What’s your reaction to the phrase work-life balance? Does the idea of balance seem aspirational to you, or does it seem utterly impossible? If you’re like me, it feels more like the latter.
There are several major problems with the concept of work-life balance in the ways that I have heard it described.
- The phrasing falsely segregates “work” and “life” from one another as if the two never touch. Activism, among many other professions, is often a blend of both.
- It also assumes that our obligations outside of employment do not require work. (As the mother of a toddler, this is particularly irksome!)
- Most troubling is the underlying mythology that we ought to be able to shift our responsibilities into a harmonious state of balance through sheer determination.
A decade ago I was sitting in a seminary professor’s office when I said, “I want to give equally to all of the pieces of my life.” My concept of work-life balance at that time was an equal distribution of weight. I pictured my life as a balance scale. If I could fill both the “life” and “work” sides with the same amount of effort, they would eventually even out.
After years of failures and frustrations with this model, here is what I’ve learned.
Balance is not static. Balance is a dance.
If you are able, try standing up with your eyes closed for 10-15 seconds. For an extra challenge, try this while standing on one foot. What do you notice about your body? You feel your weight shifting from side to side and from front to back. Your body may move in a circular motion. You may feel trembling, shaking, and even some faltering. These physical efforts, even the uncomfortable ones, are part of what helps us maintain balance.
In yoga class when I am practicing one-legged postures, the teacher will often remind us, “Fix your eyes on something that isn’t moving.” While we need our muscles to work in order to hold us upright, our ability to balance is linked with our focus on what is constant.
As the circumstances of our lives shift and change, we can still find the dance of balance within ourselves.
Last month I wrote about different self-care practices that we can use to restore ourselves. One new resource I want to share are these free guided meditations by Tara Brach. Although I still struggle to make space daily for quiet, I have found these 20-minute meditations to be a source of light and love. I hope they are for you as well.
Nearly a year ago, almost to the day, I entered the sanctuary of an historic church in downtown Raleigh for the first time. Visiting a new faith community is nearly always at least a slightly uncomfortable social experience. In my case I’d grown quite accustomed to feeling like an outsider in these spaces as a significant portion of my work included traveling to congregations around the country. This particular Sunday, however, had me a more on edge than usual.
The church, as it turns out, was Baptist. I was Methodist. Sitting down in a Baptist Church for worship felt something akin to rooting for a rival sports team. It was simply not done.
I recall on several occasion the pastor of my hometown Methodist church, a soft-spoken and generally mild mannered man, would poke fun at Baptist preachers from the pulpit. If a worship service ran long as it often did on the Sundays we celebrated communion, my mother and I would half-jokingly lament that our favorite lunch spot would be filled with Baptists by the time we got there. One could argue it was all in good fun like any hometown rivalry. But even well-meaning jokes, if they are repeated enough, have a poisoning effect over time.
You can read the rest of my post on Feminism and Religion.
Like millions of others around the United States and the world, I participated in one of the women’s marches held in January. At a time when I felt discouraged and disheartened about the future of our movements for social justice, the march was a life-giving, inspiring moment that catalyzed my commitment to resist oppression in all its forms. As a person of faith this is the work to which I have been called, and the women’s march helped bring me back to my purpose with renewed focus and vision.
Since November I have been seeking wisdom in discerning what particular part I am being asked to play in this moment in history. What has emerged for me over these past several months is a commitment to building authentic relationships across theological and political differences. That does not mean I am willing to abandon my own religious convictions. To the contrary this moment demands that I cling to them even more tightly. If I am to enter into conversations with those who disagree with me, however, I must also abandon any spirit of hopelessness within myself and adopt a wholehearted, open-minded approach.
As a religious person who supports women’s reproductive decision-making I spend much of my time shedding light on the diversity of religious understandings around women, contraception, and abortion. What I have grown increasingly aware of is my need to deconstruct the misconceptions I have of those who identify as pro-life.
You can read the rest of my post over at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice blog.