What is often referred to as a “balanced life” by mass media is something of a misnomer. The idea we have in mind when we say “balanced” is not that all parts are given equal time: spending 8 hours at work, 8 hours asleep, and the other 8 hours evenly distributed between our familial, household, and personal demands. Not only is this not realistic, but it also does not allow for the flexibility required to attend to what is happening in our lives in a moment-to-moment or season-by-season way.
A better way of conceptualizing a healthy, functional life might be one in which the right parts are given appropriate priority considering one’s own values and circumstances. This means that sometimes we work 60-hour weeks and others we work half days from home. Or sometimes we need to attend to a family emergency instead of keeping up on the housework. There might be a season of life in which a romantic relationship is given more hours, more energy, more attention than anything else––and it might be that this is precisely what is needed for this relationship to thrive. A few years later, this same relationship might be stable and strong enough to support one party’s need to spend more time, energy, and attention on a budding career or an ailing parent.
And these examples are by definition imbalanced. But this imbalance is exactly what is called for in the face of these circumstances. So, instead of juggling all of the balls of our lives all the time, giving equal attention to each, we can swap one out for another. We sometimes even set down two or three for a period of time. There may even be moments when all of the balls crash to the floor, and we have the opportunity to search for the ones we can’t live without and leave another we didn’t really need to collect dust behind the couch.
Life is not a fixed, quantifiable entity. It is ever-changing and subjective, and to try and measure it out into even categories misses the point. What’s better than a perfectly balanced life? Deciding what we value and making conscious efforts to ration our time and energy in ways that prioritize these values.
tags: daily living practical solutions