By Tanya Tiger
I am removing the word balanced from my vocabulary.
I am replacing it with audacious.
Audacious can be defined as:
- extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless
- extremely original; without restriction to prior ideas; highly inventive
- recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law, or the like
- lively; unrestrained; uninhibited
I want to live audaciously, in full expression of who I am and who I want to be. I want to live a life on fire, not simply smoldering in a pile of ash or staring longingly out the window of life. There is too much to see and do in this life to sit on the sidelines and wait for someone to tap me on the shoulder and give me permission to play.
I don’t want to play their game anymore. I am going to make up my own game, with my own rules, and damn it, I am going to win at my life.
Like many, I have struggled to achieve society’s goal of living a “balanced” life. You know, the message we are sold either blatantly or covertly—the one that tells us that in order to be successful and fulfilled we need be in top physical condition, eat whole foods on a shoe-string budget and be the go-to person on the job. Be a glass-ceiling smashing, soccer-mom/dad, mini-van driving, yoga doing, meditating “Ommmm” chanting, volunteering, donation-paying, fall-in-line with the status quo, don’t rock the boat, do what you’re told, double-shift working, debt up to your eyeballs, person that is living the American Dream, baby!
All while you are wearing your hair and nails perfectly manicured in a wrinkle-free suit while balancing the babies and the check book with a giant smile on your face.
Stop! Just stop!
This is not reality people, and if we keep trying to chase this dragon we are going to wind up its dinner. Now let me clarify that I am in no way saying that a person, man or woman, can’t work, have a family, and take care of themselves. What I am saying is that these “domains” cannot be perfectly balanced. When you pay attention to one, the others fall away, even if ever so slightly. When this “falling away” happens we tend to blame ourselves or ask why we can’t seem to keep it all together.
The truth is, no one can maintain this balance for more than a nanosecond without some major fallout. These three domains need one another and each requires a separate commitment. It’s more than okay if more attention is paid to work for stretches of time, to family, or our own needs. As long as we acknowledge that each domain is equally important, and we tend to the domain when we recognize that more attention is needed there, then we can do more than just stay afloat—we can experience the true flow of a good life.
I really and truly believe that we do ourselves, our loved ones, and our careers a disservice by trying to do it all at 100 percent capacity 24/7, 365 days a year. We are only human after all and there are only so many hours in the day.
By setting priorities, and learning when we need to be more rigid or more flexible in our schedules, we can navigate through our daily lives without feeling an impending doom of crashing into the metaphorical rocks that life often puts in our way. We’re always going to face challenging decisions when it comes to work, home, and self-care. These challenges are a part of life. But, for an instant, just imagine how much more relaxed, focused and confident you would feel if you gave yourself permission to blur the lines, to change your mind and to focus your attention where you knew it was needed in the moment versus simply following someone else’s plan for how your day (or life) should look.
Here, I’ll give you a scenario with two outcomes:
1.) You have a presentation at work for which you have been preparing for weeks. You wake up the morning of the presentation to the cries of your child saying she doesn’t feel well. She has a fever and can’t go to school. Your significant other has a work deadline “that he just cannot miss.” He is unable to stay home or take the child to the doctor. He can tell you’re upset but you say begrudgingly, “it’s fine, I’ll figure it out.” He kisses you and your child, and leaves.
You throw yourself together feeling hopeful that you’ll still make it to work. Your little one snuggles on your lap, coughing and crying. You try and keep the snot and drool off your clothes while still trying to comfort her. You send an email to your boss letting him know the situation, that you still plan to come in and do the presentation, and that you’re trying to find a babysitter.
You start calling and emailing everyone you know that could stay home with your child. You’re pacing the floor and getting more panicked and aggravated by the minute. You’re trying to figure out how to get to work today while juggling a crying child, a juice cup, tissues, and then proceed to squirt the child’s medicine all down the front of your clothes. Your mind is spinning with negative thoughts, “My boss is going to be pissed. I can’t believe my kid had to get sick today of all days. I can’t seem to catch a freakin’ break.”
You start resenting your significant other for—in your mind—putting the importance of his work above your own. You start thinking to yourself, “I have an important presentation today and your deadline is more important than my presentation?” That nagging inner-critic starts telling you how much of a failure you are: “You’re a terrible parent! Your boss is really going to see what a failure you are! Your (significant other) doesn’t value you or your career! You’re so stupid for thinking you could ever have it all!”
Your significant other calls to check-in and before they can get two words out you let them have it for leaving you stranded and hang up. And the B.S. just keeps piling up until your blood pressure is about to boil over. You’re crying just as hard as your kid, you get so overwhelmed that you say “F*ck it!” and don’t even bother to call your boss back and you climb back into bed with your child and hide for the rest of the day.
What a nightmare, I know!
Now, same scenario with a different approach:
You wake up the morning of the presentation and your child is sick, running a fever, and can’t go to school. Your significant other tells you that he can’t take the day off because he has a work deadline. You gently remind him that you have a presentation that you’ve been prepping for and ask if he is sure that he can’t help you out today. He tells you that the deadline is serious and can’t be moved or else he would stay home. He apologizes and gives you and your child a kiss before leaving.
You call some friends and family to see if there is anyone available to watch your little one for you, but there is no one available. You call work and speak with your boss. You explain the situation and apologize, asking if you can move your presentation to the following week. You tell your boss that your family really needs you today and that an additional week will make your presentation that much better.
Your boss agrees to move the date of your presentation. You thank him for understanding, hang up the phone, pick up your child, snuggle with her, get their medicine and juice and head back to bed for snuggles. You spend the rest of the day taking care of your child, catching up on some reading and resting. You brainstorm a bit about how to improve the presentation even more for next week. Your significant other comes home with flowers and dinner. The three of you enjoy the evening together and you feel comfortable in the knowledge that you did everything you could to take care of each domain to the best of your ability.
Much better, right?
I think the myth of work/life Balance is bringing more stress—not less—into our lives. By trying to give 100 percent to each domain at the same time we spread ourselves thin, are less productive, less effective and we build up more resentment toward the very people and things we are striving to protect. Let’s cut ourselves and each other some slack and recognize that it’s perfectly ok if we give 75 percent to our job one week, 75 percent to our family one week, and 75 percent to our own self-care the next (with the other 25 percent divided accordingly between the other two domains).
The split can happen however we determine is best, and that is the best part. The outcome is 99.9 percent up to us. The other .01 percent is life and its mysteries. We can only effect our own thoughts, feelings and reactions and not everyone else’s.
Stop trying to live a “balanced” life. Live a little jagged, a little crooked and little “unevenly.”
Dare to live audaciously and stand inside your own truth. At the end of the day you have to live your life, not someone else. Do what you know is best for you and your domains.
It really and truly doesn’t matter if no one else gets it.
editor: Dana Gornall