The relentlessness of balance

November 6, 2019

We talk a lot about keeping our lives in balance. Whether that’s balancing work and non-work, or carbs and cardio, or self-care and others-care, we carry around an invisible balance sheet that’s always in danger of going into the red (or, if you spend any time in enneagram 1 space, it’s just red all the time).

This drive for balance is unrelenting. We’re Goldilocks, but instead of there being a just-right bed to lay down on, it’s a tightrope. On moving cantilevers. Over a giant chasm of failure.

For most of my 20s, I pursued balance through systems. Time management systems, task management systems, stuff management systems. And it appeared to work, more or less. But then I had a baby, and then another baby, and all of a sudden systems weren’t leading to balance.

Balance requires a degree of compartmentalization. I’ve never been good at compartmentalizing. I see connections, not dispensations. But I had feigned balance through a combination of margin and baseline capacity. I could hold a lot of things at once, and when I couldn’t there was margin in which to recover. 

And then I was a full-time working mom of two with little capacity and even less margin.

I still believe in systems. Systems create rhythms, and rhythms provide a framework for my life. But over the last 5 years, I’ve reworked my rhythms once a quarter (or more) and have yet to find a system that produces balance.

I’ve started to wonder: What if the fundamental assumption — that balance is the goal — is wrong?

I don’t want a balanced life. I want fullness of life.

I want these juxtaposed parts of my life to all feel abundant. When I pray for my kids when I’m at work, or jot down an idea for work when I’m with my kids, I don’t want to see that as an indicator of unhealth. When one week has me in spin class four times but the next week has me taking my kids out for ice cream instead, I don’t want to see that as the death of my health goals.

A relentless pursuit of balance might help me achieve more, or be more fit, or squeeze more in — but is that what I’m after? Should it be?

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