Balance? Are you kidding me? Is that even a thing?
Work-life balance seems to be not only my own nemesis, but just might be the great white whale of our time. It's the thing that we are constantly seeking to conquer, yet never quite able to attain. I keep hoping there's some kind of magical pie chart that will show me the exact proportions of a life well-lived, but in real life, the math never seems to add up.
I work twelve hour days, seven days a week. I wake up before dark just to get my four miles in before the kids wake up. On any given day, I've got three companies to run, yoga to practice, reading to catch up on, and any spare minute is squirreled away for my writing projects. My partner and I high-five each other on the way out the door in the morning and pass out on the couch hours before the kids put themselves to bed at night. (Sexy, I know.) In between, the dog needs to be walked, the bills need to be paid, the mail needs to be checked. And on top of it all, I happen to have devoted my life to teaching how to live a peaceful and more meaningful life. So there's that.
My attempts at balance look like something like: I'm working too much, I better spend more time with the kids. I'm spending too much time with the kids, I better spend more time with my husband. I'm spending too much time with my husband, I better get my ass out on the trail. I'm spending too much time working out, maybe I should check my emails and make some phone calls at the same time. Pretty soon, I'm doing burpees in the grocery aisle, texting my assistant in between reps, hugging one family member per jump-up, and trying to pet my dog with my free hand. In other words, I turn into a total freak.
Last week, I spent an entire weekend practicing balance on my yoga mat. I spent most of the weekend upside down, working on handstands led by my friend and respected teacher, Rocky Heron. (In case you're wondering about my handstand abilities, you might want to read my previous blog post I Need a Helmet, where I'll give you an inside scoop into just how hazardous my previous failed attempts have been.)
While I was upside-down, shoulders burning, sweat in my eyes, gripping the floor, trying to inch myself carefully away from the safety of the wall, I was only able to hold myself up and take one foot off and then the other off for just a split second. I never felt balanced. I couldn't reliably hold myself off the wall. I kept seeking that magical point where everything would align and hold itself up, but I couldn't find it.
And isn't that exactly what we do in our lives? Try to juggle all those balls in the exact right way, so that every part of our life just holds itself up? I found that balancing my entire body weight on my two hands is very similar to this white-whale of a work-life balance concept.
And then Rocky said something that completely rocked my world. He said, "You guys are hugging the wall, taking one foot off and then the other foot off and acting as if balance is a point that you need to find. Balance isn't a point. It's a way of being."
Wait what? Balance isn't a point? It's a way of being? Wow. Major lightbulb.
In handstand, this means that every point from the wall out to the thin air can be held in balance. And of course, I know this. I've seen people hover and lift into and out of handstand. They "balance" in all kinds of impossible positions. Obviously, they are not aligned at a perfect point that just holds itself up. They hold themselves up through their strength.
Their strength is their balance.
I kicked back into handstand knowing that I didn't just need strong hands, I needed to be strong throughout. I corseted my core, powered through the line of my body, hugged my legs toward each other and held every inch of my body strong. And I balanced. Off the wall. I wasn't scared, I wasn't surprised. I was strong.
This is the way that balance in real life works as well. We're not really wanting to hit that perfect pie chart. We're really wanting to be able to be to hold ourselves in balance when we're leveraged out too far in one way or another. When work is maxing us out, our inner strength and the strength of our friends and family are the muscles that will hold us balanced in place. When someone is sick in our family and we're leaning too far out on that limb, it's the strength of the opposing parts of our life that keep us tethered and grounded.
In other words, we aren't looking to find that point of balance. We are looking to be strong enough to balance. And when we're leaning too far in one direction, we need to pull from the strength of the other aspects of our lives to hold us in balance.
We need to stop thinking in terms of work-life balance as a fixed point. That's a concept that just has us lashing ourselves on the back and working too hard in every area of our lives. Then, out of sheer exhaustion, we ultimately give up on one or more of our commitments in hopes of gaining an easier life.
We can still create a beautiful life even when unbalanced, even when intoxicated with drive and ambition, or even when life is just asking too much of us in one area or another. With enough strength, we can hold ourselves in impossibly unstable positions. And in those moments, we may just find a life worth living. A life that, despite all of the difficulties and imperfections, we can call our very own.
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