There are a handful of aspects of my life that I use to check in on how I’m doing… so-called barometers for how well balanced all the elements of me are. Writing, this blog in particular, is one of the biggest reflectors on how I’m doing in my endless struggle with balancing work, friends and family.
You may or may not notice that I haven’t written a blog in almost two months.
My balance has been, to put it delicately, shot to crap.
And I have no one to blame, really, but myself.
The State of My Mind.
Writing is first and foremost the way I check in with myself. It’s an incredibly important outlet for me; (yes, even when I’m writing about very silly things) it’s the way I process. I’ve always loved writing, loved the ability to sculpt letters and words into a form that perfectly (and entertainingly?!) evokes what I’m thinking and feeling in my own voice.
I write, first and foremost, for myself. And the fact that others seem to enjoy my ramblings doesn’t hurt either.
Yet I haven’t processed anything in writing for almost two months, not even a quick to produce, image-heavy post highlighting Tinder profile fails. It’s not like I’ve had writers block. To the contrary, ideas have constantly popped into my head, only to be shoved down as “not essential this minute.”
This is a bad habit.
Writing is just one point of measurement I use to examine how put-together my current life is. The others are just as obvious once I take a moment to acknowledge them.
The State of My Home.
I’m neat but not super clean. I think that’s the best way to summarize my home. When things are all good and balanced in my life, my house will be generally clean, very picked up, and a sanctuary for me. When I get off-kilter though, my home reverts back to a state that my parents will recognize as “childhood bedroom mode.”
As a kid, my room was always a disaster. As in you could barely see the carpet disaster. However, I could always find anything I needed… it was an organized chaos that only made sense to me. This habit slowly dissipated, neat and put-together filtering into my routine. Then the one-room living in college cemented me as a picked-up person, whose home wasn’t museum-clean but was comfortable and welcoming and above all neat.
I’m even notorious at work for having the cleanest desk in the office.
So when laundry piles up and shoes collect at the front door and jackets congregate on chairs, I know something is off. And I don’t like it. I crave my nice, neat, and pretty clean home. It makes my heart content.
The State of My Body.
Just as my house falls apart during imbalanced times, so does my physical self. (That sounded melodramatic… it doesn’t fall apart THAT much, even though it feels that way.)
I tend to be a jock and a mostly healthy eater (minus an obsession with french fries), and my weight has never fluctuated very much. I don’t really go to the gym… I simply enjoy a lot of activities that are physical in nature and accidentally keep me in decent shape.
When my life-balance is out of wack though? I cook less, relying on grabbing quick and generally unsatisfying food. I tend to cut those physical, fun activities as well, folding myself deeper into my desk chair and going all nose-to-the-grindstone. This is bad on multiple fronts, beyond all the obvious physical health negatives of being sedentary.
This tends to simultaneously cut out time with friends who join me for said-physical-activities. When I cancel a hike or ski day or barre session, I’m also canceling out important socializing time for myself. And I require socializing as well as solo time to recharge… I’m a bit of a mix between a introvert and extrovert in that sense.
So I become lethargic and sleep poorly without exercise as well as deprived on social time. For anyone who knows me, an inactive and anti-social me is not a good or normal thing.
And speaking of friend time…
The State of My Guilt.
As a notorious social butterfly, run by Google Calendar, I really never feel like I’m seeing any of my friends enough. But generally, I make strides to see all my nearest and dearest once a month at an absolute minimum. I always have a little bit of underlying guilt, since I always want more time to hang with every single one of them.
But when my life balance is out of wack, this guilt goes into overdrive. I feel as if it is absolutely impossible to be a good and engaged friend across the board. I am overcome with the feeling that I am, in fact, a pretty terrible friend. An invisible neon sign with the word FAIL flashes on and off on repeat in my mind.
And all of this goes quadruple for not spending enough time with my family.
When I’m fairly balanced, I know I’m trying my best to be an active participant in my friends and family’s lives. When I’m off though, it all feels like its falling through the cracks and slipping through my fingers.
All of the Above.
The four previously mentioned aspects get pushed to the back-burner when I get too overwhelmed in one area of life or another. Every time. And that, in a nut-shell, summarizes the core mistake I make with maintaining balance. This internal miscalculation designating writing and exercise and friendship-time and the state of my apartment as unessential is problematic.
Sure it’s easy to blame the outside source. I had a big deadline. This is true. But it’s not as if I had absolutely zero free hours in my life for the last couple months. I could have written here or there or done a load of laundry. I’ve just been worn down and off, on a wonky prescription of imbalanced needs and priorities.
I brought this on myself. I didn’t respect the importance of all these elements in my life for a complete and content me. I don’t do well with a one-dimensional focus. I need a little bit of everything to be happy.
But all of life is about changing and growing, right? It often feels like it is about failing repeatedly. (Falling with style?) It is about what we do with these perceived failures that is important. It is how we face the same problem again and again and keep trying to improve and be where we want to be. It’s not always going to be easy.
I assume I’ll face struggles with balance for as long as I’m on this planet. This is not a challenge for an afternoon, or a month, or a year. But for every time I disappear from writing, I will return eventually. And I’ll write another post about not wanting to take breaks from writing. And I’ll keep trying.
It’s all I can do.
But for now…. I’m happy to be back.