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Friday, May 6, 2016

On Finding Balance (If It Exists)

Lately I've been reflecting a lot on my mix- the daily things that make up my life- and how I've been spending my time. I feel like it's a puzzle with the pieces always moving around, sometimes fitting together, but most of the time having to be shifted multiple times before something fits. And to be honest, it's exhausting. Life is dynamic and doesn't stand still, but I don't think it should feel the way it has been. Speaking to other women I know this isn't uncommon, but it leaves me more unsettled to think that this crazy mix is the norm. I just don't think it's healthy and there have been many days lately that I feel like I've put in a good day, but feel restless and tired after the kids go to bed rather than satisfied and fulfilled. Something just hasn't been right. The puzzle pieces were never fitting together.

And then a month ago, my Grandfather passed away, and it was a wake up call. Kind of like having a bucket of ice water dumped over my head. It shocked me and hurt me and left me looking very critically at how I've been spending my time. It reminded me that there is a cutoff, we don't have forever. And how I spend my moments really matters. I took a few days to look back on my time with him, to mourn him, and be very present with my emotions. There were so many tears, but it was cleansing and I knew I was saying goodbye in my own way. It left me reflecting on how I spend my time and this precious entity that is life. I'd been feeling good about some things, but not fulfilled. Was I choosing to spend my time in ways that really added value to my life and enrich it, or just make it look that way on the surface (I'm busy so I must be fulfilled)? 

Most of my work takes place on a screen: I write and freelance in marketing, I run this blog, and I manage all the tasks involved, including the social media and emails. And there's a satisfaction I get from a job well done, but a restlessness of spending many hours looking at what is essentially a very expensive combination of plastic and metal. It's left me (ironically) feeling disconnected and questioning if I've been focusing on the quantity of life (How much can I fit into one day?) rather the quality of life (Am I really enjoying the moment? Or am I getting hung up on the wrong things?). I really think we can have it all, just not all at the same time. 

I like being busy, I thrive on always having something on the go. But lately I've been stepping back and examining what it is I've been busy with. Rethinking if where and how I spend my time is enriching my life or sucking it dry. It's amazing the difference I feel when I force myself to stop and just be present in the moment, whatever it is. Even if it's something as simple as putting aside a few extra minutes to spend with the kids throughout the day instead of checking my phone or cleaning another mess. I've caught myself many times over the years, and especially in the time since my Pop's passing, telling myself 'You're missing out right now. Stop what you're doing and just be in the moment'. The chores, the messes, the to- do lists, the emails, will always be there, but life continues forward and these moments pass; either we soak them in and allow them to enrich our lives, or we let them pass by us, aware but not totally present. I want to spend my life living and being, doing what makes me and my family happy, not trying to add more because that's what I think I should do. If I'm at home, I want my focus to be my kids and husband, when I'm working I want that to be my focus. 

And that's where balance comes in. I'm really not sure it exists. At least not by accident, not naturally. We have to create it, it's about our choices and accepting that doing one thing will come at the expense of another, and weighing the options against each other. I've been trying to do this more lately and it's tough: in the past I've tried to do everything on my list and ended up frustrated, drained, and cranky. And then nobody's happy, nobody wins. So, even though I've lowered my standards since having kids (my house used to stay clean after I cleaned it), I'm lowering them again, but in a different way. Instead of trying to do 10 things at once (and probably burning myself out trying), I'm trying to only tackle 1 or 2 things at time. No matter what, multitasking is a part of life, but if I don't spread myself so thin, I really feel like I will find what I am doing more fulfilling.

As a way of slowing down, I'm also trying to seek out the simple things that make me happy- being out in nature, digging in the dirt with Ari, reading, cooking- and choosing to make time for them, to enjoy them more, rather than just have them be lost in the mix of a too- busy day. The laundry can wait. I'm not going to sit here and preach that I have it all figured out- I don't- but accepting that balance exists in it's own way through my choices- how I choose to spend my time and prioritize things- is what it comes down to. Accepting that there really is no 'perfect', just what works for me. And that may not be the same as what works for others, but that's ok, we're each on our own journey. 

As adults, we have responsibilities that require us to give up a certain amount of our time to earn an income and provide for our families, but how we spend our free time seems to be getting chiseled away and eroded, taken up by things that can become toxic and really not adding to the quality of our lives. We can get caught up in things that may seem important, but are really just eating away at our time and energy, leaving us feeling hollow and out of balance. It's not always about being happier (I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to always be or seem happy), but about really being present in the moment, to reconnect with ourselves and those that matter in our lives. In the past few months, I've spoken to Will about a lot of things, this being a major topic; we've fought, disagreed, hurt each other's feelings, but we've come together to communicate and make time for each other. That's been one puzzle piece that's been put in place in my life and I'm so grateful for it. It's not always pretty and simple and neat, but it's been real and that's what I want from life. It can hurt but it can be so many other things, and I know that nothing that's ever really mattered in my life has come easy. 

Balance isn't about making life look easy, it's about deciding what's important to us and making the time. Making the puzzle pieces fit together. When things change, we re- evaluate, as I'm doing now. I'm not going to be an A+ Mom/ wife/ worker all at once, but if I strip away some of the clutter, I think I'll thrive in a way I haven't been. I know I'll have to make some tough choices, but if I can look back and know that I made my choice with the best intentions, I won't mind the sacrifices so much. Somedays it might be tough to put something aside that I want to get done, but I'll be able to look back and know I was there for the moments I'll never get back, the opportunities that come once in a lifetime. I won't remember the things I was trying to do that fell down the list, but I know I'll remember what I chose to do instead. The pieces will fit together and things will work out the way they're meant to. So to everyone reading this who's struggling with finding balance, I hope you find it, in whatever form it may take.