Maintaining a healthy balance in life has gotten a lot of press in recent years. Experts in multiple fields including business, mental health, productivity, spirituality, and medicine have weighed in on the discussion. Google the phrase “work-life balance” and you’ll get more than seven hundred million hits. (785,000,000 when I clicked on it this morning, but who’s counting?)
I understand the concept – and the need – but that word “balance” is problematic for me. When I hear it, the image that comes to mind is Lady Justice holding her perfectly aligned scale. That vision sends me scurrying into micromanagement mode, making endless lists and manipulating tasks and time slots in order to fit everything in and make sure it all gets done and everything comes out “even” at the end of the day. It usually doesn’t.
The truth is, I can’t control everything. No matter how carefully I schedule and plan, life happens anyway and has to be dealt with. Circumstances change; plans fall apart; unexpected events occur and not all of those things can be wedged into a time slot or contained within a certain day of the week or month of the year. Losing my “better half” left everything in my life feeling out of balance and no system of time management that can alter that reality.
I can’t control what happens, but I can control how I respond to what life dishes out and what has been more hopeful and helpful to me is to take a longer view - to step back from the minute-by-minute and pay attention to and honor the overall rhythms of my existence.
Life is not static; there is an ebb and flow to the interior times and seasons of our lives that mirrors the rhythms we see in the external world: waves lapping the shore, the rise and fall of the tide, sunrise and sunset, the turning of the seasons from one to the next.
Viewing things from that broader perspective has helped me to be present to what is rather than get swept away in the minutia of what isn’t or what might have been or what should have been, none of which I can do anything about now. When I stop trying to micromanage every detail of my life, the Spirit has more freedom to work in me, which allows things to unfold in their own time, at their own pace. The way Solomon tells the story – and he’s long been held out as one of the wise ones - there is a “time and a season” for all of it: birth and death, weeping and laughter, embrace and solitude, mourning and dancing, silence and speech, love and hate, war and peace, and everything else under the sun.
Ferris Bueller was right too: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Those words – both Solomon’s and Ferris’s – have helped me loosen my grip on the planner and the pen and live into that longer view. They are especially important now. With the tender emotions, heightened anticipation and expectations and extra activities of the holidays, it’s easy for me to fall back into micromanagement mode and succumb to the pressure of the calendar and the clock. I’m reminding myself to slow down- to stop even – and look around so I don’t miss anything. To remember that there is a time and a place for everything.
I’ve already discovered this: I’m aware that for me there will be blue moments scattered through the shiny golden ones. By being mindful of that particular rhythm in my life I (hopefully) won’t be blindsided by those moments, better able to truly celebrate the beauty and promise of the season, to savor all the memories and the love that forged them, acknowledging the loss but not becoming overwhelmed by it.
Wherever this holiday season finds you at the moment – still enjoying Thanksgiving, in the middle of Black Friday mania, decking the halls, or resting and regrouping before another week begins - may grace and peace be part of the rhythm of your days.