Someone suggested to me that I should write a blog about balance. I threw my head back and belly laughed at the very thought of it. I am NOT balanced. My life is in fact quite bipolar. When people ask me if I like living alone I literally think: I cannot be observed in my natural habitat, y’all. I cannot. Later as I drove home from work though, I reassessed that comment and thought: maybe being balanced isn’t about actually balancing in the sense of a scale being evenly weighted but in navigating and allowing for the extremes well.
A few days later I snatched up ‘Procrastinate on Purpose’ by Rory Vaden, my educational morning read of the week. And he had this simple illustration of a pitcher of water, where the water is your 168 hours in the week.
(Procrastinate on Purpose – p. 33)
And the 6 cups that represent:
Well, Mr. Vaden – I think I can do you one better. Here are my 6 cups, which are in fact coffee mugs (because how else am I going to get to all 6 categories) and my ‘pitcher’ keeps the coffee hot.
#Grace – for my faith which requires a gracious God to have chosen me. The Fins cup is in representation of my family. Go Away I’m Reading is for fun (because I DO love to read). #thestruggleisreal is finances – because money is hard to learn, relearn, keep up, and keep track of, amiright? The newspaper mug is work. And the to-go mug is fitness because some weeks being in a hurry is my cardio.
Rory Vaden goes on to talk about what happens when your work cup is full, but your family cup is empty and everyone else is getting just a little bit. You might be making money, but your home life is paying the ultimate price and no other category is thriving. What about when your fitness is full but your faith is empty? What good is a healthy body going to do you if your soul is weak and weary?
The sad news is, you don’t have enough hours (or coffee) to fill all your cups, every week. You just don’t. So what does that mean for balance? Well, I’m not the expert (I haven’t even finished his book) but here’s what balancing looks like for me…
The one cup I never neglect is my faith. I give the first part of every single day to the Lord. I learned that from my parents who taught me to make it a priority in any season. Many of you have heard me say that in my busiest season of life to date my Dad (whose job as a football coach requires over 100 hours per week, regularly) really challenged me to remember that I cannot make it through a single day without Christ, and that’s why I should start my day with Him. I have missed less than a handful of quiet times in the 6 years since.
Here’s what I can tell you: when my soul is right, EVERYTHING else feels easier. I have had a lot of extra things to juggle lately but I have felt unexplainably peaceful because it is well with my soul. I keep a plaque on my desk at work that reminds me of just that: It Is Well. If it’s well with your soul, the other 5 cups have a better chance of seeing some time. I also remind myself often: if I only get one thing right in life, I hope it is that.
The inclination from here is to put family in spot number two, all the time. But that’s not realistic. Here’s why: every week is different. Easter and Christmas are the busiest weeks at my job (working at a church with 5 campuses) so those weeks I don’t also chat with each and every family member and invite a cousin to come down and stay with me. Those weeks are my Super Bowl (in football families we use a lot of sports analogies) BUT, other weeks work is less demanding and I can fly to Miami and help my parents move condos or to North Carolina to take my nieces and nephew on dates. So to say family is always number 2, doesn’t work. But they get that spot regularly. Work also has it’s time in the spotlight.
People are different in the remaining categories and I think you have to find what works for you. I try to workout 3 days a week. I’m not a 2 hour a day type, never really have been. I don’t anticipate caring enough to start being one. But under fitness I will comment on a couple things that I lump in there: I am diligent about sleeping enough. I sleep 7-8 hours a night, 90ish percent of the time. I workout partly to grow physically fitter and partly to reduce stress. I learned early on in my career that stress can do serious damage to your health if you don’t manage it. I work hard to keep my stress levels in check.
Fun gets something every day. It does. I am extremely fortunate in this department, in that I’m easy to please. I read for a half hour before I got to work every morning, because I love to read. No matter what a workday holds, I want to have enjoyed that. Also, it makes getting up in the morning something I’m excited about. Most weeks (again, not every single week) I choose one morning of the weekend to stay home for a few hours. 10ish months out of the year (because I live in Florida) I spend this at the pool. The rest of the year with coffee under a blanket with the balcony open. I try to spend a night or two a week with friends. I’m in 2 book clubs and 1 bible study – things that I thoroughly enjoy with people I adore. Once a month, on average, I leave town. Because travel brings me a great deal of pleasure, this is something that gets an extra shot of coffee regularly.
Travel is a good way to lead into finances. Finances is actually one of the better examples of the give and take for me. I live on a budget and that takes some thought and effort. A little coffee, regularly – to track my money. BUT a few times a year I meet with my financial advisor, a tax professional, look into the value of my home, and ask my parents to review my plan. I don’t have to do this ALL the time, but a year does NOT go by without my having reassessed my retirement plan’s success and made any necessary changes.
So balance, to me, is being successfully unbalanced. This year I flew to all but one of my Dad’s home games. Which made my fall heavily family focused. I was less available to work (something I discussed with my bosses in advance), my workouts shifted from my home gym to beachside walks with my folks. Family got the lion share of the coffee for 3 months. It was my Dad’s first season being in Florida since I moved here and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to support him. Then after December and a long Christmas holiday with the whole family, the next few months shifted back to other categories. I don’t see my parents every other weekend all year long and I’ve been working longer hours as I recently took on a big new area at my job. During this time where family is getting less attention, I know the fall will come again and it will be great.
So if you want to balance like me – quit trying to be equal and just be fair. Fair is NOT the same as equal. Balance is not the same as even. If your one thing you’re determined to do right is your faith, my challenge would be never to neglect that (or if you’re not a person of faith, whatever your #1 is) – but for the rest, it’s ok to have an ebb and flow.