Day 157. Just Right

Chyina nailed it the other day.  She was commenting on the post I wrote Tuesday about slowing down; and said she’s “equally worried about those who balancego so slowly, they grow moss on their feet.  And by the time they get around to smelling the flowers, the flowers have died.”

Although she never mentioned it explicitly, what she was saying is, we need to have balance in our lives.  That’s the ideal.  The goal.  And she’s absolutely right.

Easier said than done, my friends.  Much easier said than done.

We have SO much juggling to do.  Careers.  Spouses.  Kids.  Grand kids.  Aging parents.  Caregiving.  Homemaking. How does all of it get divided?  Fairly?  With enough sleep time and ‘me’ time.

Ha!  If I had the answer, I’d be taking over from Oprah.  She’d be working for me.

It’s difficult even if you’re single.  Take me as an example.

Advertising is a gruelling and demanding business.  It eats up your life.  Working weekends and into the wee, small hours of the morning, day in and day out, is the norm.  It is not an industry for the faint of heart, let me tell you.  It reaps havoc on both your mental and physical health; and it’s hell on relationships.

I’m single, with no kids.  But how are you supposed to fit a life into a schedule like that?   The only advantage I had (and still have) over married folks is, there was no husband who was fed up or resentful children waiting for me at home.  One less issue to deal with.  But even so, whenever my parents came to visit from Montreal, they often ended up in a restaurant by themselves, while they waited hours for me to show up.  By the time I got there, it was time to go home to bed.  And ask any of my friends.  Whenever we had plans they’d expect a last-minute phone call from me, cancelling.

No balance there.

As my mother got older and her health worsened, she needed more and more of my time.  There were days when I felt like I was the rope in a game of tug and war.  At the time I was running an ad agency, which placed even greater demands on me.  Thankfully I quickly realized there was no way I could handle it all.  My personal plans went on hold indefinitely.  I concentrated on my agency and my mother.  They were my only two priorities.

Oh yes, I’m well aware that was still not giving me  ‘balance’ in my life.  I never deluded myself into thinking it was.  It was a realistic, practical solution.  It relieved me of the stress and frustration of trying to cram a personal life into an already over-crowded schedule.  If anything, it was a compromise.  And it worked beautifully for all concerned, including me.  At the time.

There’s no question I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.  But make no mistake.   Holidays and evenings out weren’t part of the ‘plan’.

So no balance there.

The generation behind us are very different.  When we’d be hiring at our agency, every interview I ever conducted was exactly the same.  Before I could even open my mouth and ask the first question, the applicant would say:  “I won’t work weekends or late nights unless it is a dire emergency.  I’d like four weeks vacation to start.  I won’t take a job where I can’t also have a life.”

Period.  Thank you very much.  Take it or leave it.

And you know what?  We hired the good ones anyway.  Because the twenty and thirty somethings are pretty much all the same.  Because they’re right.  And because they can teach us a thing or two about having it all.  Or damn close.  A lot closer than we ever got.

So what about now?  My mother is gone.  No more full time job.  I freelance.  Have I achieved ‘nirvana’?  Have I got ‘equilibrium’ in my life?  I’m getting there.  It’s a helluva lot better than it was.  Working on my own gives me control.  I can have as few, or as many, clients as I choose.  I can accept, or turn down, work at will.  Provided I’m willing to make the lifestyle adjustments, earning less requires.

I have freedom.  And it gives me time to volunteer.  To travel.  To see friends.  To pamper myself.  To meditate or do yoga or pilates.  To go for long walks.  To daydream.  To write for my own pleasure.  To do nothing at all.

As yet I haven’t taken full advantage of it.  But I’m working on it.  What about you?

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18 thoughts on “Day 157. Just Right

  1. Good for you. Thank you for sharing your cautionary tale and explaining what some of the 20/30 somethings are teaching us (sometimes it’s easy to confuse their desire for balance with not caring about their careers/clients).

    I’m trying to get there in the balance department. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t (like Q4 2012). I’m working on the process. And my ever-growing list of outside interests is helping. But I’m reluctant still to make many weeknight commitments other than working out. I’ve disappointed too many friends/family members and pissed off Bruce too many times.

  2. I wish you well on your journey to balance. Many of us have been pulled off balance for the sake of our jobs and careers. But life is so much richer than just our jobs. I too am striving for that balance and made the decision to quit my full time job about 2 years ago to do that. No regrets. So far – it’s been great.

  3. I was working at a time when it was believed that if you wanted to get ahead, work had to come first and it often became the “only” for those that were climbing the corporate ladder or those, like yourself were building their own businesses. My son, who is now in his 30’s does, as you pointed out, is very much aware of and believes in the life balance ethics of his peer group yet, I see him experiencing the same struggle with that balance as I had. In hindsight I realize that “balance” is not necessarily achieved on day-to-day, month-to-month or even a year-to-year cycle. During any life cycle some of us may give, for example, 90% to our craft and only 10% to the other very important priorities of family, friends and our own self-nurturing. This example reversed would also be true for many of us who devoted a good deal of our life to family, etc. and less to our own desire to work outside the home, or build a business, etc. Over the course of our life cycle, we build a strong desire to nurture what we have not yet cultivated and, if we are very fortunate, we are still in a position to do so when we are “ready”. What helped me to get through those times when I felt guilty about not devoting enough time to those other important priorities was to just be honest with myself. For me, in some cases, necessity prompted the unequal distribution of priorities. In other cases, I was able to make some adjustments to give more attention to the squeaky wheel but I definitely couldn’t say it was an equal balance. We can always look back and say I should have done more (or less) of this or that but dwelling on the past, in my opinion, is self-defeating. We really only have this moment. We are where we are right now and this is the point where we have the opportunity to re-evaluate, without guilt or judgment, and make realistic adjustments. This is easy to say but not so easy to do! We get stuck spinning on our hamster wheels. I do highly recommend meditation and yoga but if you can only pick one, start with a daily meditation practice. 5 minutes a day to begin is good, as you will naturally increase the time as you experience the benefits. Another terrific post, Fransi!

  4. Balance is definitely needed in life. I try to have a little “me” time in the evenings on my computer or go for walks, when my achy joints allow me to. I try not to take things too seriously because in ten years it won’t matter what little issue I had today.

  5. We are all following those imaginary footsteps just as well nobody has ever come back to tell us where they really lead to – it would ruin the surprise I guess – fate- something we all must trust in, it dictates our life – it does doesn’t it?

  6. I wonder if that quest for balance ever really ends. Life shifts and changes in a never-ending flow of ups and downs, tipping the scale of balance along with it. I’ve reached a point where I feel happy with the choices I am making and that to me is as close to defining my balance as I may come. It looks to me like you are well on your way too!

    • I totally agree. I don’t think it ever ends either — because we change and evolve. And yes, you are right. I am on my way.

    • I know. Yoga and pilates and meditation are perfect for that. So is restorative yoga. If you’ve never tried it, I am sure you would LOVE it.

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