I recently had the great honor of interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, THAT Liz Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame; no, I won't leave you hanging, more to come soon)--and we spent a lot of time discussing the fact that balance is bullshit.
Balance is this elusive thing that we strive for, right? We talk about needing it. We plan for it. We dream about it. We wait for it. We read magazine articles about it and ask our friends how they have it and put it up on this high, high pedestal. I have to admit that before I became a parent, I did feel pretty "balanced" most of the time, simply because I had more actual time to devote to whatever I felt like doing. And now that I'm a mom, it's painfully, hilariously clear to me that I cannot do it all, not even close, no way, and there are lots of things I'd love to do that I need to stop doing.
That last part has been a struggle. Sure, it's challenging to say no to people and things and events . . . but it's even harder to turn away from things that you care about and want to do and take pleasure in and feel passionate about and LOVE. However, at the end of the day, you have one life; there's only one of you with a certain amount of energy to use and only so many hours to spend and you have to pick what's most important to prioritize.
The process is painful. Every time I make a choice that I know is best for me and my family in the long run these days, my ego shrieks, "No! Wait! I'll make it work, hold on, I won't disappoint you, I'll figure it out!" And I have to force myself to pause and sit through the discomfort. And I have to slowly wade through the ick factor of not being perfect, not being balanced, not checking off all the boxes that I used to. And I have to let it go and move on.
To put it another way, sometimes I'm stressed and struggling to find a solution to the whole "I don't have time, I'm rushing around too much, life feels too fast and too busy." A tiny voice will make a suggestion that I know is best, but I resist, I wait, I put it off, I try something else . . . and then eventually I take the route that my heart already knew was best and wonder why it took me so damn long to listen to myself.
Does that ever happen to you?
After E was born, it felt like I cut so many things out of my day-to-day life. The optimistic side of me assumed that I would add those things back in at some point. I figured that in the future, my "new" self would look a bit more like my "old" self.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
You see, when you become a new version of yourself, that's it: you're new. There's no going back in certain ways. Some things will stay, and others will ebb and flow, but whatever you released to the past? That shit is gone.
Funny enough, the more I've said no and cut back and made space for my top priorities, the more those valuable areas of my life have opened up. I told myself that 2016 was not a year of ambition, and yet, it has become one in a way I would've never expected. I thought this year would be all about maintenance and it's actually, instead, about growth and doing the work and staying the course and building a foundation and big handfuls of vulnerability.
I used to believe that finding balance meant all the buckets of my life held equal weight. I thought it meant that I had enough time and energy and money and whatever else to devote to each respective area. That may be true for some people, but it no longer holds water for me . . . and it never really did.
Because now, when I look back, the "balance" I thought I used to have? It may have looked smooth and pretty from the outside, but it usually didn't feel that way on the inside or behind-the-scenes. I would have a couple of glorious days, or maybe even a whole season where everything felt "balanced"--that is, managed and controlled--and then it could come crashing down.
Now, "balance" looks different. It's not about Doing All the Things; instead, it's about doing a few things to the best of my ability on a given day. Often, the best I can do is go with the flow, ride the wave, assume things won't go as planned, be disciplined about what matters most to me and take advantage of the little pockets of freedom that arise.
Pre-motherhood, that last line would've seemed depressing as hell. It's not, though, because I've learned to be more efficient and intentional and nimble than ever before. It's hard. It brings me to tears some days. It makes me incredibly proud of myself other days. It reminds me to be really nice to myself and others, parents or not, because we are all trying and life is so hard sometimes.
Today I tried to work from home, but mostly soothed a fussy baby who wanted to be held and loved and paid attention to all day. I got things done, but in five minute increments, and then my husband got home. While he put our son to bed, I went on a 15 minute speedy run before the rain came pouring down, took a shower, grabbed a beer and wrote this blog post.
It wasn't balanced. It isn't perfect. It doesn't have to be pretty. But it's not nothing, either--it's all I've got, and luckily, that's enough.