Balance, Enlightenment and Other Unholy Grails

A few weeks ago I noticed there was some serious bad juju going on around me. One example: a former co-worker suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Forty years-old, a mother of two or three; someone who eats right, works out faithfully and was just commenting to another co-worker how happy and stress-free her life had been since she was able to quit work and stay at home. I didn’t know her well, but have worked with her sister for about 5 years. It turns out lifestyle was not the cause of her heart attack, but let me tell you it got this chick thinking about her life and what she might do a little differently.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I often throw myself from one project – or exercise regimen or activity or issue or person or issue of a person – to another, moving in fits and starts. I get an idea in my head and it’s hard for me to get it out until I’ve done whatever it is I set out to do. I stay up late cranking through a task only to find I’m dragging by the end of the week because I didn’t get enough sleep. I might do something like read The Power of Now, but end up flipping through the chapters to get to the end…because I’m impatient. (Purely hypothetical, of course.) Or I’ll find myself plowing ahead with an irritating but sometimes blog-worthy stubbornness of not knowing when to quit like the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

Having drive and determination isn’t bad; in fact, it comes in quite handy. But Little Miss Zenshine over here is starting to think moderation, focus and maybe some downtime among all this multitasking madness would help.

I’m a smart girl. I’ve read countless magazines/books and listened to all the positive stories, horror stories, advice and insights from friends, family, and even Oprah. (Yes, I’ve poked fun of her here and here, but she has the right idea.) I just don’t always do what I should. Maybe I’m wondering about this again because I’m turning 40 soon. Maybe it’s because of what happened to my former coworker or Tim Russert. I’d say it was because of indigestion — except that I haven’t eaten dinner yet because I’m not balanced. Who knows?

I have some fun and/or relaxing things planned in the coming weeks, which I’m psyched about; I’ll blog about those soon. I’m also open to spontaneous activities, even if I can’t always partake in them. In the meantime, maybe writing this post about juggling on a blog about juggling is enough of a start.

All right, because I can’t resist — and it’s always good to balance all this soul-searching crap with some humor — I offer you this:

All right, we’ll call it a draw!

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13 thoughts on “Balance, Enlightenment and Other Unholy Grails

  1. I just turned 41 this year and I know what you mean. This is the age when you start to hear about heart attacks, and cancer, and all kinds of incredibly scary stuff, happening to people who are not 20 years older than us. In fact, it is happening to people we know, people we are friends with, people we went to school with.

    I have a serious fear of something happening to me when my kids are still young. I don’t know why, maybe because I am an “older” mom. But I try to not think about it. I guess I should learn to just enjoy each day a little more and worry about the future a little less.

    Have a good one!!!

  2. I know your former co-worker and her heart attack has spun me into the same realm of concern. I find myself wondering if all the little body aches and oddities (that are so common now that I’m in my 40s) are really symptoms of some dreaded disease. It’s a silly mind-game to play … and yet, not so silly considering our mutual friend experienced symptoms she didn’t realize at the time were precursors to a heart attack.

    I’ve come to believe that the best we can do to look after ourselves is to take time to be still and quiet and listen to our bodies. They’ll tell us what is true and requisite. In that vein, I’ve been reading and following Martha Beck’s book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. You add them to your life one at a time, doing each for a full week before you add another. So you’ll have to be patient and not read it all in one night! In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I’ve yet to garner enough consistency to make it to Practice #3! But even Practice 1 “Nothing” and Practice 2 “Truth” have been very beneficial.

  3. Irene: I used to have the fear of something happening to me A LOT when I was first divorced. In fact, I worked that idea into one of the early chapters of my novel, which is coincidentally about a single mom trying to balance work, parenting and finding love again. Hmmm. Another post for another day. But I know what you mean. This stuff gets you thinking.

    Curt: Bless you. 🙂

    Julie: I didn’t realize you know her, too. Pretty shocking, although I’m sure everyone has a story or two like it. I will try to check out MB’s book (hello, Oprah’s colleague!) — although that’s ANOTHER thing for me to do. Sigh. I like the first two practices. I’ve been practicing some pseudo meditation (if there is such a thing), too, which seems to be helping. I’ve also let certain things go while I try to focus on what’s important. God knows my housecleaning and the laundry is suffering because of it, but that’s ok.

  4. T says:

    Ha! I love Monty Python!!!

    You don’t have to force yourself to do any sort of meditation. You’re meditation can simply be something you do that stops your brain from thinking. Gardening, watching your children play, listening to music… Yoga and cycling are both good for me.

    Then again, we also need to remember that we aren’t the ones in control. I guess anything can happen to anyone. So love as hard as you can while you can!!! (I know. It doesn’t sound as positive as its supposed to. There is a little freedom in knowing someone else is in charge. But its a tough concept for control freaks. I should know.)

    Now… I need to get a will in order SOON!

  5. T says:

    Did I just type “you’re” instead of “your”? Argh! One of my biggest pet peeves and I did it?!?!

    That’s ok. Someone else is in control.

    ::mumbles under her breath that the someone else in control needs English lessons…::

  6. Impatience is one of my virtues!! LOL
    You’re right though. When death occurs to a ‘high profile’ person, or even a close friend it makes us all think about our own mortality.
    I try to live a happy life. Try to avoid stress(what? A single Mom w/o stress!) and do good things. I try to eat right, lost a nice amount of weight(thank you divorce diet!) and keep healthy. I just signed up for my first 5K in February.
    Bottom line..keep happy so when you are standing at heaven’s gate..you can say you led a fulfilled life!!

  7. Dadshouse: Don’t mind at all. Yours is a great — and more eloquent — post!

    Lori and Tonya: Glad to provide some Monty Python meditation for you. And, T, I know you shouldn’t force meditation. That probably defeats the purpose! I often wake up and just lie (lay?) in bed and let my mind wander. It’s definitely a quiet, peaceful time for me…until I have to jump out of bed because I’m late for work! Strange, too, because I am so not a morning person. Another great mystery of life.

  8. Slowing down and finding balance is difficult for anyone. I find it especially difficult because it is just me with my daughter. Everything has to be fairly well orchestrated. That said, I think that it helps me to exercise – rain or shine! I don’t do it for the fitness (believe it or not) but because it gives me a chance to work through things, get away from technology, and just… be! There are days when I crave that walk. My daughter and I walk together, which creates a bond that I doubt I would have with her otherwise.

    Life is so short, with change happening around us all the time. It is nothing to stress about, but if that is accepted and our focus becomes quality over quantity… and we focus on the moment (which doesn’t mean that plans are not to be made… I am the planning machine!) but that we don’t have to stress about it all.

  9. I love Monty Python, especially John Cleese!

    You’re right, Susan. We never know how long we’re going to live (all I know is, life goes fast!), so we’d better slow down and enjoy it.

    I’ve found that taking Omega 3s has done wonders for my ability to focus on one thing, not to mention my cholesterol.

    Still reeling from the death of Tim Russert. I used to watch him every week. He really did seem to love his job, but he always looked so tired.

  10. I thought I’d share with you a comment I left today on a post Rachel at Singlemomseeking wrote here .
    It describes one area of balance I recently struggled with:

    “The person I dated earlier this year struggled with balance. He had so many people and pressures pulling on him; he couldn’t focus on anything, and it was clear he needed to drop some things from his life to achieve any semblance of balance. I didn’t think I had the same problem, but it turns out I did…the other side of the same coin. When we were together, I was SO focused on him and his issues that I dropped practically everything else in my life. One person not dropping enough, one dropping too much. Not so balanced, eh?

    It wasn’t really clear to me, though, until we had been apart for about a month. I’m making progress on my end and I hope he is, too.”

    Rachel wrote to me separately and thanked me for the comment… and for being so true to myself. I appreciated her feedback and kind words, but wrote that, while I try to be honest with myself, it seems it takes a lot longer for me to “get it” than when I’m dishing it out for others!

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