I have been doing a lot of thinking about a sneaky little word that has been creeping into every day conversation for a while. It is the other “B” word we throw around all the time, like the word busy we use it as yet another measuring stick to estimate our worthiness or our status in the world. Quite frankly, it is simply one more way we decide if today we qualify as good enough. The word is balance.
Now balance is a tricky word. This word often comes cloaked in expensive yoga clothing, spouting “namaste..” It is validated in hashtags on picture perfect family photos of the working mom having an amazing weekend with her husband while giving the children memories of a lifetime. It is hidden in all the “shoulds” we weigh ourselves down with and the constant juggling of work, family, relationships, friendships and on and on and on.
Quite simply it has become one more measuring stick we use in our lives to be certain we are not measuring up. I am guilty of turning the concept into a yogic message of living. But the truth is, I think the word balance is now loaded with unrealistic expectations and with the heaviness and dissatisfaction of perfectionism.
Let’s explore for a moment the definitions of balance:
I think most often I have imagined the concept of balance as number two, equal and in the right proportions. Right proportions is at the heart of the conversation for me. The right proportions for you and the right proportions for me are likely very, very, different. We often assume that if this was the right way for me to parent my child, lose weight, get pregnant, then it will most certainly is the right way for you. Here is a great example in my life. I have found as an extended breastfeeder (I hate that term by the way), people are most comfortable with my breastfeeding as long as they did. So if it was 6 weeks, 6 months, 3 years, they think I should stop when they did. As humans we feel most comfortable when others are more similar to us. It validates us. We all have a deeply rooted desire for validation.
The reality of this is that some people balance is not balanced at all. For some it is to choose to work, a lot. For others it is to raise babies and not work at all. For others a strong social life is the most important thing (hello teenagers). What works for me will not work perfectly for you. What was right for me before motherhood changed completely the day I gave birth. In ways I could NEVER imagine. I always thought that I would need to work for my sanity. Now, I could not feel more different. People on both sides will tell me that I have the best of it, that I have the perfect blend. I work in small doses outside the house, often at home on my computer in my comfies, and I get to spend a lot time raising my daughter. Are they right? Sure, I feel grateful to get so much time with her. Do I wish I had more time with her? Yep, I do. It’s just the truth for me. I have friends whose truth is that they love working 40+ hours a week and being a mom. Great.
Instead maybe we can start looking at balance more from the standpoint of a verb. Something that is always moving and shifting. Finding steadiness within the fluctuations of our lives as we grow, evolve, age. I think we can throw number one and number three’s definitions: Remaining upright, steady and does not fall. I don’t know about you, but falling often leads to the greatest awakenings. It is when I have completely fallen apart and feel as though I have lost my way, that I’m able to see something big needs to change. Falling apart is the most interesting part of our lives, it is then we can pick ourselves back up and put our lives back together in a new way. We can re-examine what we want and need and get back to the business of creating a life we feel good about.
What we are then doing is living out #4: to offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another. What do you value, what do you not value very much right now in your life? Forget what you think your life should look like, forget how often your type A co-worker is going to the gym, or your sister goes on vacation, or how perfect that woman in your mommy-group is at everything. What matters to you, in your heart, in your soul. My wonderful partner will often say when wanting to buy something that the object of her desire (say a kayak we don’t need) is for “making memories.” In truth, in then end all we have is our memories. It is what our kids, partners, family will remember. No one cares how balanced their childhood felt. We all crave connection.
The work lies in shifting our focus toward listening. to what calls to us from deep within our being. If what you are doing is not working for you, if it feels unbalanced because it does not feel “right,” change something. We could all spend less time trying to achieve a magazine’s, spiritual guru, your MIL’s ideas of balance and instead spend more time working towards a life we can live with, a life we enjoy!
Perhaps it is time to start throwing away the measuring stick of balance along with it let’s throw out the sticks that measure our value based on busyness (yes it is a word), getting back your pre-baby body, a clean house, perfect children, and whatever other outside ideals that are weighing you down. kids”.
Life is messy. Life is most enjoyable when we can live ours out authentically.