I can remember a time back when I first started working while in college, when I’d go to McDonald’s every day on my lunch break and buy a Large order of French fries. Just fries. And scarf them down animalistically in the parking lot. Work and school stressed me out, and those fries brought me so much happiness, for at least 5 minutes. Now I look back and remember feeling sick, but truthfully, I think I inserted that feeling into my memory after the fact. I don’t know that at the time I paid attention to how food made me feel. I was already a vegetarian, but I sketchy one that didn’t know how to make any food, and had started to get somewhat self-conscious about my weight. While that is a long story all on its own, the short version is that I very much believed that if that was all I ate for lunch I wouldn’t see any weight gain from it, could “escape” work for a moment, and that equaled health to me.
I thought that was balance.
I know the word balance has become such a buzz word now. Find your balance. Live a balanced life. Not that the concept of being balanced didn’t exist before, but maybe we just weren’t so hyper aware of our lack of it. I mean, if I thought eating only fast food French fries for lunch was part of a balanced life, the message was a bit skewed.
But, like, does it exist?
I started to think about what balance means to me, and the idea that I always strive for it, though I also always feel I fall short of it. If the visual symbol of balance is a scale, and our goal is for those scales to be even, that’s pretty difficult to maintain. It means constant adjustment and adding or subtracting to each side. For some reason, that metaphor just doesn’t jive with me. I don’t like the idea of always working towards balance but never getting there. It also seems that in the wellness community, some people are a bit competitive in terms of who can be “more balanced” which if you know me, is an exhausting concept. To me, wellness is just a state of being, where the act of being well doesn’t contribute to any stress in my life, rather it helps me deal with the stress in my life. This current concept just seems to be permission to live on both extremes, perpetually in the worst of both worlds.
And maybe, I am alone in feeling a little overwhelmed when someone tells me to find balance. Or maybe, we’re all struggling with the same with tipping scales that leave us feeling frustrated.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
This resonates more for me… the concept of depletion and re-energizing. While also constantly changing, and acknowledging that there is no perfect balance, rather an ever-changing fluctuation is reassuring to me.
I’ve always segmented my life into different categories:
Love, motherhood, family, school, work, health… If each of these segments of my life are a “cup” which can be filled up, used, and re-filled, then maybe sometimes certain ones just need a little filling over others.
So maybe my love, family, school, and health cups are full, but my work cup is running low, the best thing I can do to take care of myself is focus a little there. My self-care for the moment, is asking someone to help watch Jonah for a couple of extra hours, while I catch up. The once I’m back with Jonah just enjoying that time. The goal is to not “deplete” other cups in order to fill up my work cup, rather if one has a little extra to spare, we can use it to replenish the one that is lacking.
It’s happened to me in the past that most of my cups are feeling low. When Chris is traveling and I’ve barely seen him, I’m far from family, Jonah is sick or not sleeping, I have pending projects due in work, and school and the only thing I can think to do is buy gluten-free flours and test tortilla recipes… that’s not helping. Even in the name of health, it results in an over-filled “health” cup, and the overflow never falls into the others cups. Sometimes “self-care” truly is getting some work done and knocking something small off your to-do list.
And most importantly, when all my cups are low… when my mom was sick and I dropped everything to help her, and watched so many things slowly fall apart… I realized that just telling people that I was struggling filled me up a little or at least kept me from being fully depleted. I recognized that I needed to reach out to Chris and my family for help, and somehow we managed to fill one another up.
So how many people think the word “cup” sounds weird now? Cool, cool. Me too.
How many people pictured glasses of wine, instead of cups? (Asking for a friend…)
But in all seriousness, there is a big picture to our wellness. It involves our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, and those things can be impacted by health, finances, work, and all our to-do lists. Escaping any one of those things by putting extra attention into another area doesn’t lead to full happiness. You can’t fully deplete any one area, to fill another. The truth is, even if you stick with the scale model of balance, the important thing to remember is that perfection isn’t the goal. You can’t strive for what can never be, so you might as well embrace what actually is.
Those are just my thoughts for the moment.