For Mother’s Day this year, Sparky and the kids bought me a slackline.
Basically it’s a 2-inch wide tightrope strung between two trees, and you can use it to balance on, walk along, perform tricks or even practice yoga on. And seriously, it’s some of the best fun I’ve had (standing up!) for a long time.
My current goal is to stand completely still while balancing on the line. Sometimes I try to strike a tree pose or lean forward while standing on one leg, and while it sounds easy, it’s actually really difficult. Fun, meditative, great for posture, but difficult!
Last weekend, as I was perched on the line with one foot in the air, my arms wobbling around trying to keep me still, I realised something:
Balance is exhausting.
Every muscle is taut, trying desperately not to over- or under-compensate, lest you fall. Your mind needs to be focused and singular in its attention, lest you fall. Your sights need to be set on a specific spot and not shift around, lest you fall.
10 minutes spent trying to remain perfectly balanced, and I’m head-tired.
If balancing on a line for just 10 minutes is so exhausting, when there’s nothing more important than ego up for grabs, why do we think we can manage to keep a busy, full life perfectly balanced and not struggle under the pressure?
Undoubtedly, balance is necessary when trying to stand still on a length of nylon 30 centimetres off the ground, but I’m convinced that in life, balance isn’t a goal we should be pursuing.
Actually, I’ll go further and say this - trying to achieve balance is harming our ability to enjoy life.
Trying to maintain your attention evenly across all aspects of a busy life – work, family, friends, community, faith, relaxation, play, home – is to be in a state of constant tension. And I don’t know anyone who can enjoy life to its fullest when they’re a bundle of stress. I know I can’t.
So what do we do?
Personally, I try to tilt.
I’ve thrown away the notion of balance completely and now willingly throw myself out of whack. I work out where my attention is most needed and I tilt in that direction.
At this season in life, with a 3yo and a 5yo at home, I spend a lot of time tilting towards their needs.
I tilt towards an orderly-ish home with less stuff.
I tilt towards growing veges, cleaning with natural products and being environmentally mindful.
Some days I need to tilt towards work, and the kids watch a movie during the day.
Some days my bathroom doesn’t get cleaned and the mail stays on the kitchen bench because I’m tilting towards the garden.
Some days I buy things that I could have made myself because I’m tilting towards getting through a busy month.
Sometimes there is tension, of course. But it’s a matter of having your priorities worked out and being able to say, “I can’t do it all.” And backing that up by not trying to.
It’s something that I am constantly working on, as I believe we are taught that to be successful, well-rounded and worthy, we need to be able to do it all. But I also believe that this notion is wrong.
So enough with the balancing act, and here’s to throwing ourselves out of whack this weekend!