I know it's hard to believe that I could write more on Balance - but it's a topic that just won't leave me alone. On my last tribe call we talked about what balance means to us - and of course I mentioned that I've been trying to make a mental shift from the word balance to flow. In that post I said that I felt like if I had a good balance between being "On Fire" and "Peaceful" then things would flow. The same formula from a post 6 months earlier!
Passion + Peace = Flow
So clearly the ideas of balance, flow, peace, and passion frequently inhabit my mind.
But even with all this thought-fermentation, I still couldn't explain "Balance" means to me! (Maybe this has something to do with why I'm trying to avoid it!)
But I think I finally have it! (I know, I know, this is REALLY EXCITING! Don't worry, I won't keep you in suspense much longer.)
Balance is achieved when:
Energy output = Energy input
Whew! Did I just BLOW. YOUR. MIND? Or what?!
What this means to me is that I allow or put back into myself at least the same amount of energy as I put out into the world (my family, friends, home, community etc.) If we don't do this, our energy reserves get low and that is when we feel out of balance.
I love this way of looking at balance for a lot of reasons. Of course I love it because it's a formula, and if something can't be expressed in a mathematical formula or scientific theory, well, then what good is it at all?
Seriously though, I mostly like this because it is actually very general; it's sufficiently vague so that we can make it work for our own individual needs. Because the truth is we are all unique. Some of us need time alone every day and others of us die a little without having some major social interaction daily. Some kids need to be moving ALL. THE. TIME. and others ok with less activity.
I also really love this because you can choose to "zoom out" on your timeline with this idea. Yes there may be days or a stretch of days where you are putting out a lot of energy into the world, maybe even compromising on your own needs for a while. But you know that after this time you will have a period of calm and be able to replenish yourself. Or perhaps you even knew this busy time was coming up and made sure to take extra-special care of yourself before hand.
Anyways, I'm kind of in love with this idea.
I'll leave you with a story about the Dalai Lama that I love (and found here):
A friend who I met through HE recently told me a story about a question the
How wonderful is that? And it explains it so perfectly! If we are busy giving, doing, rushing, achieving, connecting and all the other things we do in our modern, busy lives, then we must put at least as much back into ourselves.
What do you think? Does this Balance Formula make sense to you? Does it help you feel better about taking care of yourself so that you have more to give too?
I'm on week three of starting a new habit: waking early several mornings a week to walk, before the kids wake up and Mike leaves for work. The first week was awesome. Monday April 1st I woke up and it was barely light when I headed out. Mother nature decided to make this morning extra magical for me by shrouding our neighborhood in a misty fog. Even the moon was out to cheer me on. It was so wonderful.
Twice more that week I rose with the sun and got my walk on. My favorite part of this new ritual is stepping outside into the fresh, cool, morning air and being greeted by the joyful sound of birds singing. A friend even joined me one day - what a great way to start the day!
Spring finally has sprung around here and the trees were showing off too.
Week 2 Life decided to throw some challenges at me. Monday went off without a hitch, but Wednesday Gerry woke around 4 am and didn't go back to sleep. I tried convincing him to join me in the stroller for a walk as the sun peeked up over the horizon, but he wasn't going for it. I was exhausted, so I didn't push it.
The good news - my parents were coming through town that day. That evening the kids, my parents, and I went on a walk and climbed the stairs at the Masonic Temple which is a couple blocks away from our house. The view at night was so beautiful and the kids loved climbing the steps.
On Thursday we went downtown to go to the Natural History museum (Gerry had been wanting to go to "our dinosaur museum" since watching an episode of Team UmiZoomi that has dinosaurs ;-) and we saw the blossoms. Lots of walking done that day too! So I still got 3 good walks in that week even though only one was in the morning. I also walked to Mike's work after my last Hypnobabies class on Saturday - so that's 4!
Sunday night I had that feeling in my head, "ugh, do I really want to get up early tomorrow?" That made me laugh at myself - it's so easy to get off track! So I reminded myself how amazing I felt the last two weeks and how much I enjoy walking as soon as I'm out. One of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits written by Leo Babauta, talks about how to change our lives and make things regular habits. One idea that helps is going "public" with your intentions - with your family or friends, or even on your blog or social media. Once you know that others know you said you are doing something, you are much more likely to do it! I've definitely found this to be true. I know that there is something magical about "21 days" too - I'm not sure how this will apply to me since this isn't something I'm aiming to do every day, but I know that the longer I do it the more deeply ingrained in my every day life it will be.
Leo's recent post, The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers, has been really helpful to me too. So many people said that they schedule their exercise into their lives and it just is NOT an option to miss it - only a TRUE emergency keeps them from keeping their habit up. Remembering this has helped me keep on when I feel a bit tired the night before. The cool thing is that I've been waking up before my alarm on most mornings that I plan to walk.
Here are some pictures of today's walk. I decided to head over to the temple again and do some stairs to get my blood pumping.
If there was a soundtrack to put to this post it would be birds singing. I decided to take a little video while I walked to capture some of the early morning sounds. I just happened to capture two crows squawking at this cat! Haha, not exactly the most beautiful sound, but it was kind of funny. (btw - do you have an opinion on keeping cats in the house? The past couple of years I've heard several people voice the opinion that cats should NOT be let outside because of how many birds they kill. My first reaction is, huh?? I think most carnivores kill other animals and I don't see how cooping cats up inside is fair or the answer. But maybe I'm missing something?)
This new habit has been a long time in the making. I've wanted to get back into some kind of routine for a while now, but have struggled to find a way that works for our whole family. Right now turned out to be the perfect time. Gerry recently started sleeping from roughly 7:30 pm to 7 am or so. So I knew that getting up around 6:30 am wouldn't disrupt any of our sleep too much. Even so it's been a bit of an adjustment, but the benefits are so worth it! With Spring, more light, and nicer weather, it's been a great new beginning. I feel energized and accomplished now by the time that I used to be just rolling out of bed. Keeping it to every other day has been smart though, so we don't get too tired or sleep-deprived.
My other inspiration is the book, The Blue Zones. I plan on writing more about it in the future, but I really am thinking of walking and exercising as a life habit - something that becomes as natural and essential to me as eating or breathing. Ideally it is something that I will do every day eventually, even more than once.
Have you started any new habits lately? Has spring inspired any fresh starts for you? What helps you stay on track?
We've been on a really, really strange sleep bender around here. (ok, when I say we, I really mean Gerry. But he takes me for the ride too!)
Mostly I'm really proud of myself for how I've been dealing. But sometimes I forget how much of a toll it's taking on me. For example, sometimes I get what seems like "enough" sleep, but our hours are kind of all over the place and then when I'm tired I don't understand why! (Like today, Gerry went to sleep a little after 1 am last night... but then we were in bed till 9 am - not so bad in number of hours. But our schedule - haha, that word just made me laugh - has been so wacky lately I think it just catches up to me).
So, anyways - today. I'm going to try and focus on that. (I did just have my glass of wine too though, so focus is kinda hard right now.) I actually got showered and dressed before 11 (this is pretty unusual around here) and then Marisol requested to go outside (also unusual). We somehow convinced Gerry to go out and it was really nice out - sunny and quite warm compared to what it has been. The kids flitted from activity to activity - we were probably only out for around an hour, but they each did at least 3-4 different things. I'm so grateful to have that huge outdoor space and the luxury or running back and forth to get different toys/clothes/sports gear when they want it.
Back inside I got everyone a decent lunch and made zucchini bread. Then I realized how tired I was. And that we had to start gearing up for dance class soon. Oh boy. So I knew that now was the time to forget the pile of dishes in the sink, of clothes waiting to be folded, and toys on the floor. Now was the time to rest. Not long ago I might have pushed through and tried to get some things done since the kids were happily watching their respective TV shows. And usually those are the times I end up getting really burned out. Today I decided I needed to rest a bit before heading out (I took some time to take this picture of myself first though, haha).
When it was time to go I gathered us up in record time. Marisol was fairly cooperative getting her dance clothes on. Gerry was a mess (remember the 1 am bedtime?) He wanted "muk" and he did NOT want to leave. So I empathized with him the best I could and got us all out to the car as quickly as I could. I strapped my poor, crying boy into his seat. It only took two extra trips inside (grabbing the house key off the bunch connected to the key already in the ignition) - one for Gerry's socks and a stroller and another trip for a movie for Marisol (we had negotiations regarding iPhone use - big sister was very generous and agreed to using a DVD player).
I joked as we pulled out that I forgot my sunglasses and should I run inside one more time? Marisol and I agreed that no, one more time would be a bit ridiculous. But it was very sunny with perfect blue, cloudless skies. Gerry's crying subsided and I dispensed snacks and water bottles as I drove (I wonder if there have been any studies on accident rates of mothers). A few minutes into the drive she requested headphones - I didn't have any. I turned my music down (how I can listen to music with two other devices blaring behind me is another mystery - I guess it's a talent of mine.) I requested that Gerry turn his down and after refusing a couple of times he said, "Otay, I turn mine down". Peace resumed. Then about half way to dance class Marisol started making small, discontented noises. The sun was TOO bright and was interfering with her view of "Brave". I made a quick decision to pull into a gas station parking lot. I found a pink re-usable shopping cart and lowered her window, just a crack. Twisting from the front seat I slid part of the bag out the crack, yelling when I got a leg cramp, then I managed to roll the window back up.
At this point I was congratulating myself on my wonderful mommy performance. I'd been understanding, gentle, and empathetic with Gerry when he didn't want to leave but decisive enough to get us out the door. I was being flexible and patient in the car and really listening to the kids. Thoughts about self-love also ran through my mind and how, if I hadn't been able to be all those things, that would have been ok too. I mean everyone has their limits!
Marisol's improvised sun-shade seemed to help, but a few minutes before arrival Marisol started complaining about the sun again. This time I told her, "almost there." Gerry's eyes closed one minute before we pulled into the parking lot. Good thing I remembered the stroller!
I parked and then started to gather our things. I opened Marisol's door and this is when something happened - she was cold or upset that she hadn't seen much of her movie, "You can watch more on the way home," I said from the back of the car, pulling the stroller out. But all of a sudden Marisol decided she didn't want to go in. I tried to be matter of fact - we just drove all the way here, we are going in - besides she would have fun, I just knew it! But the crying continued and my frustration mounted. My limit was quickly speeding towards me. Gerry woke up somewhere in there and he didn't want to get out either. I admitted defeat but not without throwing my own tantrum - slamming doors and the stroller back in, then raising my voice with some not-so-nice words thrown towards my distraught daughter. I looked at the clock. We were already 15 minutes late.
We talked more and Marisol agreed to try to go in - but requested a couple of minutes to calm down. Heart melting a bit, I said, "Of course!" (How wise children are.) She climbed up front and sat on my lap. We talked more and I apologized for yelling.
Ultimately, she never calmed down. Her legs were tired (a very late bedtime the night before didn't help, and we talked about that too) and she just wasn't up for dancing. In my frustration I talked about quitting again (we've been struggling with dance class lately) but although when pressured she says, "fine!" neither one of us really want to quit - we already paid for her costume AND she really wants to do the recital (so do I!)
I wanted to try and go to the grocery store at least, but Gerry was refusing to get out of the car, so I gave up. Homeward bound we were.
My sweet girl and I talked more - "I love you Mommy," she said and I said sorry again. Eyes watering she said, "I understand why you were frustrated though." Oh my heart hurt. She's so beautiful.
So I focused on the good parts:
1) Gerry's nap had been limited to a couple of minutes, this was VERY good news (and yes, he slept from 7:30 last night till 7:45 this morning, yay sleep!)
2) We had gotten out of the house - and it was a BEAUTIFUL day!
3) Marisol and I talked - about getting to bed at a decent hour, and more importantly I got to say the words, "You are more important to me than dance class. You are more important to me than money."
4) Although I reached my limit and didn't behave in the best way, I also turned things around quickly my kids got to see me apologize and ask for forgiveness.
The funny thing is, I was so tired before we left. But I thought we were going to push through - maybe my intuition was trying to tell me something and I wasn't listening? I don't know.
But there you have it. Our day yesterday (I started writing last night, hence, the "today" at the beginning of this post and the "yesterday" now. Confusing I know, but I feel like leaving it this way with a long explanation...) I know this was long, but I'm glad to record these moments on our journey. And, my new affirmations are going to include things like, "My ability to love and listen is always expanding" because it's true - my limits keep getting pushed out by my kids. And I love and thank them for that.
Have you ever noticed that right when you start congratulating yourself, Life likes to deliver a small piece of humble pie? I'd love to hear some of your choppy moments!
One of the best things about starting to question - well, everything - is that after a while you start to enjoy it! Last year "balance" was kind of a big theme for me. I even put it in the center of my awesome "Mind, Body, Spirit" Venn diagram (and if that doesn't say "IMPORTANT!" then I don't know what does.) Balance has taken on an almost Legendary status in our culture - especially for the modern mama. Last year I argued that: There is no formula for perfect balance. Balance will look different for every person and it changes with time too. Still sounds pretty good. And of course I talked about children and balance, and how it's best if we can let go of trying to control them so that they can find their own balance.
So when I was reading Danielled LaPorte's The Fire Starter Sessions, and she proposed that - there's no such thing as balance - I did an emotional double take. WHAT?!? What does she mean, NO SUCH THING?? But the incredible thing is that instead of writing her off as some ranting lunatic, I almost immediately warmed up to the idea. I didn't just accept it as "truth" because she's so cool; no, I just liked that she was challenging an idea that was so deeply ingrained in me. And I understood quickly the point that she was making. She was talking about people who are profoundly passionate, who go deep into their work, who become so engrossed in something that everything else disappears. She was talking about becoming so focused on something that things like sleep and eating "healthy" food become extraneous. In the same way that I argued that "normal" can be boring at best, and harmful at worst, so can this idea of balance. This is especially detrimental when people ignore their callings and ditch the inner voice that guides them for an artificial idea of what Balance "should" look like in their lives.
But I still believe that it is important to take care of all of our needs - from the mental, to the physical, and the spiritual. So if I'm going to let go of the idea of balance, what am I going to replace it with?
My answer is "Flow". This word has also been on my radar a lot. I put it in my desire map between the feelings of "On fire" and "Peaceful":
The idea that I had is when there is a good balance (haha, old habits die hard!) between these two seemingly opposite feelings, then things will flow. What I've really begun to notice though, is that my core desired feeling of being "Connected" is my base - particularly with my family. When I am connected with them, then everything else is free to flow. When I am not, it's almost impossible for my my other core feelings to flow.
As I reflected more on this idea I also realized that "Balance" has a certain judgement attached to it. If we are trying to balance two things, we think of a scale and there being a perfect "amount" of the two things that will bring the scale into alignment. Any little bit off from this perfect amount on either side and we are out of balance - which means WRONG. A great example to me is exercise. Honestly, I still don't exercise that much since having my kids. But for someone who was extremely involved in sports and exercise right up until that time, it just doesn't bother me. I am active with my kids - playing tag, pushing them on swings, bouncing them on my birth ball until my arms almost fall off, learning to hoop with my daughter, sometimes taking walks (or even small jogs), jumping on our friends' trampoline with my son... and none of it is at a level that would be considered a sufficient amount of exercise by almost any expert. Yet, I am healthy and happy (and slimmer I have to add!) than I have ever been in my life.
I talked about how "me-time" as an idea doesn't sit well with me either. I think this is related to the idea of balance. From the outside it may appear to some people that I don't get sufficient "alone" or "down" time or time to do things that matter to me. And I'm not saying that I don't struggle sometimes. I do. But I struggle most when I try to force things and grab at what I feel like I deserve. If I can shift and trust that Life will give me what I need and accept each moment for what it is, Life has not yet failed to deliver. I live joyfully in the moment, connect with my loved ones, and get to do the things I am passionate about.
I become the flow.
When do you experience flow? Does this resonate with you or does it seem like "semantics"? If the idea of balance resonates with you, does it usually make you feel good to focus on it?
Sometimes I have the weirdest thoughts go through my head (ok, lots of times!) Often the analogies that pop into my head have to do with birth - I'm cool that way.
So yesterday I was unpacking the van while Mike watched Nascar and did puzzles with Gerry, and Marisol watched Cyberchase on the computer. I was so proud of myself for getting so much done even though I am sick and we had just had a long day of packing up that morning and driving home (about 5 hours).
But it was actually the perfect thing for me to do after sitting in the car for so long. I got to stretch and move my legs AND I got some quiet "alone" time (we mamas take that however and whenever we can!) So I'm walking back and forth to the car and thinking how this was just the perfect "window" of time for me to get some things done - the kids just wanted to veg out. And I was like this is just like the window of time right after a baby is born and they're awake in a quiet alert state for a few hours before sleeping (is anyone having a hard time with this analogy? Come on - stretch yourself! Like I said, this is just a stream of consciousness moment from me to you. I didn't say that it made total sense!)
Of course then I had to think of exceptions. Like I'm sure there are times when we get home from a long road trip and the kids are tired and whiny and cranky and just want to cling to me and I don't get anything unpacked, or laundry done or food put away. Just like I'm sure there are newborns who go to sleep pretty quickly after birth. Because life really isn't all that predictable is it? But when we have a perfect "window" for something to occur, it feels so good to take advantage of it! So keep your eyes and heart open and let life keep flowing through and around you.
(I need to create one of those cool signatures for my blog - anyone know how to do that?)
ps These pictures of my alert babies are not just after birth, but they are two of my favorites from when they were just hours and days old. If I ever do this baby thing again I'm going to get more pictures of them when they are fresh out of the womb!
1) Go early and often
2) Embrace the Grittiness
3) Enjoy as many sunrises and sunsets as you can (in our family that means more sunsets!)
4) Make friends where you are
5) And invite some to share the fun with too!
Most importantly - go with the flow and enjoy the ride!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.