There has been a lot of hype around the concept of finding balance in life: work-life balance, balancing social life vs me-time, balance in parenting…you name it. Recently, I listened to an interview with children’s books author and illustrator Lori Richmond (whose work is lovely, by the way) and she said something that really jarred me. She has two kids, her husband is most of the time away, and she works full-time as a freelancer. All in all, she is a very busy person. When Dan Blank, who was interviewing her, asked how she fights the anxiety that comes with having to manage too many things in life, she said that she has given up on finding balance in life and has instead learned to juggle very, very well.
This is perhaps one of the wisest things I’ve heard recently. These days, we spend most of our time in internal conflict about all we want to do and, at that, do it well. This extends beyond daily tasks and goes into the internal landscapes in our mind. We are such complex beings with so many opposing interests, dreams, urges, and tastes that sometimes we don’t know what to do with all that is within us.
Lately, I have been struggling myself a little bit with this. For example, I love to exercise, but I’ve also had plenty of couch-potato moments. I like being among people, but I also love spending time on my own. I love reading AND watching movies. Most years, I have been wobbling through my life feeling pulled in all sorts of directions, wondering when I will finally find balance.
Well, thanks to Lory Richmond, it finally clicked. I never will. The golden mean is an unattainable myth. I think very few of us ever manage to fully reside in this blessed area. And you know what, this is OK. I think it’s OK to embrace and juggle the different aspects of our lives and personalities. It’s OK to live them all fully and focus our attention, fully, at one thing at a time. This in a way already brings balance to the mind: when I’m with my son, I’m with him fully; when I’m writing, I’m completely immersed; when I do yoga, I’m filled with my breath.
Ultimately, a well-balanced life should be characterized differently than being everything we want to be equally well all the time. Balance should rather be characterized by bringing softness to our ambitions, so we can find our way back to relaxation after the work day is done; by remembering to enjoy the ride while striving for a healthy life; by being kind and giving while still taking care of ourselves.
The real balancing act is on a scale much smaller than the day-to-day grind. It’s about consolidating the opposites of which we are all made. In this complicated dance, equal measures are not always the answer.