on March 14, 2015

“An earthquake revealed to me that balance is not about stability or rigidity, but the ability to yield and move.” Steven Petrow

 Not going to be easy

It has been a while since my last blog post. Almost eight weeks in fact. I have thought about writing it many times. I have felt guilty that the momentum I had around Christmas has totally evaporated and left me devoid of words to lay forth on the page. And it’s not just my blog. I lament my novel sitting despondently on my laptop, waiting patiently for me to click ‘file open’. Even my computer mocks me when I finally open the file, greeting me with a sarcastic Welcome back. It’s been 32 days since you last opened this file. Yes, I am well aware of that.

And why haven’t I written? In a word, LIFE. Busy, chaotic, crazy life. My head has been filled with so many other things that have taken priority in my thoughts that my words have temporarily been shunted off the main track and into the siding. They are still there, constantly assailing me with fragments of sentences, but are hastily pushed aside as more urgent matters are resolved. I woke up this morning and said to myself ‘today is the day.’ It was my intention to embrace the morning quiet of my home and write my latest post. Yet instead, I spent the bulk of the day drifting between the kettle and Facebook. Weariness won out. Don’t get me wrong, I came across some fabulous links to some inspiring and fascinating articles which I loved reading, but here I sit at almost 3pm and my blog post remains unwritten.

But then, whilst opening yet another link, I stumbled across an article written by American journalist and author, Steven Petrow called ‘What Yoga Taught Me About the Balanced Life.’ http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/12/what-yoga-taught-me-about-the-balanced-life/ In it, Steven speaks of his search for balance since he was in his thirties, which was in the late 1980’s. His moment of clarity came in a recent yoga class as he stared down at a green yoga block inscribed with the words Life. Balance. Growth. His reaction was to let rip with an expletive that balance was total bull#@%* and he fell out of his yoga pose. He later discussed his frustration with his teacher who told him “Personally, I think balance is a fallacy. It’s presented in society as something that can be achieved, but in reality it’s not an achievable goal.”

Seeking further guidance, he approached one of his life guides, Susan Piver, for her words of wisdom. Those of you who have read my post about Serendipity http://ordinarymagic.me/2014/12/07/the-magic-of-serendipity/ will also know that I am a huge fan of the delightful Susan and am part of her online meditation group, The Open Heart Project. When asked for her views, Susan replied “Is it ever possible to be balanced? I don’t think that it is because then you’d have to freeze in that position. GOT IT! NOW DON’T MOVE!” She went on to say that “balance is not so much striking or holding the pose, but flowing with the movements that affect your pose. The more quickly you can respond and make those adjustments – that’s balance. Balance comes from adapting quickly.”

The analogy between balance in yoga and balance in everyday life inspired me to write this post. I know for me that balance meant being able to juggle all the balls life threw at me but still finding time for myself. It was a place where calm prevailed even when I had a lot on my plate. It was this penultimate goal to be ALL things to ALL people and still be able to do the things that I wanted to do. I had this idea that if I set up a rigid, successful system for my life, almost like a schedule, then I would be able to find the balance I was yearning for. My inner perfectionist was brilliant at creating a colour-coded spreadsheet of my life (figuratively speaking). It took into consideration paid work, house work, running kids around, helping to look after the needs of my elderly father who lived independently in his own home (read that as he’s not really independent!) and also finding time for catching up with family and friends, reading and partaking in my beloved writing. Last year was very unbalanced. The time to pursue MY passions just didn’t materialise. No worries I said to myself. 2015 will be different. In a non-selfish way, 2015 will be about me. Obviously that didn’t mean that I would abandon my responsibilities, but with my careful planning, all would flow smoothly. There would be BALANCE. On paper it looked doable. But then life happened and my perfectly laid plans turned to s#@%! Balance went out the window.

I have come to realise that I can’t constantly be all things to all people and maintain my equilibrium (or my sanity). But I’ve also come to realise that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Steven Petrow said, “Balance is about flexibility and change, not stasis or symmetry. Anything that challenges my equilibrium or anyone who tries to throw me off-kilter will actually improve my balance because day by day I’m learning to be nimble, deft and keep my focus.” So I take from that, that even though I often feel like I’m drowning, overwhelmed and am pushed beyond my limits, in reality I am improving my balance to handle all the challenges that are to come.

Google defines balance as “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady” and I think I have re-defined what it means to have balance in MY life. Balance isn’t about smooth sailing. It’s not about the perfect ratio between good and bad. It’s about getting up each day and putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about hanging on for dear life, through the stormy seas and getting into port still standing and saying thank God I made it!

4 responses to “BALANCE

  1. Anita Horan says:

    Hi Shell,
    I love this post. Two posts ago you talked about the New Year and how wonderful it would be. I cheered you on, yes it will be wonderful! Then by the time you wrote your next post in that aforementioned New Year, I was having meltdown (thus did not reply to your lovely post about Family Magic). I could find no words of reply, as tears streamed down my face while I stirred the rice pudding on the stove, mumbling something about needing some time alone. Then there was guilt about wanting just 24 hours alone and my stomach cramped as it knotted itself around the words ‘you must be all things to everyone else”.
    But guess what? I did get my day away – alone. It was exquisite. I rebalanced myself. I returned home, but life did not stop with perfectly balanced scales that allowed me maintain my new inner peace. Week by week new challenges have arisen and life has thrown in so many variables. And I have been investing immense time and energy into new projects which creates stress (and excitement). I have been thinking “How can you apply ideas like “the secret” and the power of positive thinking yet at the same time have to deal with the reality of life, including family responsibilities and the frailty of the human body. How can we be balanced when there are so elements out of our control?
    Reading your post really helped to clarify this for me. You are correct, balance is not simply about life going along smoothly, that would be quite boring as well as near impossible. It is about tragedy and elation, minutes of sublime peace followed by kids fighting, then the family going for a bike ride together. Balance is about the flexibility to move from one phase to the next, to get up after a meltdown, know when we need to put ourselves first (even if it means crying over the rice pudding to for people to see we need help). This is sounding very much like resilience. Perhaps balance and resilience are closely linked.
    Balance is not about perfection (which I had tricked myself into believing), it is, as you say, about responding with flexibility and adaptability. If we allow ourselves to accept this as the definition of balance, then when things go bad, we won’t throw the towel in, we will just bend with the breeze and right ourselves once the storm has passed.
    Then when we right ourselves again, we can enjoy the sun shining on us as we grow and reach higher still without weighing ourselves with what has just passed.
    Thanks again for your post. I feel more flexible and hopeful for reading it.
    Anita Horan


    • lolshelley says:

      Hi Anita,
      I’m glad you liked the post:-) Yes as soon as I read Steven’s article I could feel a shift in me as to what balance now meant to me. I’m not sure if that will make it easier to cope when life gets crazy but I agree that it feels more hopeful than the unachievable ideal I was searching for before.x


  2. kathleenbotsford says:

    Lovely blog. I have been away from mine for quite some time as I soak up every last little bit of life with my children. No desires to share with stories or photos much lately and thats ok too.
    The book I have been working on is on hold also. My art and jewelry….taking a back seat too. Living in the moment my constant soul practice. My youngest is graduating from college next week. Sigh. She is moving to LA with her dream job. Plenty of time for writing and blogging and creating art soon enough. Wouldn’t have traded one second of being a present mother for the last 28 years for anything. Fame, money, published book…..nothing! Enjoy your lovely family!


    • lolshelley says:

      Thank you for your lovely words Kathleen:-) I think you have hit the nail on the head when you talk of living in the moment. So often we long for something in the future or mourn something that has come to an end but by doing so we are missing the magic of ‘that’ moment. Since watching John Kabat-Zinn on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and reading his amazing book Mindfulness for Beginners, I am stopping to smell the roses, stopping to embrace the moment. I was sitting at traffic lights on my way to work the other day when a giant gust of wind blew the leaves off a gorgeous liquidamber tree. I sat in awe of their delicate beauty as they gently floated to the ground, creating a red and brown-hued carpet on the road before me. A few nights later, I went to put something in the bin and on my way back to the house, I looked up at the sky (as I often do). But this time it was the most amazing sky I have ever seen. It was inky black and instead of the usual smattering of stars, it was as if suddenly every star in the sky had become visible to me. I have heard about skies like this in the northern part of Australia in the outback, where the stars appear so clear and so bountiful due to the lack of artificial light from the city, but not in Sydney where I live. I called my 14 year old daughter Ella (who was the only other person awake in the house) and we both stood there in awe, just gazing up at the sky. I have never felt so big and so small at the same time and so connected. It was one of those precious moments we get to share with our kids where we’re not doing anything ‘special’ but where we share a moment that we will always remember. Congratulations on your youngest graduating; that must be wonderful yet also a moment tinged with sadness as she moves to LA. I agree with you, I wouldn’t trade one second with my kids.x


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