What’s happening in real time:
My fingertips are hovering over these keys, and my brain almost has a poignant thought to share with you here. But every time I take a deep breath and feel that train of thought come chugging toward me, my three-year-old interjects.
“There’s a SHADOW in my room. Mommy, did you hear me? A SHADOW.”
It’s past bedtime at this point. I whisper positive affirmations to myself. I beg the Holy Spirit for some of those fruits he’s passing out. I shut my laptop, grind my teeth, and try to figure out how to deal with the shadow so we can all get on with our lives. I’ve almost reached a solution when -
“But I’m still hungry. I’m hungry though. I’m still hungry.” I hear Theo hovering on the threshold of his bedroom, clinking an aluminum tow truck on the floor to make sure I hear him good and well.
Viv pipes up from her room, just to make sure she’s in the mix. She hates missing out on the mix. “Poop, Mommy. Poop.”
A couple of weeks ago I polled you lovely subscribers on what you’d like me to write about next. One of your favorites was the idea of creating a balanced day. As someone who’s grinding out a newsletter on a Friday night with two toddlers procrastinating the inevitable from their beds, I sense the irony here. It seems that I still have not mastered the art of a perfectly balanced day - if I had, I’d be soaking in the hot tub with a cocktail right now.
Balance is one of those things that just sounds so good and right, isn’t it? I bought a candle at TJ Maxx not long ago just because the scent was called ‘balance.’ I thought if I lit that thing up I might be able to inhale a slice of equilibrium. [Mostly it just covered our white ceilings with soot.]
It seems that I still have not mastered the art of a perfectly balanced day - if I had, I’d be soaking in the hot tub with a cocktail right now.
What even is balance? I love the first definition that pops up on the Oxford Dictionary: An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
Man, doesn’t that sound like just the thing? For all the weight that we’re slinging around in our lives to somehow fall into manageable bits so that we can
I wanted to present a list to you tonight of all of the components that would make one perfectly balanced day. I can think of a handful of things that I’d include in mine: completing a hard task, moving my body, flexing my brain, creating something, eating a good meal, doing something kind, having a good conversation, setting some time aside to rest and pray.
But as I think on it more, I wonder whether it’s reasonable or even attainable to expect the majority of our days to have this kind of equipoise. [Expectations are dangerous business; as a mom, I’ve learned to keep them low.] If we find ourselves in a day where we’ve gotten no work done or our bodies don’t want to move or our toddlers don’t do the things we beg of them, where we’ve forgotten to talk to God or we haven’t seen another soul or we’ve hustled from dawn ‘til dusk, must we default to despair and feel like utter, off-kilter failures?
When I was in education, I had the privilege of mentoring first-year teachers. It was never far into the year before I’d see these fresh, eager educators begin to slump - they wanted to do it all every day and do it well, but it felt like getting all the subjects in PLUS dealing with interruptions [unexpected behaviors, IEP meetings, recess issues, and surprise birthday cupcakes, to name a few] was turning out to be impossible.
But as I think on it more, I wonder whether it’s reasonable or even attainable to expect the majority of our days to have this kind of equipoise.
That’s when I’d pull them aside, close their classroom door, and look them in the eye and say, “Yes, that’s right. You’re trying to do something that’s actually impossible. So let me tell you how to pull it off.”
I suspect that many of us feel a lot like these first-year teachers. We, too, want to do it all and, not just that - we want to do it well. But life is running interference and we just keep trying to stay upright and it’s exhausting and clunky and defeating. We yearn for balance. For all that weight to be distributed in such a way that we can carry it without breaking our backs or, worse, our spirits.
So, what’s the secret I told those teachers?
You are never going to fit it all in every day. Your plan book may tell you it’s possible, but those neat little squares live in an ideal world where we do not, in fact, reside. Things will pop up and go off the rails. The better advice is to leverage your entire week rather than trying to jam-pack all that goodness into one perfectly-balanced day.
Some days, I told them, recess will be a train wreck and you’ll need to do damage control rather than spelling. Other days it will be Johnny’s birthday and your students will spend math class licking artificial food coloring from their fingers rather than counting on them. But over the course of the week, it will all shake out. The kids will learn their words the next day. There will be time for math on Thursday. And by Friday? You’ll still be semi-sane, because you’ll have let go of the notion that a perfect day even exists.
The better advice is to leverage your entire week rather than trying to jam-pack all that goodness into one perfectly-balanced day.
I think it would be a seriously gracious move on our parts if we began to aim for balanced weeks for ourselves rather than balanced days, too. To allow ourselves the breathing room to get to the end of the day and say, I didn’t get to that today. Maybe tomorrow. I know it will all shake out. That list of components to a well-balanced day that I shared above? Maybe they don’t all happen in a day. But can we strive to incorporate each of them, in some way, into a week? That suddenly feels more realistic. It allows us to be compassionate to ourselves. We may be idealists, but again - we’re living in a less than ideal world. Recognizing that helps us stay semi-sane.
So, I want to know - what would you say are the must-have components of a balanced week in your life? Now that I’ve gotten to the end of this letter, you’ll be happy to know the house is finally quiet. I guess that’s proof that balance does get restored, creative thoughts can flow past suppertime, and toddlers will, eventually, fall asleep.
I’m praying for a well-balanced week ahead for each of you, dear readers.