Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I hope this will help explain where the heck I've been!!

Hope you all are having a grand summer!

I see article after article about life balance.  I’ve seen pie charts with segments for each part of your life—a slice for everything from finances to romance.  Are you kidding me?  A pie chart for the messy, sloppy wonderful thing called life? 

I found life balance much easier when I had no life.  I worked and worked out and that was about it.  I was living with only two slices and it was pretty cool.  I didn’t know why people had trouble balancing their lives.  Now that I’m in a long distance relationship with a man with two teenagers, my slices are all jacked up.  I still have a slice for working, but have added slices for romance, driving, and dealing with teenage drama.  Working out has turned into a burnt crust.     

I think the whole concept of “life balance” just makes us all feel guilty.  (And creates jobs for life coaches.) If you look at the life balance pie chart (hereafter referred to as WOD—Wheel of Death), you’ll feel guilty about something.  Maybe you aren’t having enough of the fun slice or the community slice or the spiritual slice.  I think life balance is a bunch of crap. 

First, I don’t think anyone can choose the right slices for you.  You may be perfectly happy without having a community slice for example.  Who’s to say that a life dedicated to work isn’t a great life?  Or to spirituality?  You gonna tell the Dali Lama he needs to focus more on romance?  Balance scmallance—life HAPPINESS is what matters.  Balance makes it sound like there’s some ideal arrangement of the slices and if you could just find it, everything would be perfect and cherubs would fly down from heaven and land on your shoulders.  Bah!  I’m going to tell you the truth.

1.) Forget about stupid life balance and focus on what makes you happy.  Does it make you happy to be in debt up to your eyeballs?  No?  Then you better spend some time on your finances.  How much?  Enough to make you happy and keep the rest of your life running smoothly.  You can spend all day stock trading or you can just spend less than you bring in.  You get to decide.

2.) Make choices.  What slices are you going to just let go of?  You can’t have everything.  I’ve spent a lot less time working (I gave up some evenings and weekends) and working out (people at my gym are probably looking for my obituary) to have more time for romance and driving.  (I’m still trying to reconcile myself with teenage drama).

3.) Determine your priorities—in order.    No time for exercise?  That’s okay if your health is at the bottom of your priority list. Do you really know what your priorities are?  I loved my life before, but the truth is, I was lonely.  So having someone great in my life is a higher priority for me than working, but not higher than my health.  So for me, health is number one, romance is number two and work is number three.  As a result, I have made cardio non-negotiable.  I compromised a bit on weight lifting.  Those three are about all the slices I can handle and handle well.  What about you?  Be honest with yourself.  What are your REAL priorities?  There are no wrong answers, there’s just wasted time (which means wasted life).  Deciding what you can let go of is one of the most important things you can do.

4.) Give yourself permission to let go.  I’m still feeling pretty guilty about not lifting weights as much as I used to.  And I haven’t had time to do a blog post in months!  But my life has three new important people in it and that takes up a lot of time.  I can’t do it all and you can’t either—and you know what?  It’s okay.  So I’m not selling as many tickets to the gun show—do 46 year old women really have to have killer biceps?

5.) Realize your priorities are interrelated.  Don’t think I could just say, “Wheeeeee!  I’m in love!” and quit working.  I don’t think my guy would want to date an unemployed loser who apparently thinks his is the only life worth living.  I need to bring my own cool, exciting life to the relationship.  Think of your own life—maybe you put your spouse first, children second, and yourself last.  Now you’ve gained weight (no time for you to exercise) and the kids have moved out, and you feel terrible about yourself.  That’s going to impact your marriage big time.  On the WOD no slice is an island. 

6.) Say no.  You don’t have to be all things to all people.  You don’t have to take the volunteer post at the Rotary, drive little Johnny to 85 events, run a marathon, dye your hair, bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let him forget he’s a man (or she’s a woman).  Get off the WOD—do what brings you joy.  And sometimes that might be absolutely nothing.  Saying no is a great thing—it helps people know who you really are and it frees you up to say yes to what you really, really want.

7.) Do you want “life balance” or do you want control over your life?  I think you want control.  You’ll never have absolute control, but deciding what YOUR priorities are and planning your time around them will go a long way in getting it for you.  If you don’t plan your time, it will get planned (read wasted) for you.

8.) Don’t let assumptions and fear make your choices for you.  My Mom had a strong work ethic—always taking work home and coming in on the weekends.  When she passed away, we asked her boss to say a few words at her funeral.  He said, “I was always trying to get Mary to go home.”   She put that pressure on herself as many of you do.  Do you assume you have to work late?  Are you afraid to say no and set appropriate boundaries?  If you are asked to do something and say yes, people think you are willing to do it.  If you really don’t want to do it, that must mean you are afraid to say no, afraid the person won’t like you or the boss will fire you.  Examine those assumptions.

Forget some ideally balanced life.  Instead determine who you are and what you really want.  Then be brave enough to let go of the rest.  You don’t need no stinkin’ wheel to tell you how to roll!