Monday, 7 October 2013

balance is for bikes and I am not a bike

One term into working full time and juggling all the different parts of my life, there is a sort of an auto pilot going on in my head. I feel the need to cram in as many "to dos" into each day and even when I try to stop, my brain keeps on trucking. There have been so massive upsides to working and I do love it. But the downsides are pretty clear too. Hubby and I have spend the last few weeks reflecting on our choice and we are blessed to have the option of reversing our decision and me going back to my two or three days a week in the new year.

Throughout the term I have been confronted with the lack of personal time I have, the poor food choices I make when meals seem to be an extra that I just can't fit into the mix, and the other commitments I have with my local Parents Centre. Add to that the usual no-win guilt trip of not being with my kids during the day and all the household things such a meals, laundry, cleaning and the list goes on. My hubby barely gets a look in and my friends are almost strangers, since I don't get a chance to hang out much anymore. And I still wish I could do more - more work, more volunteering, more fun with the kids, more quality time with hubby, more, more, more...

A friend just sent me a link to a document which allows you to evaluate your quality of life and lists the characteristics of a balanced life. There are lots of other models or lists like this that include the various aspects of life - emotional, spiritual, mental, physical and relational. So there are many ways to cut up the pie. And the inherent view within them all is that if you make thoughtful choices and drop some things and take up others, that you will one day reach the nirvana that is BALANCE.
But you know what? If I look around me, balance is actually not that normal.

If I look for balance and examples of it in the people I know I have to say I don't know many. I definitely admire those people who take care of themselves, avoid over commitment and maintain a positive outlook on life due to making sure their needs are met. But I reject the idea that balance is the key.

If I look for balance in the natural world or in our garden, I don't really see the tidy and balanced world I would expect. For example, we are hoping for a tomato glut as summer takes hold, and we actually want one. We want to be able to have lots for pasta sauce, tomato sauce, salads etc. And if you look at our garden right now, it is pretty barren. Partly due to lack of attention but also because we chose to plant crops over winter which will renew the soil. So they have been dug back in and it is ready for planting. In the world around me I see seasons where sometimes things are busy and productive and to the untrained eye, wildly out of control. And then are other times things die back, they rest, they wait. If the garden got stuck in the productive phase for too long, the soil would become depleted and production would drop. Then a time of feeding and waiting would begin before plants could grow to their potential again.

I am wondering whether that is a reality of life that should be more acceptable and actually means that I feel that I can cope and even thrive during this wild time. I can enjoy the busyness and the feeling of being productive. But I also need to plan a season of rest and renewal.

I know that the foundations, or soil of my life are my faith, family, friends and time to do things I enjoy. I will never be able to live well for long without tending to these. But each day or week or even month will not be a neatly divided exercise. That seems to be more about rules and ticking boxes, than living with the ebbs and flows of life.

There are some regular things you need each day to keep being productive - good food, good sleep, and time to just be. I need to value myself and this season enough to make these a priority.
But I no longer want to justify my choices to myself or to those around me who greet my current commitments as fool hardy or heading for a fall. I have not walked away from what is important to me. I have not abandoned my post or let anyone down. I am learning a lot and enjoying this season. And come December, and the school holidays, a new season will begin.

Balance is for bikes. Instead I choose to live in the seasons.


  1. Fantastic! I love your metaphor of "living in seasons". It's far more realistic and helpful than trying to achieve the ever-elusive balance. Balance with what, and of what? After all, a set of scales overloaded on both sides will still balance...

  2. Great thoughts Marion. I think it's really good that you & hubby allow yourselves to step back and evaluate how things are going. That's really healthy. It's great that you can admit if things aren't working right now and take steps to change that. Good on you. More people need to be brave enough to do that. Live isn't always on even keel. It's not a straight road. We need to keep our hands on the steering wheel and "drive to the conditions" so to speak. I applaud you!