>Rethinking the whole BALANCE thing…

>Since my posts earlier this year about finding Order Out of Chaos, I’ve been struggling to balance those 3 goalswrite, exercise, organize. In fact, recently I’ve pretty much given up the struggle, and adopted a much less balanced lifestyle: write, write, write. Exercising 3+ times a week has turned into maybe once a week, which has resulted in weight gain and increased arthritis pain, depression, lack of energy, etc. And it seems all I can do to keep the progress I made on organizing from backsliding, when what I really need is to keep going with the projects.

Just today I found Julie Verleger’s “Organized Home” blog, and website, both through Twitter . As I looked through some of her posts, I couldn’t help but wonder, “when does she have time to post and tweet? Does she actually have time to enjoy the order in her own home, her own life? Is she at peace?”

If you keep up with my blog, you know that one third of my goals is actually going well—I’m writing prolifically and continuing to publish essays and not losing hope in querying agents with my book proposal. So… how come I’m not at peace?

Yesterday I found an article in the May issue of Working Mother that spoke to my struggle with balance. It was the cover story, “This is How She Does It,” by Suzanne Riss that caught my attention. Riss was writing about Blair Christie, a 37 year old SVP of a big corporation, who juggles work with a marriage of ten years and mothering two daughters, ages 6 and 3, all while looking gorgeous. I read the entire article, which chronicled Blair’s parents’ divorce, her career path, a high risk pregnancy, her leadership qualities…. Until finally, I got to the last section of the four-page article and read the subtitle, “The Balance Myth.” Here’s an excerpt:

One thing you won’t hear Blair talk about is balance. She prefers to talk about work/life integration. “We have it in cycles,” she says. “Sometimes my home life is very important, and it needs more than fifty percent of my focus. Other times it’s work. It’s about finding the right rhythm.” Blair readily admits that some weeks she never finds the right rhythm, and that’s okay, too. She wishes working parents would be less harsh with themselves.

I think we can expand her words to apply to everyone, not just “working parents.” My kids are grown, and I work at home, on my own schedule, and I can’t seem to find the right rhythm. Or maybe I’ve got it but just don’t recognize it because of feelings of guilt about the areas that are being ignored at the time. Rhythm and balance aren’t really the same thing, are they? Come to think of it, I’ve always had rhythm.

Okay, enough about the whole write, organize, exercise thing. You won’t hear me talk about trying to balance that trio here again. Now I’m going for the rhythm thing. I feel better already! Excuse me, I’ll be right back.
I’m back now. Had to get up and do a little dance. And sing along with this amazing woman, who inspires me to keep plugging away, hoping that one day an agent or publisher will respond the way Simon Cowell did.

Yeah, that felt good, but…. something’s still bothering me. Maybe it’s spiritual. Did you notice that none of those three goals for 2009 was “pray”? But prayer is something ongoing, no matter what other activities are pressing, right? Or at least it should be. One of my favorite theologians is Saint Theophan, the Recluse. In his wonderful book, The Path to Salvation (and his earlier work, The Spiritual Life, which is incorporated into the larger book) Saint Theophan says that man has three levels of life:

spiritual: communion with God, prayer, worship, sacrament, fellowship, “interior work”
intellectual: reading, art, music, philosophy, science, educational pursuits, “mental work”
corporeal: food, housing, clothing, rest, exercise, sex, “physical work”

He says that each level has needs which are natural and peculiar to each person. And while it’s important to satisfy our intellectual and corporeal needs, it’s the balanced satisfaction of them that gives man peace:

Spiritual needs are above all, and when they are satisfied… peace exists; but when the spiritual needs are not satisfied… there is no peace. That is why the satisfaction of them is called “the one thing needful….”

During this Holy Week (for Orthodox Christians, in case you’re new to my blog) I’m trying to refocus my attention more to spiritual things, and as a result, I seem to upsetting the whole apple cart, so to speak. Just take a look at bthe levels of life into which my three goals fit:

Write—intellectual “mental work”
Exercise—corporeal “physical work”
Organize—corporeal “physical work”

All of this, whether kept in balance or not, leaves very little room for “interior work,” during “normal times,” much less during Great Lent and Holy Week, when extra prayers and church services and fasting are called for.

So, what have I learned from all this? I’ll try to sum it up:

Rhythm is as important as—or for some people maybe even more important than—balance when it comes to our intellectual and corporeal lives.

But balance is crucial when you bring in the spiritual life. As Theophan says, “the balanced satisfaction of them gives man peace.” And what kind of peace?

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”—John 14:27

Tonight is the final—and my favorite—of the three Holy Week services of Bridegroom Orthros. It includes the beautifully penitential “Hymn of Kassiane.” I love this part of the hymn:

I will cover your spotless feet with kisses, then dry them with my tresses.
That’s an icon of Saint Cassiane, at right. Tomorrow night is Holy Unction. Healing. Balance. Rhythm. Peace. It’s a lot to take in… but God is with us.

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