The Teeter Totter of Life

My life is not balanced. It’s never been balanced. I don’t know what the perfect mix of activities should be in order to achieve balance. I often say I want to regain balance in my life, but that phrase is inaccurate, because you can’t re-gain something you’ve never gained. I certainly try, though, because a balanced life is something worth striving for. It brings contentment, peace and harmony, all of which I am seeking on my quest for happiness and self-acceptance.

What does a perfectly balanced life look like? To start with, we could look at balance as a mix of work and pleasure, and try to achieve a 50/50 balance of work and play. Yet, that very notion implies that work is drudgery and doesn’t include any joy at all, and that play is simply idle time, which is also false. A person’s vocation often is and certainly should be enjoyable and fulfilling, and playtime does and should include time investing in learning, growing, working and achieving.

We could look at balance as a mix of personal and social time. We could carve out time to be alone, date nights with our partners, one-on-one time with our BFFs, time to be with our children/nephews/nieces, family time, “girl” time and “boy” time, and time to socialize with big or small groups of people. There are so many variables here that again I see downfalls with simply trying to balance our time equally among those we care for.

Balance is a complicated issue. I think the main obstacle to balance in our lives is the absoluteness with which we consider a balanced life to look like. If we seek perfect balance, we aren’t content with our best efforts. I want harmony in my life, so I seek balance, but I know that there are going to be days – and even weeks or months – where my time and energy are focused mostly on one or two areas of life rather than the whole spectrum. There are entire days where I only concentrate on my children, for example. That’s just the place I’m at in my life right now. It certainly won’t look like that 10 or 20 years from now. There are also times of the day where I focus my entire energy on my marriage, and I’ll probably neglect my friends during that time. That’s good enough for me. That’s just how life rolls.

If you think of life as a teeter totter, you may at times see yourself on the high end or the low end, though usually closer to the center. Standing directly in the center of a teeter totter may be what we all want to achieve in our lives – a perfect balance.

But you know what? Standing in the center of a teeter totter is kind of boring!

I often play on a teeter totter with The Professor and Huckleberry Finn, and my place is right in the middle. I cannot jump up on that thing and stand for more than five seconds without one of my sons saying, “Move it, Mommy!” Further, I don’t want to. I want to move and giggle and rise and flow. I want to be prepared for the ebbs and flows of life.

I want to seek balance. I also want to be okay when things are a bit off kilter. It brings my attention to things that need to be fixed and lets me appreciate what is going right. That’s how most of us live. That’s what gives life its beautiful colors.

Here’s a fun experiment for you to try. Start from a standing position with your feet and knees together, and then bend your legs until you are crouched down in a leapfrog position balanced on your tip-toes. Take a moment to gain your balance, and then place your hands either on your knees or folded in front of you (you could even do a Namaste if you are so inclined). Take a breath. Then, close your eyes. What happens? Do you wobble? Do you fall? How do you regain your equilibrium?

Balance doesn’t mean that we never fall. When we try to achieve balance, our movement doesn’t end. We may wobble. We may teeter. We may need to start over again. Yet, our practice of regaining balance (or gaining balance) doesn’t end. Our practice of attempting to achieve balance prepares us for the things life throws at us, so we are better able to deal with the inevitable fluctuations that will occur.

I don’t live in perfect balance, and I’m perfectly okay with that.


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