One thing I’ve always struggled with is living a balanced life. And as I try to be balanced, I find that it’s not only difficult to do, but also understand. What exactly does it mean to be balanced?
Sometimes I have this image that being balanced means waking up at 4:30 a.m. for a quiet morning meditation followed by herbal tea and reading haiku poetry before I start my day. That I’d only eat fresh fruit for breakfast, salads for lunch and poached salmon for dinner. I’d rarely watch TV because I’d be reading historical biographies or doing Sudoku puzzles. I’d talk with a soft, soothing voice and always be barefoot. I’d live a physically, emotionally and spiritually fulfilled “balanced” life.
But oh yeah, it’s not just me. I have a wife and a kid. There are bills to pay, grass to cut, dinner to make, the kitchen to clean and ice cream to eat. Yes, responsibilities. I forgot about those. I could make my schedule a perfect routine of exercise, household chores, Ellie time, family time and me time. It sounds good as a concept, but as soon as something slightly falls out of sync, the whole machine breaks down and then I’m back at the beginning.
Lately, I feel like I’m a pendulum swinging to the extremes. I’m either taking care of Ellie and all my parental responsibilities or working on our big summer house project we have going. And when I have time to rest, I don’t. I stay up late writing, or I might meet up with a friend. And if I go out, I go a little crazy. And by crazy, I don’t mean “crazy." I mean I’m just up way too late. It’s not like I’m out late pounding 40’s and dancing on the table to "Party in the USA." I don’t need to go out to do that.
Even if I stay in, I push my limits. My friend will come over on a Saturday night for some porch sittin’ after I’ve put in a full day of sanding and refinishing some furniture in the garage. I’ll be worn out and exhausted from the week and the weekend, but I won’t want the evening to end. It’s feels like it’s my only chance to escape so I’ll stay up till 3 a.m. Sunday kind of goes the same way. A full day of cutting the grass, painting trim or some sort of work, and when the evening comes, going to bed is the last thing I want to do.
Sometimes sleep seems like I’d be wasting my “me” time. I might feel a little more rested, but when I wake up and I’m on the clock first thing, it doesn’t feel like I had a break. If I don’t get that break to be alone without my “chores” looming over me, I end up feeling disconnected from myself. Does that even make sense?
I know I only have one kid and I don’t even work outside the house. (Although, technically, I do have a part-time job, but I hardly count eating ice cream and writing about it a job.) The families with multiple kids and dual working parents, or single parents who work, or any combination of that, hats off to you. It can’t be easy juggling everything that needs to get done.
I’m OK with my pendulum swinging back and forth a little bit. That’s life, right? Things will happen, things will come up and we’ll need to make adjustments. That makes sense to me and I always have big goals to get back on track. But I tend to be an all or nothing type of person. So that’s my problem. They are always BIG goals. My plans to bring balance back into my life start off unbalanced from the beginning.
I’ll try to give up sweets (which is impossible for me), and at the first sign of weakness, I’ll give in, and give in hard. Then that one day of failure turns into a week, and then a month. Then I will announce my triumphant return to the gym. I won’t just start with one day a week, I’ll start with five days a week. Which always starts out as three days, and then two. And then I stay up too late and it goes down to zero. By then, I’ll totally embrace my failure and eat more donuts and cookies until I get enough willpower to swing my pendulum abruptly to the other extreme.
I just can’t do things in moderation. But as summer winds down and we begin to enter fall, a new season, and another opportunity to realign, I’ve decided to set my big goal of moderation. To relax and be more aligned to achieve balance (whatever that may be). To not set these unrealistic goals where I’m doomed for failure. But maybe I should just start with going to bed first.
And as the time approaches 3 a.m. as I finish writing this, it seems I’m off to a really good start.