours, or rock him to sleep. So I can get more done in the evenings, but there’s still stuff that needs to be done when I’m ready for bed at 10 o’clock. (Or 8. Cause you know, some days are just LIKE THAT.) So I have to say to myself, “That’s good enough for tonight.” And guess what? There are times when I say to myself, “I’d rather soak in the tub and read than do laundry.” AND I DO IT! I do what I want to do instead of finishing those nagging chores. I know there a some women who wouldn’t make that choice, who would rather have the beautiful home than a leisurely bath with a good book. But I know that I am doing something significant for my health – mental AND physical – when I let myself take a breather instead of running, running, running.
My favorite line from the Unclutterer post was this: “Sometimes, I give up watching my favorite commercials just so I can check e-mail.” I just had to chuckle because OH MY GOD, that’s me. Actually, it’s all of us, I think. Not everyone will jump up during the commercials to move clothes from the washer to the dryer (I know I sound like a dork because all my examples are laundry-related, but honestly, it’s a big part of my life right now) but many of us switch channels because we get “bored” or “want to see what else is on.” Really? We can’t wait the two to four minutes it takes to get back to our program? We can’t just sit there for a second? We have to do something productive – or at least make the best use of our leisure time by watching a whole other show during the commercial breaks? That has L-O-S-E-R written all over it. But we’re all buying into this mentality – HURRY UP! KEEP GOING! DON’T JUST SIT THERE DO SOMETHING! IF YOU’VE GOT TIME TO LEAN YOU’VE GOT TIME TO CLEAN!
What I think both of these posts are saying is maybe it’s time to stop trying to cram 36 hours of activity into a 24 hour day. Maybe it’s time to prioritize and let some things go. In the same way that I like to clear the physical clutter out of my house on a regular basis, I think I need to clear out the mental clutter, the “doing” and “being” clutter, too. Lately I’ve been saying to myself, when I get stressed out about something really minor, or even something kind of major that I really don’t have that much control over – “Let. It. Go.” Because OH MY GOD can I make a mountain out of a molehill. I can get my stomach all in knots over NOTHING, and it keeps me awake at night and disrupts my relationships with my family, and literally makes me sick – so lately I just make myself stop. I’m not ignoring the problem, I’m just choosing not to let it take me prisoner. There is a difference between dealing with something and being controlled by something, and I’m learning that difference. It’s subtle, it’s a challenge, but it’s there, it’s possible. It can be done.
I think balance is moving target. It can be hit, but you have to adjust your sights at different times in your life. When Garrett was brand new, I didn’t read or do art or put in any overtime at work – I was just surviving. Now I have a little extra room so I can push myself a bit and thrive. I am already preparing myself for the first few months of baby #2′s life – when I will, again, have to let certain extracurricular activities fall to the wayside so I can get done what NEEDS to get done – like feeding and clothing my family, and most importantly, LOVING MY BABIES. Later, when babies are grown and careers are mature, balance will look different. So long as I’m mindful of what I’m doing, not running just to run, I will be able to find balance – and it will be sweet.