Finding Balance

Well it didn’t take long for this post to become necessary. Six weeks ago I announced the resurrection of my writing and publishing activities. I noted how I was almost finished publishing my first book through Quiet Publications (now done), how I needed to update the Quiet Publications website (still in progress), and how I was bringing back Quiet Devotions (still on schedule to begin on November 30). I also noted that I was working on the final edit of my novel before I begin searching for representation (still editing), and that I would publish on this blog weekly.

A week later I did publish another post on this blog. My next post appeared two weeks and one day later. That was three weeks ago. Do you notice a pattern here?

Once again I’ve overestimated my abilities. If I could write full time, I could probably do what I said I’d do in that first post. But I can’t. In addition to writing, I raise and homeschool two children. I run all of the administrative aspects of my husband’s software consulting business, including payroll. (And by that I mean I actually do the payroll myself, not just send the information to ADP or some other payroll processing company.) I’ve stepped up my volunteering commitments at my church and at my kids’ homeschool co-op. And I’m still doing the whole stay-at-home wife and mother thing, which, while often considered less demanding than “real” work, takes a fair amount of time and energy. In addition to all that, I feel I need to pay more attention to my overall health and wellbeing, which also takes time and energy.

What I’m doing isn’t working, so I’m trying to find balance in my life.

In January of 2012 I published a post about following a New Year’s Rule of Life instead of making new year’s resolutions. The rule of life is based on the four categories in Jesus’ greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” I wrote that almost six years ago. Finding balance is clearly an ongoing theme for me. Even though we’re still more than a month away from the new year, I think it would be beneficial for me to give this some thought now. After all, January 1 is an arbitrary date, and there’s no sense in putting off something beneficial (hopefully) because the calendar says it isn’t time yet.

So here’s how I hope to find balance in my life moving forward:

Heart: I define this as the ways in which I nurture the important relationships in my life. The most important relationships I have are with my husband and with my children. Tom and I are already taking time every evening and some mornings to focus on each other, plus we go on a biweekly date night. As two busy parents of two active children, this is the best we can do right now. But we are taking time for each other every day, which is important. Figuring out how I’m nurturing my relationship with my children is more difficult. So much of what I do is for their development, education, or wellbeing, which are important, but don’t necessarily nurture our relationship. I guess the “heart” things I’m doing for them include regular cuddle times (I’m thrilled that they haven’t outgrown this yet, even though they’re 8 and 9) and occasional surprises like movies together or ice cream.

Soul: This past September I became a Benedictine Oblate at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts. When I did so, I vowed to practice Benedictine spirituality to the best of my ability in my own life situation. I can’t pray all the daily offices (much as I’d like to), but I can get up a little earlier than everyone else in my house so I have some quiet time to focus my thoughts and prayers on God. Ideally I’d like to practice Lectio Divina every morning, but the reality of my life situation is that I can’t, and I’ve given myself permission to not feel guilty on those days when my quiet prayer time is shortened because of health or family obligations. Saint Benedict was serious about balance and dealing with life’s realities, and there’s room in his Order for local and situational adjustments. I just need to take care that those adjustments truly are necessary, and not excuses. (That’s why I’ve removed GardenScapes from my phone and try not to check email, news, or Facebook before my prayer time. Emphasis on try.)

Mind: I think my writing falls into this category. All of my fiction, nonfiction, blogging, and publishing activities have to share this space, and that means I can’t do as much of it as I might like. I have to prioritize. For the short term, my top priority is updating Quiet Publications to handle online orders and setting up the first few weeks of Quiet Devotions. After that I need to finish editing my novel and querying agents. For the moderate term my priority will be keeping Quiet Devotions up to date, while also getting started on my next nonfiction book. My long term plans will depend on how successful I am with my short and moderate term plans, so I’ll hold off identifying those just now. Posting to this blog is part of my ongoing plan, but at the bottom of the priority list. If something’s going to get missed, this is it. (Please subscribe so you don’t miss any of my erratic posts!)

Strength: As has been true for most of my life, I need to lose weight. But losing weight is not one of my goals right now. This category is called “strength,” and strength is what I need. Once again my family is without health insurance, and my margin for error is shrinking in regards to my health. My diet and exercise programs are focused not on weight loss, but on building physical strength and improving my overall health. I choose my food based on its nutritional benefits to my body (most of the time), and I’m trying to include cardio, strength training, and yoga in my regular routine. I’ve finally accepted the truth that there are a lot of good reasons to exercise, but weight loss is not one of them. My weight is determined in part by genetics (which I can’t control) and in part by my diet (which I can). So my focus is on my overall health, and if I happen to lose weight in the process, great.

As much as I would like to take those four categories and call it done, I can’t. Grocery shopping doesn’t fall into any of those categories. Neither does managing the household finances, or doing laundry, or working for my husband’s company, or even homeschooling my children. All of those things go to support my family, but none of them really nurture relationships or benefit me spiritually, mentally, or physically. But they are all necessary. So I have to add a fifth category: Necessities of Life. This one is tricky, because it’s difficult to determine what is truly necessary and what only feels necessary. I can only do the best I can, and keep reassessing my choices.

Then there’s the fact that I look at these priorities, and they’re all about me. My health, my family, my wellbeing. One thing that really got drilled into me at seminary is: It’s not about you. To a point that’s good advice, but taken too far it becomes toxic. (Hence the number of pastoral burnouts and broken marriages.) But without some focus outside of yourself, you become completely self-centered and self-serving. That’s not how I understand myself as a Christian, and it’s not how I want to live as a human being. So I have to add a sixth category called Giving Back. That’s where I put my volunteering for church and homeschool co-op. I need to be careful not to take on too much, though. It’s too easy to get sucked into the service vortex, where it’s almost impossible to say ‘no’ to others’ legitimate needs. But those needs are endless, and one person can only do so much. Even Jesus turned his back on people who came to him for healing, because he had other things he needed to attend to. (Mark 1:32-39)

Finding balance isn’t easy, and I won’t always be able to dedicate equal time to each of these categories. But this at least gives me a framework.

I will blog here as I can, hopefully at least every other week. But there will be times when I have to let this go, and I hope you’ll understand. And I wish you luck in finding balance in your own life, too.

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