Balance has never been easy for me.
I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of person.
And all-or-nothing means that one end of the seesaw is always either way up in the air or way down on the ground.
My seesaw, historically, has never looked like this:
It’s only recently that I’ve started to get a handle on balance.
And that’s because I had balance confused with doing it all.
They aren’t the same thing.
Nobody can do it all.
You can try.
You can spread things around and redistribute the weight from one end to the other.
No matter how you shuffle things, there is only so much you can pile on each side of that seesaw.
Eventually, even if it’s balanced, if you load it up too high on both ends the seesaw will snap right in the middle.
And then you have gone from being imbalanced to being totally broken.
So this balance thing finally clicking for me has meant not only an even distribution of weight on both sides of the seesaw, but also taking a couple things off each side altogether.
There are things I know I can’t take off.
I can’t take off sleep, and I can’t take off exercise.
There will be no balance in my brain without the two of those.
Ideally, there are lots of other things I’d like to have on that seesaw at all times.
Like work and time with my friends and time with my kids and time with my husband and marathons and triathlons and starting a new hobby (I REALLY want to learn how to knit and get my black belt in karate) and helping out at school and cooking and cleaning and (okay, fuck the cleaning part) and volunteering and raising money for charity and…
The list goes on.
Accepting that I just can’t check everything off that list as quickly as I’d like to has given me a huge sense of relief.
Recognizing that the seesaw doesn’t have to be on the verge of snapping in two at all times is probably the healthiest realization I’ve ever made.
My husband had total knee replacement surgery eight weeks ago.
Not having him available to help out for the majority of the summer made it tough for me to train for triathlons.
Rather than snapping the seesaw, I made the decision to skip the triathlons this summer.
Life has gone on.
There will be triathlons next summer.
And the summer after that.
And the summer after that.
My parents also recently went on vacation for two weeks.
Since my dad is my babysitter, I was going to be without any help with the kids for that time.
The timing couldn’t have been worse.
I had a lot of work I needed to get done, and there was pretty much no way I was going to be able to do it without my parents’ help.
A year ago, I would have freaked out and gone overboard.
I would have turned everything into an end-of-the-world situation.
To compensate for taking my parents off of one end of the seesaw, I would have taken sleep and exercise off the other end so I could still get the same amount of work done.
This year, I finally made some healthier decisions.
I was planning on directing the 5K race I started last year.
Being all-or-nothing, since I had started it last year, I HAD to do it this year.
No matter what.
I mean, I needed to say that it was the ANNUAL 5K for Christopher.
Plus, it was in my brother’s memory.
If I took a year off, then I wouldn’t be able to say that it was annual.
Somehow I had managed to turn that into an earth-shattering issue.
Eventually I got real and after a little thoughtful contemplation, I decided that with my parents being gone on vacation, it just wasn’t going to happen this year.
Trying to organize and direct that race might have snapped the seesaw.
My brother will forgive me.
In fact, if he is looking down on me from up above, he might be happy that for once I made a smart and healthy decision.
And next year when I have the proper time to devote to it, the race will be a big success rather than a barely-off-the-ground event that I did just so I can say that I did it.
I also took a good look at the work I thought I had to get done.
Something else happened when I started trying to achieve some balance.
I had to prioritize things.
I had to really think about the things that were important to me, and the things that were important to my family.
I had to determine what work was absolutely essential to finish immediately and what could wait.
And ultimately the result of this shift in mindset was that I paid much more attention to the quality of what I was doing rather than the quantity of things I thought I needed to get done.
I was really able to enjoy the time I was spending with the kids because I wasn’t stressing about the other things I had waiting for me complete and check off the list.
I was much more present with the kids because I was spending time with them for the experience of it, and not to just, like with that 5K race, be able to say that I did it.
Ultimately, by striving for balance, I am also beginning to achieve mindfulness.
And that feels much, much better than checking an inhuman number of items off of some unrealistic and self-imposed to-do list.