“I don’t know how you do it all!” Someone said this to me recently and my first thought was, “You and me both”. Partially because I have a terrible memory and literally cannot remember what I just did yesterday, and partially because sometimes I feel like I am on auto-pilot… I really don’t know how I manage life some days. As I thought even more about her statement it occurred to me that she and I might have very different definitions of the words she used in her sentence. Most days, “do” means “actions required for survival”. And on those days “all” really means “the bare minimum”.
I am certain I am not the only person who feels like this. Just like so many other people I wear a variety of hats. I wear the parent hat. The one that hopefully helps me to raise two daughters to be intelligent, kind, productive members of society. I wear the spouse hat. The one that reminds me to never take for granted my marriage and to be an active participant in making sure it is still healthy and happy. I wear the employee hat. The one that I am very blessed to have and allows me to work with a community I adore. I wear the domestic duties hat. That one does not fit very well, is often askew, and to be frank… gets ignored pretty frequently. I wear the performer hat. One that I am so incredibly lucky to wear even if it is not as often as I would like. Other hats include the friend, daughter, finance manager, activities director, nurse, psychologist, tutor… well, you get the idea. Because you are probably wearing many of these hats and more, aren’t you?
One of my colleagues here at Military Spouse often tells me to “enjoy the balance of my day”. I will admit that the first few times I heard it, I laughed to myself thinking “Yeah, right! What balance?!” And then, the more I heard it, the more I realized that it was something I really needed to take to heart. Because finding the balance in life is tough… finding it on a daily basis seems damn near impossible.
Life seems to be one long balance beam these days… and I will admit that lately I have been falling off of it completely. For the life of me I just can’t seem to balance long enough to walk a few feet before I am crashing to the floor, trying to shake it off and pretend I don’t feel like a complete idiot. Maybe it looks as though I have it all together, perhaps I am being overly critical of myself, and it is entirely possible I am a bit of a drama queen. But every day I wake up with a to do list and a plan… and every night I go to bed wondering if I will ever cross every item off of it.
When I have a dilemma, I brainstorm. I talk to friends, I garner opinions from my social networks, I do a little “google research”, and I try to evaluate the situation and create a plan. So when I started really questioning my balance issues I did the same thing. And as much as I wish I could now write you a life-changing article titled “10 Ways to Find the Perfect Balance in Life” I am far from even being able to write the introduction paragraph for that gem. But a few realizations have come to mind and I believe they will help me (and maybe you) achieve more balance in life.
Recently I was struggling with a certain technique at a CrossFit class. I made the remark that I just cannot seem to get my balance. Someone told me that if I continued to strengthen my core, I would improve my balance. Strengthen my core. What a concept. As I thought more about this I realized that not only are my core muscles very weak, but it is possible that while trying to juggle a million things, I have neglected the core of my life.
That gave me pause as I began to think, “What is my CORE”? In other words, what are the most important things in my life… my high-priority items? One would think this a simple question, and on the surface it is, but as I delved into how I need to structure my life in regards to my CORE, it became a bit more complicated.
For instance, my family is a main part of my CORE. That includes my husband, my children, our parents, extended family… etc. So, they should be on the top of my CORE list, right? Obviously. But what does that mean? Because my career is also a main part of my CORE, and I work from home so that I can be more readily available to my family. But if I am always working, I am not giving them the attention they deserve, and if I am always focusing on my family… I am neglecting my work. In addition when I think of family, I also think of feeding them, laundry, discipline, dance lessons, date nights, school supplies, homework, being a good example for the girls… the list goes on and on and on…
It is at this point where I start to have a mild panic attack as I feel myself teetering on that balance beam once again, just trying to define my CORE. Mild might not be an accurate description.
I had to adjust my thinking. Instead of defining my CORE in terms of family, career, etc… I needed some different words.
- Care – to include physical, emotional, and financial health for the entire family.
- Objectives – our short-term and long-term goals as individuals and as a family.
- Relate – maintaining positive, loving, and empowering relationships with those we care about.
- Enjoy – Literally enjoying the life we are given every day.
A light bulb went off. Angels sang. And I got excited.
I realized that I really have been spinning my wheels doing things that did not strengthen my CORE at all, and certainly that was not helping me to stay on that balance beam. Just defining it gave me hope and a feeling of peace I have not experienced in a while. Now, when making a decision, engaging in an activity, accepting another responsibility, or taking on a task… I can ask myself, “Is this going to strengthen my CORE?” If the answer is “No”, I can gladly walk away… guilt free.
Strengthen your CORE. That doesn’t mean that I still won’t struggle with figuring out in which order some of these things should go each day. But I am hoping that by taking better CARE I will have more energy and feel less stress… and we all know that that is a major factor in balancing our every day lives. Women are notorious for taking care of everyone else first… and we have all experienced pitfalls because of it. For me this means making time for physical fitness, healthy meals and SLEEP. But it also means absolutely not allowing drama into our lives. And it means making sure that we continue to move toward complete financial freedom by getting rid of debt and living within our means.
By keeping my personal and our family OBJECTIVES in mind, we can eliminate a few things from life. What are my short and long term goals in regards to career and personal growth? What are our goals as a family… short and long term as well? What steps should we be taking to accomplish these things? What things should we eliminate from our lives in order to achieve them?
How we RELATE to our loved ones can certainly strengthen our core. Strong family relationships not only keep us grounded but give everyone a safe place to fall… something that everyone needs from time to time. In the balance of our every day lives are we taking the time to really relate to one another face to face? I am 100% guilty of spending way too much time with my eyes on a computer or phone screen. Social media and the internet are incredible tools for staying connected… but we are using them too much if they cause us to dis-connect from the people we see every single day in person.
There are a hundred cliches to use when we talk about taking the time to ENJOY life. But they are true. Are we stopping to smell the roses? Because life is way too short. Waking up every morning with the goal of enjoying your day whenever possible is much better than waking up with dread. Sure, some days you will wake up knowing that your day is filled with 101 unpleasant things you absolutely do not want to do. But if we are taking just a few moments to enjoy something… it can center us and help us get through the not-so-enjoyable moments.
So perhaps I haven’t completed that incredible Top 10 List that is certain to change all of our lives. But I think it is possible that I have stumbled onto one of the 10. Just like it will take time to work on those tummy muscles so I can complete that CrossFit move without falling over… strengthening the CORE of my life will take time as well.
In the meantime, I really want to hear from you. How do you strengthen your CORE and find the balance of your day?