In America, we often confuse Life Balance with doing it all, doing it well, and doing it all the way. And, while we are doing it all well all the way, we are at one with ourselves and at peace with those around us. We have clean, well-organized homes, happy, well-adjusted children who are involved, but not too involved, we volunteer, we are successful professionally, we do yoga, we post pictures of our crafts on Pinterest and other people pin them, and we have a hot and heavy marriage. We have it….all under control. So, what is the secret? How do we achieve this Life Balance?
1. Stop trying to achieve Life Balance. What? Trying to do it all well all the way is like trying to wrestle with the ocean to control the waves. None of us, not one of us, will ever succeed at that. Many of us, maybe all of us, will waste an extraordinary amount of energy trying throughout our lives. The waves will come, in their own way, in their own time, and without regard for our desires. We won’t make the team, we will get the job, he won’t call, there will be an accident, we will get the loan, the test will be negative or positive, life will happen while we make other plans. Life Balance, then, isn’t so much about life as it is about self and self-balance.
2. Embrace the waves. When we accept what is in life, we are free. The summer after I graduated from high school, my family went to Long Island. We spent several days at the beach. It being New York and early summer, the water was chilly and dark. My childhood exuberance for the sand and water had been replaced by fear of the unseen depths. I did not enter the water without water shoes lest I step on something slimy, or crunchy, or moving. For some reason in the afternoon, the urge struck to venture out into the cold, murkiness, past the breaking water, to the rise and fall of energy pushing toward the sand. Out there, the screams and laughter of the children became distant; the sound of the crashing water was muffled. I acknowledged the very big power of the water, the secret scary creatures that might be near me, and I stopped kicking and paddling. I lay there, floating, giving myself to the mercy of the ocean, allowing myself to be lifted up and down. It felt good to be afraid. It felt good to let go and feel the truth of my place in the world. Accepting that we are not all-powerful frees us to experience the secret rush of freedom from that responsibility.
3. Learn to surf. I have never surfed. I have wiped out after some awkwardness on a boogie board. The perfect wave may never come, but the key to balance is learning to ride the wave that’s there. When we face disappointment and challenge with courage, we suffer less, and move on more easily. Not getting the job could be the best thing that ever happened.
4. Learn to choose your waves when you can. We each decide how we will spend our time and with whom we will spend it. Be intentional. Choose people and activities that enrich and enliven you. These people and activities will give your strength to recover from that rogue wave (or waves). Let go of people and tasks that drain and burden you. And, if you can’t let them go altogether, learn to disengage in a manner that respects your needs.
When we beg for balance, what we really crave is an inner sense of calm and manageability. Shifting our focus away from intentions and choices that waste our energy, and instead, embracing the messiness of life, and leaning in to life as it is RIGHT NOW leads us to Calm and Manageable. That said, a clean, uncluttered house can be a quick fix.
There are some good ideas for that on Pinterest.
Be gentle with yourself,
Karen J. Helfrich, LCSW-C
As a therapist, mother, daughter, partner, and seeker, I am always on the journey toward a more peaceful, authentic life. I hope to share knowledge, insights, and the ongoing unknowns I find along the path...