Postmark'd Art and inspired me to write this post. Finding balance was an issue I too had for years. Here are my thoughts on how I came to creating balance in my life.
I remember at the end of yet another exhausting day of too much to do and too little time to actually enjoy what I was doing, I yelled out loud, "This is nuts! Things have to change." I knew it was not going to be easy to change the patterns, perceptions and attitudes that had gotten me to this point, but I was ready.
There is an old story about a hunter who is walking through the woods. He comes across hundreds of large colorful targets painted on all kinds of trees and all of the arrows on all of the targets have hit the bull's eyes! Never a miss! He's dumbfounded, amazed. The hunter goes off to search for this perfect marksman. Finally he finds him and asks, "Please tell me, what is your secret behind your perfect aim? You never miss!" The archer smiles and replies, "It is really quite simple. First I shoot my arrows. Then I paint the targets."
The marksman trusted himself and knew wherever he aimed, with clear intention and honest effort, he would always hit his mark. Running around trying to do it all, I was missing the mark. I knew that I needed to be fueled by the desire for self-knowledge and the courage to move forward and explore knowing that there was no end product or finish line. It truly was about process and connecting to my life in a meaningful way.
We choose how to live our lives. We create our own reality. In other words, I had to take responsibility.
I have always believed that we do what is important to us. I needed to take some time and really think about what was important to me. Was I choosing to be an object in my life, letting others tell me who I was and what I was capable of being or the subject of my life, determining my own destiny? What did I want out of this life I have been given?
I started a journal that tracked my activities for the day (which I continue to do). How was I spending my time? The journal put it all in black and white for me to see. After a month, I looked back through my entries and honestly evaluated.
I bought a small white board (it's actually purple) and put it on my desk. It has a running list of things that I want to accomplish and who I want to be. It helps remind me what I have determined is important and helps keep me on track.
Saying "no," has always been hard for me and it's always been comforting to I know I am not alone. Having been fascinated by the studies on how language influences behavior and a writer, I know the power of words. So I decided to say, "I wish I could, but I can't," instead of "no," when presented with something that I was tempted to do, but for whatever reason was not something for me (remembering what was important to me). This helped keep relationships open and it was much easier for me because I truly wish I could do it all. I know I cannot.
Step away from the computer! I started charting the time that I spent on my computer--e-mail, reading the messages on the different list-serves, Facebook, surfing the web, writing my blog, etc. I was shocked how much time was being eaten up by sitting in front of my computer. Time I would never get back. I started noticing how often people who said that life got in the way so they couldn't meet a deadline were online continually posting all over the place. This helped me to limit the time I spend online.
Don't answer the phone! I use to feel that when the phone rang, I needed to answer it. I didn't matter that I was doing something important, I would stop and answer it. I found all too often that while it was great connecting to the person on the other end, I lost the connection to what I was doing. Or worse, I would pick up the phone to discover a telemarketer. In other words, my time has value and I need to use it wisely. I have an answering machine and I can call people back.
Letting go of people is another thing that has always been hard for me. I came to realize that too many of my relationships while my support, work and efforts were wanted, I was not truly valued. I wasn't one of the "cool" kids. It took a really hard, painful lesson for me to finally get "it." No more would I stay in a relationship where I was not valued completely. No more giving away my talents to be put in a corner. I now release with love and I am finding that the people in my life are truly wonderful and help me grow instead of making me feel bad about myself.
There is an old Polish saying, "Sleep faster, we need the pillows." It reminds us that there are some things that simply cannot be rushed. I feel life is one of them. I worked on slowing down. Being present. I find working (still not totally there) one this skill cultivates and promotes, patience, relaxation and a deeper connection to myself. I stopped multitasking. Whatever made me think I could do more than one thing at a time and do them well? I find I accomplish more and I'm happier with the results.
I worked on self-forgiveness. I didn't look at working toward attaining balance as a need to "fix" myself (I was so tired of thinking of myself as broken), but as a way of being fully who I am and embracing who I will become. Silencing the inner critic was easier some days than others. Reality is layered, like an onion. And to quote Carl Sandburg, "Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep." Asking questions is one of the ways you can peel off the layers one by one, to find out what is really real for you. Questioning draws out your truth. Revelation is part of the payoff.
At first making the changes was difficult but over time--as I
consistently worked to change--I found that my life was much more
fulfilling, I was happier and I was accomplishing more not less. This is not to say that my life does not get out of balance from time to time. That is life. However, it is no longer a way of life.