Balance is something I have struggled a lot with in my life. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing this is even truer than I first thought. I am not physically balanced. I am not really mentally balanced. I’m certainly not emotionally balanced.
I used to joke when I was younger – when I was of an age where one would still think such a joke is funny – that I could never pass a field sobriety test, stone sober, because I can’t walk a straight line to save my life. I’ve learned lately, particularly through my sessions with my personal trainer, that I don’t have very good physical balance – he has me do exercises that require balance and half the time I nearly fall over. (He assures me this will change.) Hell, even my physique isn’t balanced: Most of my life I’ve had pretty muscular legs and pretty flabby everything else. My legs could’ve used more definition and in the last decade or so, my muscular legs have gotten an extra layer of flab around my hips, but they’re strong and I have more power in my legs than any other part of my body. I’m not complaining, I’m merely stating fact. I know this about myself, and part of my motivation for joining the gym and hiring a trainer is to change this. It will change with time and that’s fine.
Sometimes it’s difficult to define the difference between the mental and the emotional.
I’ve made no secret, on this blog, about my struggle with clinical depression. To be honest, I feel like I’m much better than I’ve ever been before, something I’m exceedingly grateful for. But I’ve certainly had my share of unstable moments: sitting on the floor in my closet crying because I was so mad at my room mate for no good reason that if I spoke to her I would say something awful. I’ve yelled at my boss for being too pushy (when he was being too pushy, but still…). I’ve made threats “in jest” toward a co-worker because she was poking fun at me at a very inopportune moment. I’ve sat in my chair at work and stared at the wall, because I couldn’t focus on what I was supposed to be doing and all I really wanted was to cry and sleep.
I’ve written blog posts in which I lambasted my mother’s “one ice cream cone isn’t going to kill me” attitude and then gone home and drunk an entire bottle of wine, alone, in the dark, because “I’m not going out so there’s no harm, and besides there’s only a little bit left in this bottle, what kind of sense does it make to put it back in the fridge? One night with one bottle of wine isn’t going to kill me.” Except it was more nights than it wasn’t. I’ve watched myself behave in self-destructive manners (and don’t let me fool you – or me – into thinking I don’t do it now) all the while thinking, just this one ______ (package of crescent rolls, batch of cookies, vat of ice cream, pot of macaroni and cheese) isn’t going to hurt me any, all the while knowing that it’s just one in a long line of the same, and therefore, yes, it is going to hurt me. I’ve sat in my chair, looked at the clock and thought, “I really should go to the gym, but I guess I’m not going to. I’ll go tomorrow,” as if it’s something I only have to do once to make it effective.
In recent history (and by recent I mean, the last six to eight weeks) I’ve learned some things about some of these behaviors. I’ve made a conscious decision to change my priorities about some of these behaviors and I’m weeding out the obvious causes of my imbalance. And as a result I’ve found something new…
It’s difficult to maintain balance. There seems not to be enough time for it all. There are things I want to do and there are things I have to do. Trying to find the right mix of behaviors that keeps me on an even keel emotionally, that keeps the guilt and the shame at bay and gives me a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction and that also fulfills all my responsibilities is tough.
I have to work. If I don’t work, I don’t get a paycheck and then everything else falls apart. The problem is work sucks; I’ve talked about that ad nauseam and won’t rehash it now, but work sucks and I hate spending my time there. It’s eight hours a day that I can barely call my own and that’s being generous, because by the time you add together grooming, commuting, working and lunch hour it’s more like twelve hours, twelve hours that I can’t spend doing things that I want to do.
OK, let’s be fair, we all know that I’m writing this (and just about every other) blog post I write, at work during those twelve hours that theoretically should be spent doing something for someone else. But thank God for that, because if I didn’t feel like I could do my writing at work, the experience I’m currently dealing with would be that much more frustrating.
You see, in addition to writing, both this blog and my book (yes I’m still working on it), I have a lot of other things that I want to be doing and that’s what my evenings are for…
Let’s take a look. There are the things I must do, whether I like it or not:
* Housework: my kitchen doesn’t clean itself, let alone the bathroom or the floors.
* Cooking: If I expect anything to come of this new found desire to maintain a healthier lifestyle, I have to prepare most of my meals at home and bring them to work with me. (By the way, this just compounds the housework issue.)
* Ironing: I was spending a significant amount of money on having my work clothes – shirts and pants – laundered so that I wouldn’t have to do any ironing. It became ridiculous so I stopped. Now I wash my work clothes along with everything else, every other Saturday at Michelle’s apartment. And now, I have to spend a lot of time ironing, so that I have clothes to wear to work.
* Grooming: Lately, I’ve been taking fewer showers in the morning because I’m finding it harder and harder to get up early enough to incorporate everything. As a result I have to take a shower when I get home in the evenings. This is not so terrible as I frequently go to the gym before going home and would need a shower anyway, but on the nights I do not go to the gym, I still have to take a shower when I get home.
And then there are the things I want to do:
* Gym: First and foremost, I need to spend time in the gym. I’ve only managed, in these first two months, to get to the gym an average of three nights a week. I’m not complaining. This is so much more than I was doing before and I am seeing a difference from it, but by the time I change clothes, get to the gym, put in my hour and head home,I often don’t get home until after 8:00. Still this is the most important thing I’ve got to do and I’m not going to let it fall by the way side. There’s a lot I could say about balance and the gym and not letting it become too important, but that seems like a post for another day.
* Write: Yes, I know I said I do this at work but I’d like to do even more of it than I do.
* Read: I love to read, always have. I have a growing pile of books that I’ve not read and need to. I keep saying I’ll get more into the books but I can’t seem to get around to it. I’ve got a drawer full of magazines in my bathroom, because bathroom visits tend to be nearly just the right length to read an article or two without becoming fully engrossed in a book. (The problem is, the bathroom visits are often when I catch up on Twitter and the magazine drawer is pretty full now – and by the way, it’s a deep drawer.)
* Lil’B: I spend every Sunday afternoon with my Little Brother, and I love doing it. But it pretty much wipes out my whole Sunday as I have just enough time to do a minimal amount of housework before I leave to get him and when I come home, I have to make sure I have clothes ironed for the week (or at least a few days) and food prepared for the next day.
* Friends: Who am I kidding? I don’t have any of those. Yes, I go to Michelle’s house every other Saturday to do laundry and we hang out, but generally that’s the only time we spend together. Beyond that, I don’t have any friends, or a social life, and as much as I hate to think it (let alone say it) I don’t know how I would find time for friends if I had them…
* Television: I know this is (or at least should be) a low priority, and I have made it a lower priority than it ever used to be. I don’t watch more than a couple hours a night, because by the time I’ve taken care of all the must-dos, I don’t have time for more than that. Honestly, it feels good and I am proud of myself for having made Television the lowest priority, but my DVR is backing up with stuff and so far, I haven’t been able to alleviate myself of enough attachments to the shows I watch. (Some of the shows are ending and that helps but there are still things I want to watch.) (And before anybody makes the suggestion, of course I multi-task the ironing and television, but that’s of minimal assistance.)
* Sleep: Somewhere in the midst of all the rest of this, I need more sleep. I don’t get enough sleep. Ever. I think I need more sleep than is realistically possible and I’m so tired so much of the time I don’t know what to do. But even if I could go right to sleep when I get home, I can’t possibly, because then my life would be about nothing but work and that’s unacceptable to me.
I have made a lot of progress to weed out the destructive behaviors and put higher priority on things that matter more. I’m definitely a happier person now, and honestly, this post was not intended to be a complaint in any way. I’ve just been struck recently, with the irony of things.
I used to sit at home alone, in the dark, watching TV (often drinking) and I would feel sorry for myself because I had no life and never went anywhere or did anything. I wanted more excitement in my life. I wanted to experience life instead of having it pass me by. I wanted lots of things to happen, but I never really did anything to prompt the changes.
Finally, I’ve started taking action and trying to live a more balanced life and I’m experiencing a whole new trend of frustration about it. Where does one find the time for true balance? How do you manage to fit everything in and achieve a sense of happiness, satisfaction?