What is “balance?” I think about the simplest meaning of balance as something being perfectly centered without leaning in any one direction. I picture a cup full of liquid balancing on a ball. If you apply too much pressure to one side of the ball, or if you move the ball, the cup topples and spills. I think often we relate that to life and in my experiences, it’s not necessarily the healthiest way to refer to living. The concept of life balance has been given far too much praise in our culture leaving many feeling inadequate or incapable if they can’t give each area of their life equal attention. I instead like to think of it in this way, with all of the commitments I have in life, do I feel that each one is sufficiently filled at this moment in time? I can’t think of a time in my life where I’ve felt perfectly centered equally with my commitments, but I have often felt that each commitment has been fulfilled in that moment, for that day or week and I definitely have felt times where all of them are unfulfilled all at once.
A recent example of unbalanced sufficient fulfillment that I’ve personally experienced is this. I am currently in yoga teacher training, ironically, it is this training I am writing this reflection for. I knew in my heart that I would need to make changes to my lifestyle and my schedule that would allow for me to be as present as possible physically, mentally, and healthfully in order to complete this training in the way that I wanted to complete it. In doing so, I decided to quit drinking which also made me commit to fewer social events and time spent with friends and family. I knew I’d have to “unbalance” my social life to create the time and mental space I needed to achieve this goal. Additionally, the weekends of the training are very unbalanced. I am in class Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday for 8 hours each day. When I leave, I’m full of new knowledge, but also physically, mentally, and sometimes emotionally wiped out. I do not have the bandwidth, if you will, for any of my other commitments. Having said this, I consciously made this commitment knowing what I was getting into, preparing for it and genuinely feeling fulfilled even though I’m so tired in so many ways. People who have trained for a marathon or triathlon may be able to relate. While training, you’re taking time away from family, your hobbies, your social life, maybe your self-care, but while doing so you’re consciously sacrificing those areas of life to achieve a goal that is fulfilling. And I think that is wonderful!
I think a lot of really positive growth happens in times of life most people would consider unbalanced. In order for this growth to happen, however, one must determine whether this commitment is genuinely what they want, or if perhaps they’ve accepted a commitment that fulfills the needs of someone else. Now, I’m sure a lot of you parents are thinking, “That all sounds like rainbows and butterflies, Mandi, but that’s not how life really works. I have to get my kid to soccer practice, violin practice and the other kid to gymnastics and theater and none of those are commitments I chose, yet they fill up much of my time.” I would argue that to some extent, you did choose them and perhaps you didn’t give enough attention to your own needs when you made the decision to enroll them in all of those things. This happens so much as parents. We think we need to sacrifice our free time for whatever it is our kids want to do or we think they need to do to be good humans. I would also argue that you are teaching your kids that taking time for yourself to lead a fulfilling life isn’t as important and giving your time to make sure others feel whole. Or I may be completely off, I am not nor do I ever want to be some sort of guru. This is just my observation of the lives around me and what I experienced from the times in life I feel most stressed and unfulfilled.
So as I sit here thinking about my life and my commitments, I’m thinking, this is one beautiful thing that came from 2 plus years of living in a pandemic. For me, this was like pressing pause on my life and taking the time to look through the scenes and pick out those things that took time, but didn’t matter, to remove responsibilities, commitments and even relationships that weren’t fulfilling and to focus on the ones that were and to even think about more goals and dreams I wanted to add in…yoga teacher training was one of these goals!
For me, I have my family, my core group of friends, my real estate career, Beyond Picket Fences, an accounting side gig, holistic nutrition classes, yoga teacher training, and “me” time. I do not spend equal amounts of time on any of them. Some weeks are heavily filled with family and me time, while other weeks require more attention to my work. Some weekends are full of podcasting recordings and some are at Yoga and Yoga teacher training, but I can honestly say that I am now at a point in my life where all of those things fill my cup, if you will.
My 30’s were perhaps the most difficult time of my life when it came to juggling commitments and committing to things that were not fulfilling, but instead I felt obligated to. I worked jobs that I didn’t necessarily like and worked extra hours I didn’t necessarily need to, I committed to helping at events I didn’t want to, basically I let whoever wanted to take some of my time have it freely. I gave away more time than I had and it was so unhealthy, that my body eventually gave in. I am so thankful for the health issues that popped up because without them, I would have never learned how to self-advocate and take control of my time the way that I have. I still find myself saying things like “You should be more involved with the kids’ school or you should be doing more real estate marketing, or you should eat more vegetables today” There’s a quote I always think of when I do this and I can’t think of who said it but it’s, “Stop shoulding all over yourself, it’s not healthy.”
The reality is, with all I have going on, I am happy with the time I am spending on each commitment. I am sufficiently present when I need to be and my end product may not always be perfect, but it’s genuine and I am very proud of the relationships I have fostered along the way without resentment because I know I have chosen each person and each commitment, it hasn’t been tossed on me. I can easily identify when one area needs more attention and shift focus. If I’m tired I make more time for sleep, if I feel icky or bloated I am more conscious of my fluid intake and diet choices. To me, that is a healthy life.
What are your thoughts? Are there commitments in your life that don’t feel right or feel disingenuous or overwhelming? Can you change them or ask for help? Are you advocating for yourself? Are you able to give back to yourself in ways and as often as you need to feel whole? If you feel out of balance, or stuck, or overwhelmed, ask yourself these questions. List out all of the people and commitments that take up your time and reconcile whether or not each one is fulfilling. If there’s something that isn’t, what can you do to change it?