Be Balanced: What Does Balance Really Mean?
During a recent blogger gathering, I was sharing my ideas for this blog and the inspiration behind it. The blog is supposed to be about balance – what it looks like, how to achieve it, and my own efforts to be balanced or (finally) recognize that there is no such thing, and that each of us is doing the best we can.
As I described why I often felt off-balance and the cacophony of thoughts running through my mind at any given moment, Bridget Buckaloo (writer of the fantastic blog It’s a Woman Thing) turned to me and said, “That’s not a lack of balance, that’s your personality!” It was a lightbulb moment for me. Most people who know me well would describe me as high-strung, ambitious, and not good at sitting still. Maybe I’m not out of balance, I thought. Maybe I’ve been trying to do too much.
In a season of life that has been especially busy and where I continually catch myself trying to do it all, I try to remember the mantra “pick three.”
“Pick three” comes from Randi Zuckerberg’s book of the same name, the essential message of which is, “Work, sleep, family, fitness, or friends: pick three.” Your list of things might look a little different. Lately for me, it’s been “work, rest, social time, fitness, or home.”
For many of us, work is non-negotiable. Your job needs to get done, or you won’t have one! Some weeks require more time and energy than others, but personally, I can count on the fact that I will be at my office and focused primarily on work for 40 hours each week. Add in a lunch break and commuting time, and that number jumps to about 50 hours. So for me, work is always going to be a priority, in part because it’s important to me, but also because it’s where I spend most of my time.
Rest is also necessary, especially because I am expecting a baby in just a few months! I have always been a pretty disciplined sleeper, but what I’m less good at is pacing myself in getting things done. Especially during my pregnancy, I have found myself going full-force on Saturday to complete a never-ending list of chores and home improvement projects, only to be completely wiped on Sunday with barely enough energy to empty the dishwasher. When I pace myself and accept that if I complete three tasks on Saturday instead of five, I end up with enough energy to complete three more tasks on Sunday, and actually get more done.
After work and rest are accounted for, that leaves me trying to cram three things – social time, fitness, and time to work on our fixer upper – into the time that I realistically have to do one other thing. I suspect I’m not alone in this – in trying to do too much. What I have begun to accept is that there is time for all three of these things, but there is not time for all three of them every day, or even every week – again, the key point in Zuckerberg’s book. On the weeks I make it to the gym or an exercise class most nights, nothing will get done around the house. On the weeks my husband and I knock out a massive house project, there is no going to the gym. And if we visit friends and family in northern Delaware, well, that becomes our whole weekend.
When we’re not willing to give up something completely, we can do a scaled-back version. I get incredibly cranky and anxious when I don’t exercise. Knowing that I have quite a few house projects to check off my list before Baby Keegan arrives, I’ve made a commitment to going for a brisk 30-minute walk three times a week during lunch. This frees up my time in the evening, and although it’s not the intense workout I would prefer, it’s also about all my seven-months-pregnant self can handle! And, since it’s a realistic goal that I have completed every week since I started doing it about a month ago, I feel good about it, rather than beating myself up for not executing a plan that was too ambitious to begin with.
As long as we equate balance with getting everything done, we are setting ourselves up to feel like failures. But if we are patient with ourselves and remember as best as we can that it will all get done, just maybe not today, or this week, or in this season, perhaps we can begin to feel not only a sense of balance, but a sense of peace.