Are you carrying around false weight? Not necessarily poundage that has somehow been added to your middle or the weight that doesn’t match your driver’s license description, but the false weight of an unbalanced life? Do you feel that you are leaning too much in one direction- work, family, housework, care-giving? Do you ever feel that life is toppling around you or that you are listing to one side?
It seems as if my entire life has been about balance. One of my favorite verses as a young child was “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.” (Proverbs 11:1) While this Hebrew wise man may have been referring to actual weights and scales (the practice of adding a little more weight to the side of the merchant), I always felt this verse could be applied to other false weights.
Even then I was interested and tried to discover a balance in my life: how to juggle all my activities-school, hobbies, social, extra-curricular, etc. As a young person it was almost a game to see how much I could pack into a day and how much responsibility I could manage. I would falsely tell myself (in the words of Mr. Incredible), “I have time.” I have time to go from one thing to another and to say yes to one more thing. Unfortunately most of my memories are of the process of rushing from one activity to another, feeling that inner crazed agitation and not truly enjoying the moment. I do not think God wants us to live our lives in that manner. He wants us to be free of anxiety, stress, and frustration. He wants us to have joy in what we do.
As an adult, I have tried many things to remedy the rushing, non-joyful situations that my off-balance lifestyle creates. I do not want to feel unbalanced: toppling under the weight of over-commitment. Periodically I will review my obligations list. I say no to things more times than I say yes. Yet still, I feel that my days are out of control and that I am scrambling to keep up.
It occurred to me that it is more than just a rearrangement of my schedule (although that is certainly something that I should do). I definitely need clarity of vision as I assess this weight of obligation. I was reminded in my yoga workouts that balance occurs with the pull of opposite and opposing forces. One stretches and reaches upward as one settles, pushes and grounds one’s feet to the floor.
There has to be tension in balance.
I think for so long I was trying to strike some type of life balance without experiencing any tension. I thought that the tension of rushing and deadlines was creating the unbalance: If I eliminate the rushing and deadlines that tension would be released and then I would feel balanced.
But that doesn’t work. It is like when we had to replace strings on our ukulele. Once you take off the old string, you have re-thread the new by starting with the bridge, attaching the string and the working your way up to the headstock and eventually wrapping the string around a tuning peg. Once the string is in place, you can begin tuning the ukulele by tightening the string to the correct pitch. The string has to have enough tension so that the note can be heard. Too little and it is just flaccid- no recognizable sound can be distinguished when it is plucked. Too taut and the pitch is extremely high- no recognizable note and the string can easily snap. A correct tension provides the right note for the string.
While we can hear and see the correct tension for the ukulele’s string, how do we hear and see the correct tension in our own lives? I feel that this is something with which I will always struggle. How do we have just enough tension in our lives so that we are not too taut, or too flaccid, or too heavy on one-side or the other? Most importantly, how do we keep things balanced so that we do not snap and break?
I think that some of our tension is directly opposite in a binary tension and other types of tension are triangular.- three areas that need to be in concert with one another.
Some (of my random) Thoughts on Keeping a Healthy Tension:
Equal amounts of things that need to be done against things that you want to do- tension of the reality of one’s responsibility and the potential for future endeavors.
More positive thoughts than negative- tighten and focus more on affirmations (truth) over condemnations (lies). We talked about it before, keep the balance of three positive thoughts to outweigh one negative.
Work and Play- that which we do to give to others (profession, vocation, volunteering) and that which we do to give to ourselves (recharge).
Eat, Sleep, Move- the three foundations for good health. All work in concert of each other.
Family, Friends, Faith- the tension of spending time in relationships- reaching out to others, reaching up towards God and reaching inside oneself- all to build healthy relationships and understanding. It is the upward and outward focus that helps keep things in perspective for me.
Mind, Body and Spirit- If you don’t think that all three need to be balanced with each other- see how long it takes for one area to be problematic (e.g. minor illness like a cold) before the other areas are having difficulty (e.g. hard to think clearly with a cold).
Embrace the things you have to do. Don’t fight the responsibilities. While things might seem heavily concentrated in one situation (in the throws of child care; elder care; big work project) most things do come to an end. The children grow up, the elderly parent passes away, the project gets completed. When I remember the long game, I keep things in perspective and don’t feel the weight of responsibilities so much. I also remember God’s faithfulness and mercy towards me in past situations and rely and trust in Him for my current predicaments. I remind myself: Enjoy the whole experience. Some day when it is over and if I am truly honest about the whole experience, I will miss even the difficult parts.
What about you? Are you carrying around false weight? What do you do to stay balanced in your life? Do you experience any tension? What does that look like?
The other thing that I have noticed about balance- the more I do it, the easier it becomes.