I was eight or nine when I first started feeling responsible for those silly, ridiculous things. Maybe even younger than that even. Which is not to say that I wasn’t perfectionist from the very start.
My mother tells me that she once caught me picking up miniscule pieces of white lint off our red industrial carpeting on the basement staircase. Back at the old house in Melvern Square. When she asked me why I was doing that, I replied impatiently, “Someone has to do it.”
From childhood, I felt the compulsive desire to smooth out wrinkles in blanket covers, straighten sofa cushions, wipe up any remaining water from the sink taps. Eliminate crumbs from the counter. I was that girl whose bedroom was immaculate. Who dusted and vacuumed before I entered junior high. I was that child who rearranged her books alphabetically. For fun. Who made a nightly cleaning circuit course as a means of calming herself down. Because order meant security. Chaos was too unpredictable.
And then, somewhere between those teenage years and when adult life begins, the wheels fell off the wagon. The pendulum swung. And all that I felt compelled to be became null and void. I couldn’t have cared less. I lost that urge towards responsibility and conscientiousness. And I was quite a while returning to my familiar, comfortable place of being orderly.
Sometimes the return home enables a person to find a happy medium. And sometimes one swings back and goes farther to one extreme than they’ve ever gone before.
My pendulum just never seemed to adhere to that motto that moderation is the key to happiness. Rather, the motto I’ve lived by most of my life has been one founded on the ideals of diligence, thoroughness and strict fastidiousness.
Sounds fun, huh?
While for some people, balance means more discipline and precision in their life- a calling back to routine, schedules and practice, for others like myself, it means a releasing from the crippling chains of habit and custom. It means allowing oneself to experience freedom and pleasure and liberty. It means that these dear ones like myself must allow themselves to let go. Cut loose. Give up control.
Such a difficult thing to do when you’ve never done it any other way.
Over the past few years, I have been talking to myself through my writing- through this blog. It’s a conversation I have with myself that I let the rest of the ‘world’ in on. Although it is really for me, it’s also for US. Because I believe that there are other people out there having different conversations with themselves and sometimes it helps to know you’re not in this alone.
Some of those conversations are about goals. Some are about habits. Some are about relationships. Some are about harmful lifestyles. Some conversations are about things we’re doing right. But by and large, our self-talk is often about things we are finding fault with, within. Things we loathe about ourselves. Things we wish to change.
Wouldn’t it be life-altering and freeing if these inner conversations could be positive? What if they were affirmative? What if they built us up rather than tore us down? What if they were encouraging?
My tendency, if left to my own desires and curious ways would be to tell myself that I am never doing enough. It has been the self talk I have heard in my head since I was old enough to remember. And it is what I choose to change this year by focusing on a more balanced lifestyle.
For me, balance does mean some discipline. But more than anything, it means release. I chose five areas of my life to work on and become more balanced in those areas. Those five areas are spiritual (meditation and prayer), physical (exercise) and mental (play and self-awareness and perspective); the reason I chose them is because in each area, my tendency would be to self-talk myself out of doing them. Over the years this fact has been blindingly obvious.
Given any spare or free time, I will tell myself to do laundry rather than read a book, meditate on Scripture or pray. Given a window of opportunity, I will often say to myself that there is supper to prepare or children to look after rather than exercise. Given the opportunity to be responsible or be playful, 9.99 percent of the time, I would choose sensibility.
Given freedom of thought to see life as brutal pain or exquisite beauty, my natural tendency is see ‘life as pain.’ Life is just too hard to be beautiful, is it not? And as for perspective, it’s glass half full for this gal most of the time.
Left to my own devices, my self-talk would leave me a sad and bitter woman. It would make for a very miserable, pitiful existence.
So for me, restoring balance to my life has been to release myself from the bondage that is my own tendency to live life fully driven, goal-oriented, focused and resolute.
Thus at this season in my life it is in my own best interest to let the pendulum swing a little farther away from my compulsive self toward a freer, less-restricted me.
Balance certainly will mean different things to different people. For me, it means giving myself permission to make mistakes. Allowing myself to have fun. Letting go. Embracing freedom. Which is not to say that doing these things all the time and in every situation would bring balance. But knowing myself as I do, making these five a practice will be easier said than done. And when I see the day that all five of my purposeful intentions have been realized, then I will feel the need to examine my intentions and perhaps swing the pendulum yet again.
All this to say that my balance is different than your balance. And so the story goes. Which leaves me with the question: what does balance mean to you?