My life for the past two months has been completely out of whack. I have not been getting enough sleep. I have not exactly been eating properly, unless you consider snack mix a healthy breakfast. We are not even going to talk about the state of my house. My role as a graduate school student has been overriding nearly all of my other roles. But that's the way it needed to be. Now I'm on a short break, and I am happily focusing on the things that have been neglected. I have been spending time with my husband. I am playing in the backyard with my kids. I am reacquainting myself with vegetables. And sleep. Oh baby. I am sleeping like it's my job.
Balance is quite the buzz word these days. It seems like there are references to it everywhere. It's a lovely sounding concept. It creates this visual of everything being in alignment. Yin and Yang. But balance is not just a beautiful theory. It's a shining ideal that is held up above us and then pointed at us like a weapon. And if society isn't beating us with it, we are bashing ourselves over the head and stabbing ourselves in the heart with it. We are shamed with this idea that we are supposed to achieve perfect balance in all of the roles we embody, and if we don't, we are failing.
But what's the point of balance? What does it mean? Do we really have any idea? And who decides how much focus we should put on all the things in our life? Why should somebody outside your home have say over how much attention is the correct amount for you to put onto your kids, relationships, job, hobbies? The definition of balance implies equality. It creates the image of putting equal value onto every role, every project, every task in your life. The assumption behind this image is that everyone and everything in your life requires the same amount of focus and effort. Is that really true? If you spend 30 minutes of time with each one of your kids and your spouse, have you achieved balance in those relationships? Maybe. But what if one of your children is having a rough week and needs more of your time? What if you are the one having a rough week, and you need 30 minutes alone? Put too much emphasis on trying to reach balance and suddenly you find yourself feeling a little...out of balance.
Balance is not a very forgiving concept. Balance is not easily adjusted, because the only way you can move things around and keep balance is to change everything exactly right. Perfection is a very hard thing to attain, and there isn't nearly as much joy in perfection as there is in humanity. Balance and humanity are polar opposites, in fact. In trying to embrace the one, we lose the other. So instead of trying to obtain balance, let's try just going where we are most needed. Understand that in some seasons you will need to focus on your kids, and let other things go. In other seasons, your attention will be drawn to your spouse, or your job, or a particular friendship. If you, like me, notice that you are letting your self-care fall by the wayside, lean a little more into that and away from something else. Trust your intuition and lean into whatever needs your focus the most. It might not meet society's ideal, but it will be ideal for you.