The Fallacy of Living a Balanced Life

What the heck is balance anyways? Do any of us really ever have it all together? All at once? I don’t think so. Yesterday, I felt so accomplished having spent six plus hours at the computer writing as the kick-off to my official commitment to my new writing career. Now, today, I must remind myself that in order to write one must sit. I have been running around my house, cleaning, doing laundry, doing calisthenics, watering plants, refilling soap dispensers…anything, it seems, to avoid sitting! I have a clay facial mask on as I type this.
Before sitting down, I decided that it is tea time so better wash out the coffee pot for tomorrow, get the tea kettle going, wash my favorite mug, organize and take inventory of my tea supply. Maybe this is what I need to finally get to the task at hand?
Yes, I fool myself. I am painfully, acutely aware as I observe myself avoiding and distracting. I try to make peace with the situation. Yesterday was a good writing day. It was solid. The words flowed out and you couldn’t get me out of this chair. I have to admit, though, all day long I felt guilty for not being more physically active and enjoying the beautiful sun a bit while the warmer season is still with us.
There is no winning. This “balance” we seek does not need to occur over one day or one week. It just needs to occur in a cycle that keeps you healthy and sane. One day of computer zombie-ism, obsessive house cleaning or being sick or tired in bed is not going to throw your entire universe out of whack.
Balance is something that we can seek out in a larger time frame. Most important is that we pinpoint what our personal needs are in regards to balance. How long can you go without a workout? How long can you exist on junk food before feeling sick and sluggish? How often do you need breaks from the computer screen or just from being cooped up indoors? We also have different thresholds for disorder. For some of us, dishes in the sink are no big deal. For others, they may not be able to move forward with anything else until this task is taken care of.
Now, this is an area to really inspect. While it is okay to have preferences, if you have an extreme requirement for order in your home and life, balance will likely remain eternally out of your grasp. In other words, there are some things you need to let go of.
What can you put on this list? Let’s think of some tasks or activities of which you can lessen frequency, depth or eliminate all together. For example, I have decided to stop folding sheets. Yup. I just ball them up when in a crunch and put them away in the closet. You know why? A cover or comforter is always placed over them anyways and the point is that they are clean. They do not need to be wrinkle-free.
Also, I got smarter about dishes. I put them directly in the dishwasher instead of the sink at least 90% of the time. I know this seems like an obvious one and something many of you may already be onto. But, the truth, it has brought a significant amount of peace to my day. Now, I no longer have those nagging dishes staring at me every time I pass the sink or grab a drink from the fridge, of throw something away in the garbage beneath the sink. When I arrive home, I don’t see dirty dishes and think, “Great, now I have more work to do.” Also, it makes cooking the next meal more appealing by not having a clean-up job to start that task off. It has eliminated all the fights with my husband over who will do the dishes (me, always me).
Okay, laundry-check, dishes- check. Now, what else can we improve on a regular basis that will help us create more balance?
One of my favorites is pairing things down and getting rid of material possessions. I am talking simple things here: having less clothes and working with a simple but functional wardrobe, giving away books that don’t really add to your collection and you never plan on reading again, tossing knick-knacks that have no meaning to you or you are mainly keeping out of guilt or obligation because they were gifts. That kind of stuff. I think everyone is pretty familiar now with the simplicity movement and what that means. If you can, do this. If you are too overwhelmed by the thought of what you would discard, forget it. We still have the biggest and most effective area left with which we can work to create balance: your mind.
Yes, the goal here is to change your thoughts around things so that the focus is on balance, and not perfection. Think about that. When you demand perfection, this usually means two things:
1) You must do it yourself because anyone else will do an inferior job
2) You must take more time to complete a given task
“But, if I don’t do it, it will never get done!” is something some of you might be saying right now. You never know until you ask. And, when it comes down to it, you need to keep asking yourself, “Do I want perfection or do I want peace?” Make this your mantra.
In reality, no one is on top of it all. Everyone has some degree of chaos going on in their life right now; not because we are all crazy and inefficient but because we are alive. In case you hadn’t noticed, this world is ever-changing and moving. There is no “pause” button. We must think on our feet and live from a place of flexibility. The ones who are having the most fun are the ones who have mastered this. If you can give up a bit of your grip on that daily to-do list and just listen, feel, and respond to the moment at-hand, you will create balance automatically.
Nature has this natural rhythm of unfolding. We are nature. Things will come and things will fall away. Let them come and let them fall away. You will be given opportunities to participate and opportunities to rest and observe. Take both opportunities. Breathe. Life is good. Life is happening whether your sheets are wrinkled or pressed. Smooth sheets don’t stop death and dirty dishes shouldn’t end marriages. Look around at the people in your life. Every day, look into their eyes. Listen to them as they talk and share their day with you. Offer your smile as often as you can wherever you are. Live in a way that reminds others that joy is to be had in this moment and this moment alone.

Search and rescue

Great insight from your mother! These words will stay with me too. Thanks for sharing.


My mother, when she was dying, said to me, “There are no wrong answers, Kris.”

She was speaking from the vantage point of someone who has nothing left to lose. Someone with the luxury of looking back on a life filled with worry about making the right choices and realizing, in the end, most of those choices become irrelevant.

I was torn between staying at her bedside and going back to Chicago to take care of my kids. I felt I did not have a choice. My kids needed me. I was the glue in our household. But my mother needed me also.

Recently, I was worrying about the right job, the right parenting, the right financial and life decisions. As I’m sure many of you do. Few of us are immune to trying to game the system for the best results.

choices, options, alternativesIn most situations, you can stay put until…

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Dream Messages

Dreams have always seemed to me to be a grand opportunity to glimpse unresolved or especially potent mental debris. Some cultures say dreams are the result of “undigested thoughts and emotions.” That suits me just fine as well.

 Sometimes, I’ve experienced prophetic dreams or dreams that took me to another land or allowed me to visit with a departed loved one. Still, I believe most of these midnight movies fall into the category of “stuff we need to deal with.”

How many times have you had an emotionally-powerful dream that took you by surprise and opened your eyes to something unresolved in your life? At other times, the dream is just more unloading of stress around an issue you are vividly aware of. 

This morning, as I dream journaled, I ran into one of those dreams where I had loads of anger that I was trying to express. The tears and yelling and formulation of words all arrived awkwardly and resulted in even deeper frustration. I occasionally have one of these scenarios occur and I am always taken aback by the level of pure rage. 

Sometimes, we use dreams as a sort of release valve; somewhere safe to express the unexpressible. We lack the control and inhibition to temper our emotions in the dream state. And, if the emotion is that huge, that powerful, it needs expression!

While it’s easy to regard this as a favor of the universe (to be able to dump our baggage), I believe it’s more of a physiological mechanism triggered to maintain psychological equilibrium. 

After all, there is no suppressing. Everything has an effect and all energy must go somewhere whether that’s food energy or thoughts or emotions. Any attempt at suppression only leads to distortion of some other pathway. 

What would be the effect of this mental build-up then? Many eastern holistic medicine systems (and even our Western branch of neuroimmunology) hold strong to the theory that the end result is physical breakdown. Stress is stress. Psychological stress creates physical stress as hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are activated. Whether or not we are aware of our stress makes all the difference in mitigating the negative effects on the body. 

As a result, these emotionally-charged dreams are a gift. If we pay attention to them when they occur we can use that information to address and hopefully dismantle the toxic emotions before they create further damage to our physical body. 

So, yes, dream journaling can have far-reaching positive effects on not just your mind, but on your physical health as well. We need to take advantage of this information outlet and stop disregarding dreams as trivial occurances in our sleeping minds. Besides, it is not our minds that are asleep in dreaming but our bodies. Our minds, unimpeded with the usual stimuli of our physical environment, have a chance for pure expression. Listen closely for, as stated in the Talmud:

“A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not opened.”

An Unpleasant Truth

Yesterday was a day of a glaring, uncomfortable truth being brought into the light as I got to glimpse how those nearest and dearest to me see me. 

The revealed truth was on the subject of work ethic and ability as I had been pondering the idea of taking on a “regular” job. You know, full-time, 9-5, with a boss. Most of my adult life has been spent in what I would call  “freelance” or “entrepreneurial” positions.  

Apparently, the popular opinion is that I just can’t swing that formal structure that involves putting my own motivation, style and creativity on the back burner. Some of the polled friends had carefully-chosen words to describe this limitation such as “too visionary” or “free-thinking.” All I felt was the sting of what must be a reputation for being bossy, stubborn and egotistical. It really bothered me. I wanted to maintain a view of myself as versatile and giving and this was kind of interfering with that!

This information was shattering my self-concept. And, it must be true because it was confirmed three times, by three honest and loving sources. What could I do? 

I stopped fighting the label. I looked at why the label bothered me and what could be worse, if anything. Here’s what I arrived at. 

#1) I have been extremely judge mental in my beliefs about entrepreneurs vs. employees. I created distinct categories that I now find to be more rigid than what I actually feel to be true. For example, not all business owners/freelancers are unable to take direction nor are all highly intelligent and motivated. Likewise, not all people working for someone else are brainless, non-creative but fantastically-supportive individuals. 

#2) It is okay to have and show a preference for a work environment. Basically, it’s okay to be more strongly one thing than another. In fact, it often helps! When you know yourself and your strengths, it becomes easier to actually get work done and experience success. 

#3) I can do or be whatever I want. There is always an opportunity to grow and change if that is what is desired. Awareness, and especially self-awareness, is the first step in that process. 

#4) When it comes down to it, I would rather be pigeonholed as a person who must work for herself than as a person who must work for someone else. I strongly value freedom, creativity, high product/service standards and a flexible schedule. Obviously, I value them more than security, predictability, and regularity. 

So, the day wasn’t all bad. An opportunity to glimpse youself through the eyes of others can be quite a gift. Here, we are given the chance to see if our intentions are matching what we are actually putting out there. Ultimately, how we feel about ourselves is most important. We never want to substitute our opinion of ourselves with another’s opinion of us. Feedback is just that-information that we can choose to use or discard however we see fit. My advice, though, is to at least be open to hear it. No matter how painful or uncomfortable, take it in. Beyond that, you are the one with the power to create yourself and the life you love.