I don’t know how long “balance” has been my word, but it’s far enough back that in University when people started getting tattoos I was like, “ya, I’d get one, maybe one that illustrates balance.” I am happy to report there is not a libra-scale permanently on my body, but I did continue to grip the concept of balance tightly nonetheless.
Balance between work, play, fitness, nutrition, family, and friends has long been my obsessive goal. I viewed balance as the ONLY way to go about life. I strived for it in every way. My balancing act involved going all out in everything. If you’re thinking this sounds unattainable and exhausting - it was.
Through both independent as well as course-led self-discovery work, I realized it wasn't balance I was striving for. It was perfection. And it was not working for me anymore. [Side note: If self-discovery work interests you, I highly encourage you to check out Neghar Fonooni. I have a slight (huge) girl-crush on her.]
Somehow I had warped balance to mean doing well in ALL things. Balance, as I had created it to mean in my head, meant doing no less than 80% in every category. So really, balance was a whole lot of work. And ironically, I was actually completely unbalanced.
How can we possibly be performing at 80% or higher in every aspect of our lives? It’s just not possible. At least not for the long run, and not if mental health and low levels of anxiety are anywhere on your “balanced” list.
Previously if you were to ask me, “what are your priorities?” I’d list off family, work, fitness, health, friends, play. Sooooo basically everything. Let’s talk about what “priorities” actually are. If you haven’t read Essentialism yet, do it. In Essentialism, Greg McKeown talks about priorities:
The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. it was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing... Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.
Boom! I love this. We can’t have multiple “first” things, and we can’t be operating at 80% or better in every.single.category. Let's be honest, even better than 50% at all aspects of life sounds pretty daunting.
The benefits of acknowledging "balance" wasn’t working for me?
Sanity. Taking mass amounts of pressure off. Acknowledging my limitations was relieving. Realizing that the reason I feel like I’m not balancing it all, is because I’m not, and I can’t, and it’s not reasonable to expect it of myself or anyone else.
One blog post I came across recently that particularly hit home on this topic is “Embracing Your Life’s Seasons" by Taylor of SheThrivesBlog.com.
The title alone tugged at me. We are constantly in flux between seasons. Those seasons will continue to change, sometimes by our own doing, sometimes not. The season I am in right now looks much different than it did a little over a year ago. My time is dedicated to raising a little human. There are some small pockets of time to myself, and with effort and support from family or a babysitter my husband and I get time for just the two of. But the singular priority I have daily, my one “first”, is raising my little girl.
I'm learning to embrace my season. Right now, my season does not include running a full time business, having perfectly prepped nutritional meals at all times of the day, nor does it include being a full time recreational athlete. Each season has limited space in it, and right now, those things don't fit. When I finally released the pressure I was putting on myself to have a perfectly tidy house, perfectly planned meals, and perfectly regular workouts, a huge weight was lifted.
Do I miss things from previous seasons? Absolutely. Do I want to re-introduce things from them when the timing is right? Absolutely. But now is not the time. And I’m slowly accepting and embracing that. That doesn't mean that all those things aren't important to me anymore - of course I want to eat as healthy as possible, and get in daily movement, and spend time with my husband and friends. But, it does mean those acts look different than they used to.
In less time than I’m ready for I know my little one will be pulling on her backpack and running up the steps to her first day of school. And there I’ll suddenly be, with more hours in a day to myself than I’ll have had in 5 years. Another seasonal shift. I have a feeling when that day comes and I’m likely bawling into my coffee cup like so many mom friends have shared they did, that I won’t look back and say, “man, I wish I gave up more sleep so I could go to the gym 6 days a week.” Or, “I can’t believe I fed us mac & cheese because I chose to take our little girl around the neighbourhood in her sled along with my husband and dog, instead of staying behind to make a proper Pinterest worthy meal" – whatever that looks like.
No. I want to look back, and know that I fully and completely embraced my current season, and gave it my all. I hope this year has prepped me to accept the next big shift more gracefully than this time, because let me tell you – this time was messy, and don't think for a second that this mindset shift came as easily as an Amazon Prime order. A lot of tears. A lot of resentment. Anxiety. Reading. Courses. And days where it all fell apart and felt like I was starting at square one again.
To be completely above board, I almost didn't post this because the day after I wrote it I had one of the toughest "I miss my old life, and I miss my old healthy body" days than I'd had in a long time. But it just reminded me of one of my favourite terms from Neghar's course: I am a "recovering perfectionist". Recovering, because it's going to take effort and time to embrace this season, and the next, and the next, and the next... And there will be days when it feels like it's all unravelling. But, as with anything, the important thing isn't what I thought or did yesterday, it's what I'm choosing to tell myself today, what I'm choosing to do today.