Today we are spending the day with friends, having a spiritual service in their home. The theme is Balance and I've been asked to lead the discussion . . . it's rather amusing, really! My dear friend knows that understanding and finding balance has been my quest these last several months. I'm not sure that we can say I've been successful yet but I've certainly been on a journey. So I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you, my benevolent and mostly quiet, audience.
1. Adult life has brought many, varied responsibilities and demands. I tended to manage by making to-do lists and staying focused on the tasks to be completed. Any of you who are moms know that our lives can easily be consumed by repetitive mundane jobs that once done almost immediately have to be repeated. I knew that I was unsettled, lacking contentment, and felt guilty for not cherishing my time at home with the wee ones.
2. From the to-do list to a pie chart -- I began to see my own personal resources of energy and emotional engagement as finite. I had to divvy them up carefully, taking into account the needs of family, household care, work, friendships and eventually, myself. Still there was an unsettled feeling that the demands of others so far out number or outweighed the needs of self that there'd be little time or room left for my own pursuits. I realize as I type this that I'm uncomfortable acknowledging my own interests and needs. There is a belief that as a mom and wife, I should selflessly place those after those of my family. The image of a tug-a-war competition comes to mind -- two opposing forces vying over my time, energy and resources. In this analogy, I suppose I felt myself to be the rope!
3. Hats -- there was more freedom and acceptance in envisioning myself as the owner of many hats. If I had to put off a particular part of my identity, it could be put back on. If I deferred my athletic self or artistic self in order to be more fully engaged in the young lives of my children or the demands of my job, I had the expectation that I would be able to embrace those parts of my self later . . .
4. This fall, I found myself rapidly burning out of a job that I love. Now in hindsight, I can see that the balance between being accommodating versus remaining grounded in the knowledge of what I (and my family needed) was the culprit. The teeter totter tipped too far in favor of accommodation, flexibility and caregiving . . . leaving me depleted, sad and overwhelmed. In efforts to recover a balance, I became more assertive at work, made changes in my job description and established firmer boundaries in the use of my time. My mantra was that I successfully balance my work and life.
5. This began my true quest in finding new ways of seeing balance. Of better understanding the opposing and at times, equally valuable forces that I'm seeking to negotiate successfully. Acceptance of myself and others as we are now versus striving for change. Both good, both necessary. Care of self versus care of others. Ways of knowing -- intuition versus logical, linear thinking. Flexibility versus organized, consistent routine. No rights and wrong. This requires radical acceptance!
6. My final thought, or really image, is of a changing, powerful ocean which is our lives. Unpredictable, at times dangerous and at others beautiful. Without balance, we feel ungrounded, at risk of being swept away and overwhelmed. But if we can ride or surf the waves, riding along the top, we can be both carried by change and centered. Balance itself is always shifting and changing -- moving your weight from one foot to another, front of the board to the back. Your center remains true.