“Balance” as a Process, Not a Destination

So here is a really basic thing I learned recently:

My idea of what “work/life balance” is, is wrong. I’ve always thought of “balance” as a destination, as a sort of nirvana to be achieved if I would only get more sleep, drink more water, and follow all of the rules set out for me in well-meaning blogs by women who “have it all together.” And if I could just do those things, I could “have it all.” I thought that it was my failure to follow those rules that was holding me back from achieving “balance.”

But it’s not like that, is it? This whole time I’ve been stressing myself out, trying to achieve balance, without realizing that balance isn’t a singular achievement, so much as how you walk out your days. Individually. Curveballs and all. Balance is not a destination that I can reach, and from thenceforth live in perfect tranquility. Balance is more like making the best choices I can, as they come, and trying not to let things get too out of hand.

I’ve been driving myself crazy, chasing down this mirage of “balance,” which would suddenly disappear once I reached it, only to reappear way over there, in the gluten-free aisle of the health food store, and again, over there in the books about Attachment Parenting, and again, over there on a Pinterest board full of crock-pot recipes/seasonal wreaths/crap made out of mason jars. And chasing down the ever-elusive mirage of “balance” was freaking exhausting.

Adjusting My Expectations

So lately, I’ve had this image of a tight-rope walker in my head. As she’s walking the tightrope, she expects to be wobbly, and she knows that the feat isn’t simply making it to the other side of the rope, but taking each step as well as she can. She does not expect perfection. She does not expect to “figure out” balance halfway through, and walk, perfectly balanced down the remainder of the length of the tight-rope.  And I think she has this balance thing a bit more figured out than I do.

Adjusting my expectation and understanding of balance has given me a much needed shift in perspective. It’s going to take some repeating for me to completely unlearn my unhealthy understanding of balance, but the more I reflect on my image of the tightrope walker, the less anxiety I feel about not getting things just right all of the time. Wobbles are totally okay. And I know that’s not a revelation to most of you, but it is one to me, and I am so grateful to be continually discovering that I don’t have everything all figured out.

Young and Foolish

When I was younger, I thought I knew everything. There’s something in the combination of book-knowledge and untested theories and ideologies that affords young adults a powerful sense of intellectual superiority. Learning that I do not, in fact, know everything, has been simultaneously one of the great joys/disturbing truths of growing up. It’s such an adventure, constantly re-exploring my beliefs and opinions, and understanding of the world, but at the same time, it’s somewhat frightening. I feel as if my character is in a constant state of revision, and that sensation, of never really knowing who, exactly, you are (and who you are becoming) is ultimately humbling.

How about you guys? Do you ever find yourself struggling to live up to an unhealthy expectation? What’s been your most recent “revelation?” You guys are so wise, I usually learn a lot from what you’ve got to say. 🙂

xoxo,

mj
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  • Balance, uncertainity, and blessings  via visibleandreal.wordpress.com (I found this post literally moments after I write the post above, and when I went through the pages in her site, I definitely became internet-infatuated with Stephanie. And if you check out her resources page, I can vouch for basically all of the titles listed. (She has great taste.) I’m looking forward to reading more of her work, and maybe even signing up for one of her classes!)
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12 Comments

  1. you’re so right. it’s not about “x” being the destination, but about making the right choices along the way. i, too have struggled with this. thanks for sharing!
    http://quitetheblog.com

    Reply
  2. Alessandro

     /  October 1, 2012

    I remember a nice analogy for represent what you are searching for. We are as a bicycle rim. If all spokes are equilibrate, have the same “weight” and create the same opposite tension, the wheel will turn perfectly and without skidding, but if only a spoke isn’t centered all the wheel will turn in an unpredictable and strange way.
    Place us in a condition where all our values, beliefs and behaviors permit us to go in a unique direction is the best way in order to find balance. Take in our life right decisions, supported to coherent values and beliefs and implemented by appropriate behaviors will permit us to be balanced. It isn’t a final state, but obviously a way to follow and adjust every time a new challenge and the relative decisions need to be taken, exactly as a rim spokes through a long trip.
    Sorry for bad English, it’s not my language, anyway my think can be deducted.

    Reply
  3. Oh my word! This was my life for so many many years…trying to live up to this invisible standard in my head. I have learned in the recent years that it’s about the experience called life, not this unrealistic idea of perfection where everything lines up. I’ve made it my goal to live each day for what it presents (challenges and all). “It won’t be like this forever” is something I remind myself daily. This applies to the good things and the bad things. My children won’t be this age forever (soak up these years with them). My two year old won’t be wearing diapers at 16 (you will survive this stage). Helps me keep things light…lol!

    Reply
  4. First, thank you for the kind words! I appreciate it. This topic is definitely one VERY close to my heart.

    This is a fantastic post about balance and learning it’s not a a solid state of existence. I think of Ani DiFranco’s words – what doesn’t bend breaks.

    Also? This: “I am so grateful to be continually discovering that I don’t have everything all figured out.” Totally this. I am finding that this lesson is one I have to learn – over and over again. (And that the 2×4 method of hammering it over my head seems to be counter my desire for self-compassion!)

    I would love to write with you. If the times in the upcoming (free!) Guinea Pig Sessions don’t work for you, drop me a line. I can see if we can work something out. 🙂

    Reply
  5. I’m finding that the truth you’ve expressed here never changes. I’m a bit further down the “growth curve” than you — with kids in middle school (and a toddler). Life constantly changes. And as your kids change, your family changes, your job changes, your health changes, your financial needs change then you must adjust too. So even if you were to figure out just the right balance, it would be thrown off next week when the next life phase begins.

    We know many senior adults and they are experiencing the same shifts even well into retirement. There is no magic place of arrival. And accepting this, living in it, and enjoying each phase as it comes is one of the joys of maturity.

    Love everything you’ve said here.

    Reply
  6. God’s been talking to me about perfection, and how the Euclidean concept of perfection might not be the same as God’s concept of perfection.

    I think that what you said about balance could equally be applied to our pursuit of a “perfect” life.

    Reply
  7. This is something that Modern Mrs. Darcy has been writing a lot about recently. She did a post called Balance Isn’t a See-Saw, It’s a Game of Twister and also wrote a book called Work Shift that she talks about here. I haven’t read her book yet, but it might be something to check out!

    Reply
  8. Jessica Murphy

     /  October 11, 2012

    This could not be more me or more what i needed today!! I was totally beating myself about about another task that i wasnt able to get done and how i will never catch up or achieve balance. Thank goodness i read your blog today! Thanks for being an inspirational, Christian woman i can learn more from. Figure out some more tricky things so i can learn from you!! Xoxo from Mississippi

    Reply
  9. Franck Barfety

     /  October 17, 2012

    “…taking each step as well as she can…” You have it right. One should live a life of wisdom, virtue, and character, and aim to be good at life in each small decision along the way, each step at a time. It is a far richer life than just looking for those fleeting pleasurable moments. Although these have their place as well, but only if one first has a solid worldview which gives meaning to life, a bigger picture within which a life of character formation, sacrifice to a greater cause, an other-focused orientation can take place.
    Taken and detailed further in a book by JP Moreland & Klaus Issler called The Lost Virtue of Happiness.

    Reply
  10. Hey, I so need to hear that. I struggle with the whole balance thing and just wrote a post about how I never have Quiet. You’re perspective was refreshing…thanks!

    Reply
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