I need to weigh in on something. And it may or may not resemble a rant. It’s not the most important thing going on in the world today, but it’s important to me, okay?
I just finished reading Jen Hatmaker’s latest book For the Love (affiliate link). It’s hilarious and insightful and all the things you would expect from Jen Hatmaker. If you love Jen’s writing style, you should totally read it.
I was so excited to see her book open with a chapter about balance. Obviously, because I love the subject of balance enough to devote nearly all of my writing efforts to it.
“Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it’s not a thing.”
She then goes on to explain why balance doesn’t exist.
She explains how the standard to which we hold ourselves is impossible, she admits she has help running her home and business, and she encourages her readers to set boundaries and say “no” to maintain sanity. It truly is a great essay on the subject. I completely agree with everything she says.
I only wish she hadn’t declared to her million readers “balance is not a thing.”
She’s not the first person to say this. I’ve heard and read many quotes from women and men, famous and not, who say, “Balance doesn’t exist” or “Balance is a myth.” (Go ahead and Google “Balance is a Myth.” You’ll see over 50 million results.)
Since my blog is about balance, it would be safe for you to conclude that I believe balance is, in fact, a thing. Not only that, but I believe it is a worthy thing. We can and should try to live well-balanced lives.
If I don’t believe that, then I’ve wasted years of my life writing about it.
If you’ve been around here for awhile, you already know what I mean when I talk about balance. But for those of you who are new or who are prone to forget vocabulary words, I want to clarify something before you walk away from this blog or your life going, “Balance? Why bother?”
Let’s define our terms
It may help to begin by telling you what I believe balance is NOT:
Balance is not doing everything.
Balance is not doing everything your friends are doing.
Balance is not doing everything your friends think YOU should be doing.
Balance is not doing everything you see on Pinterest or Facebook or your social media venue of choice.
Balance is not doing everything well.
Balance is not doing everything alone, without help.
Balance is not doing a little of everything every day.
Balance is not spreading yourself equally among every person, task, responsibility and expectation.
If you are pursuing any of the above things and calling it “Balance,” then I agree with the 50 million Google results, Jen Hatmaker, and all other people who think Balance is crap: Indeed, that is an exercise in futility. Balance, by that definition, does not exist. Please do not pursue it. You will fail.
No matter how it appears, there is absolutely no person on the planet who does everything and does it well. No one. Without exception. Not even Beyonce.
Find any person you believe does it all and does it all WELL, and I promise you, there is a catch. Either she has help or she lets something go that you make a priority. Probably both.
I cannot tell you how many times I fell into the Comparison Trap and beat the tar out of myself because “How does she do all that, and I can’t?” only to find out she has a house-keeper, or her house is a mess, or she doesn’t cook, or her husband gets home at 3 pm to help, or her kids take the bus instead of her spending 2 hours a day in carpool, or she doesn’t exercise, or her kids are old enough to drive themselves and her other kids everywhere, or her parents take the kids a few evenings a week, or her ex-husband has the kids on alternating weekends…
It’s always something. It’s so stupid for me to look around and think everyone has it figured out, except me. No one has it figured out because no one is actually doing “it” the way we perceive them to be doing “it.”
I recently fell back into The Comparison Trap with writing. I was looking at bloggers who do some really cool things on their blogs, post several times a week, sell e-books and e-courses, record podcasts, submit content to other sites and continue to birth one published book after another. Many of them do all of this, plus travel and speak. And they raise kids.
I started feeling discouraged and bad about myself that I can’t pull that off on my very best day, even when I devote hours a day to writing. As I dug a little further, I discovered that, without exception, either the blogger was extremely tech-savvy and could write her own code (I’m not even sure what that means), or the spouse also works full time on the blog (my husband doesn’t even read my blog most days) or she has a staff. A STAFF! As in a tech person and a virtual assistant and a person who handles marketing and social media. What?!! I’m not mad at the bloggers who have a staff or have a blogging spouse or are tech savvy, I just need to stop comparing myself to them. Literally, I’m sitting here beating myself up because I can’t do the same amount of work as an entire staff. It’s insane.
This is precisely when we throw in the towel and believe balance doesn’t exist. It’s when we start with false assumptions, create a bad definition, and we try like heck to make our lives reflect it. That’s not balance. That’s just stupid.
May I take a few minutes offer my thoughts (and hopefully some freedom!) about what real balance looks like?
Balance is progress and growth over the course of time, rather than something to achieve perfectly each individual day. If you are growing emotionally, relationally, and spiritually, then you are pursuing balance.
Balance is fluid and dynamic, as opposed to structured and scheduled. If you are adjusting your time to reflect your priorities of the day or the week or the season, then you are pursing balance.
Balance is measured by levels of peace and joy instead of number of items crossed off the to-do list. If your laundry is piled to the ceiling, but your marriage is great and your kids are thriving, then, bravo! You’re also pursing balance.
Balance is listening for God’s direction and doing what He says, when He says. If God tells you to drop everything and hold that baby for nine months straight, then, you, my friend, are pursuing balance.
Balance is organizing your time in such a way that it reflects your priorities. Whether that means working outside the home or starting a non-profit or playing Legos on the floor with your 4-year-old, then you’re pursuing balance.
Balance is eliminating time-suckers and life-suckers and exchanging them for things that feed your soul and the souls of those you love. It means simplifying and paring down to the most meaningful things. If you hire out the lawn service and the house cleaning so you can volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center, then so be it. If you decide to forego looking at Facebook so you can look at actual faces and read actual books, then YAY YOU! Balance!
Balance is largely a by-product of gratitude. If circumstances have you in a tailspin, but you decide to extract a few good things from each day that you want to remember forever and ever, then you will have balance.
Balance looks different for everyone. Knowing who you are, what season you are in, what you are good at and what you stink at are all keys to maintaining a well-balanced life. Whether that means quiet, slow days alone or loud, fast-paced days surrounded by people, only YOU KNOW YOU. And only you can decide what balance should look like for you.
Balance is a thing, you guys.
It may not be the thing you thought it was. But it’s definitely a thing.
And this is all my opinion, because there are no absolute truths about balance.
But I’m allowed to write about my opinion, because it’s my blog.
Okay. I’m done.