The Myth of Balance

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.
― Anne Lamott

I wear a lot of hats in this life. I am mom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend. I am business owner, pianist, teacher, adjudicator, speaker, colleague. I am reader, writer, blogger, walker, knitter, seamstress, jewelry designer. I am cook, housekeeper, laundress, house painter, home decorator.

Some of these are technically non-essential. Reading a book or knitting a scarf doesn’t help pay the bills. For that matter, neither does making a piece of jewelry, because while I do sell my wares on Etsy, I spend far more money buying jewelry-making supplies than I earn selling the occasional bracelet or pair of earrings. But reading books and making things with my hands satisfy needs that bubble up from deep inside me. In this respect they are, in fact, quite essential.

There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life. 
― Alain de Botton

I have spent hours creating daily schedules, planning my weeks, writing down short-term goals and long-term goals and pushing myself to meet my self-imposed deadlines. I will even admit to occasionally making a list of things I have already done just so that I can experience the satisfaction of checking them off. But then life happens and my carefully drawn plans fall completely by the wayside. I get sick or one of my kids is in crisis or my dog gets sick or a tumultuous relationship ends or the car breaks down or the lawn mower won’t start. What choice is there? I take a deep breath, deal with the situation, and regroup.

Then I make a new list.

I want to caution you against the idea that balance has to be a routine that looks the same week in and week out.
― Kevin Thoman

Last weekend I accompanied a number of home schooled students in a musical theater vocal competition. During the two weeks prior to the event, I spent every minute I wasn’t teaching, eating or sleeping learning the music, making recordings of the piano parts so the students could practice with them, and attending rehearsals with the students. The competition itself was a two-day event. Reading, writing, crafting, even my personal piano practice were necessarily shoved to the back burner. Now the competition is over and next week I will have a greatly reduced teaching load on the heels of the piano festival most of my students are performing in this weekend. I will take advantage of the downtime to clean up the mess I made in my craft room over the holidays, pack away the Christmas tree, scrub the bathrooms and mop the kitchen floor. Never-ending circumstances such as these result in the complex meters and syncopated rhythms of my days, weeks and months.

There is no point in fighting. So I might as well give up striving for balance in my life. It might be possible to achieve it if I were content with less, if I could just take care of my daily business and let go of my dreams. But I can’t. I won’t. And while I remain convinced I can do it all, I understand I cannot do it all at once. Instead, I will focus on one thing at a time. While I am practicing piano, I will not stop to check text messages on my phone. When I go outside to walk, I will leave the ear buds behind and pay attention to the sights, sounds and smells around me. As I eat my lunch, I will focus on the tastes and textures of the food in front of me instead of checking out the latest on Facebook and Pinterest.

Nothing worth having comes easy, but I am willing to work hard. I will play the piano on many stages, I will see my fiction writing traditionally published, I will build wishing towers on beaches all over the world.

But I won’t waste another moment of my precious life in pursuit of balance.