Today I am wearing jeans, a black shirt and a big soft cardigan that was a present from my Mum. The outfit is quiet subdued for me, with the exception of the bright chunky buttons on the cardi. The cardigan is my version of a security blanket and I am wearing it for comfort and to remind myself to find time to take it easy.
I struggle with balance in my life. As happens so often, I have been pushing myself a little too hard lately and feeling guilty every time I am not really busy with something. This applies both at work and home, though it is the impact on my own time that tends to be more problematic. The relentless activity that results from my guilty reflections is great for getting stuff done, but not so great for my general wellbeing.
I had the day off work on Monday and (after some gentle persuading) I managed to take things a little easy and even permitted myself a nap in the afternoon. It was blissful. I woke on Tuesday feeling refreshed and with my enthusiasm renewed. I promised myself I would take more time to spend not pushing myself. I had three sucessive nights in planned starting on Wednesday. Plenty of time to potter about at home and catch up on quiet time. In fact, three whole nights meant I could get lots of home/personal stuff caught up on. Why, I could try out the new moroccan tagine recipe I found, make that coffee and walnut cake I’d been meaning to, catch up with my accounts, make sure I got caught up with the running, catch up with email correspondence and write a blog post! Better, if I planned to do all that on Wednesday evening it would leave me with the other two evenings free for relaxing. What an excellent, super efficient plan to relax by pushing myself really, really hard to catch up.
Needless to say after a late night on Tuesday and the attempt to do all that stuff after getting home from work at 5.45pm, come 9.30pm on Wednesday evening I was exhausted, anxious and irritated. However did that happen?
I didn’t even end up feeling that I achieved much because I was anxious and, as a result of a constant feeling of not having enough time to complete my assigned tasks which was partly due to relatively low energy levels as I had already identified that I was a bit tired out before Wednesday evening, unable to appreciate what I had managed to do from my ambitious to do list.
That is what I mean about balance. Obviously achieving stuff is good, but my desire to do so needs to be weighed against other factors in my life or it becomes another chore. One that snares and confines me even in my off time. On the other hand, I do work better when focusing on the task at hand and prefer to complete my work before I turn to play. I find it hard to relax unless I feel that I have earned it by working hard first. I don’t think this is just a manifestation of a punishing work ethic. I genuinely enjoy the heightened contrast between working hard/pushing myself and relaxing a bit/allowing myself more fun. I love the feeilng of achieving something I have worked towards and then basking in the glow of having reached it. But not for too long because I get bored and need another milestone to aim for.
I think I need to tweak my notion of balance somewhat. It is clear that I must continue working towards greater balance. Without my efforts to keep on top of it I quickly become unbearable to live with and sometimes still do despite my efforts. However for many months I thought I was working towards a balance that was a horizontal line with no downs and, by implication, no ups. I guess, should I ever achieve this, the result would be my arrival at a dull, grey kind of land where everything is in its safe and well worn place. That isn’t actually what I want and it isn’t actually balance. Balance implies movement. A constant readjustment in response to a changing environment. The wonderfully dramatic expression “hanging in the balance” captures this sense of movement and feeling of being a hair’s breadth away from the scales tipping.
I have been slowly coming to realise this and so I am learning to accept the troughs as well as the peaks. Every now and then I do fall over and smack in to the ground face first. This isn’t any less disruptive to my project of juggling everything I wish to have in my life than it ever was, but I now find it less humiliating somehow. I also reach for my big fluffy cardigan when I crash in to my limitations and then get on with dusting myself off.