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.