Balance. It’s a term that gets thrown around regularly.
What are we balancing?
Here’s some areas of life that may need an investment of your time, energy, and attention:
- Family relationships
- Significant Other relationship(s)
- Health & Wellness
- Personal Growth
- Play, Rest, & Unicorn Space
- Home Environment
- Citizenship, Community Involvement, Volunteering
We’re told that we need work/life balance and somehow that becomes an individual responsibility and not a larger systemic problem. After all, in the list above, there’s only one reference to work, and yet it’s widely referred to in a way that implies there’s some 50/50 split.
Balance is something we are always encouraged to seek, to increase, to bring forward. It means less of some things and more of other things. And honestly, it has always felt impossible.
I realized that when I’m thinking about how to achieve more balance, I’m actually desiring perfection.
If everything was “in balance”, then I would be adult-ing just right. If I was living “in balance”, I would always have plenty of time and energy for fun activities and quality relationships because all the necessary life tasks are already complete (household chores, budgeting, etc). In this dream of a balanced life, we don’t have to sacrifice rest and play for other responsibilities. We are not rushing or hustling. We are always right on time. Look how simple it is to human perfectly.
In the personal growth sphere we’re told to become more efficient, to optimize, to become minimalist or essentialist, to live in alignment. If we harness the power of doing less of the wrong things, and focus on doing the right things in the right way, we can improve and self-actualize every area of life - relationships, finances, and our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. I need a nap just looking at this list.
I’ve been trying to re-frame the concept of balance because this constant self-improvement in search of perfection just isn’t beneficial for me. And believe me, I have definitely been on that train. At one point recently I was telling my therapist and my life coach that I was thinking of joining a group going through The Artist’s Way (nothing wrong with that, but emphasizing the fact that I was already in a group program and individual coaching and therapy). They oh so gently informed me that I didn’t have to be striving so much, all the time, on all the things. I could let myself just be. And maybe that’s what balance looks like.
Balance is like water. There’s surges and big flows. Sometimes less comes in. Water levels rise and fall. There is an average, but the amount of water looks different depending on the tides, the seasons, if there’s a lot of rain or if there’s a dry spell.
To get a more concrete analogy, I’ve been thinking about balance more like recipes. There is no perfect amount of flour, water, oil, eggs, salt, sugar, etc. It depends on what you’re making. Are we making a fluffy cake or dense buttery biscuits? Pancakes or dinner rolls? The amounts will vary a lot based on both extenuating circumstances and the unique outcome we’re trying to achieve in that moment.
I need to acknowledge that on any given day, week, or season, the balance will probably look different. Balance being a very fluid thing feels more messy than perfect, so yes, my inner achiever absolutely feels a deep resistance to re-frame.
If I need a north star, I can reconnect to my values. I can connect to my physical, mental, and emotional energy at that given moment to see what I need and what I’m capable of doing vs what I think I should be doing. I can ask myself if I’m over-committed to things that drain me. I can make peace with the fact that life is gonna life, and sometimes an afternoon will be spent at the doctor’s office with one of my kids instead of doing something more fun or nourishing for all of us.
Balance isn’t an arrival. It is constantly in flux. So if it feels hard to pin down, you’re not doing it wrong. Balance is a dance, and I’m over here exploring its constant movement too.
Illustration Source: Art Nouveau Tarot by Antonella Castelli