On my other project, Sense of Story, our theme is BALANCE. Last week Gwynyth wrote a great article on why striving for balance “irks” her. In her essay, she poses a question that made me stop and think:
Are we putting our time in at work, scheduling increments of one on one time with our kids, rushing ourselves to yoga to nourish our bodies and spirits, before heading off for date night and completely missing the point?
I often find myself wondering the same thing. We sometimes live our life in 2-hour increments. My day looking like a doctor’s office full of time slots in order to achieve a “well-rounded” day. 5:00-7:00am: Train/plan/write. 7:00-9:00am: Breakfast/prep/. 9:00-11:00am: main lessons. 11:00-1:00pm: Prep lunch/eat lunch. 1:00-3:00pm: Outdoors or Handwork or Reading Time. 3:00-5:00pm: Free Play/Quiet Time for Mom. 5:00-7:00pm: Dinner. 7:00-9:00pm: Bedtime Routine.
There are times when our days flow nicely into this little rhythm. But sometimes, it simply doesn’t. Over the last few weeks, other things have taken precedent like an important birthday party and activities that met specific needs.
As I thought more about Gwynyth’s question and concern over our society’s preoccupation with “balance,” I decided to look up the definition. I found this: a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. What caught my eye was “correct proportions.” Ah, yes. This is it.
a part, share, or number considered in comparative relation to a whole.“the proportion of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising”
adjust or regulate (something) so that it has a particular or suitable relationship to something else.“a life after death in which happiness can be proportioned to virtue”
Proportions = parts in relation to the whole.
For me, a large part of my balancing act has to do with the art of proportions.
When looking at art specifically, correct proportion is often equated with beauty. The issue is not of equality but of the nature of the relationship between objects that take up space (and the space itself left empty) with the entire whole. It’s a game of relativity. A dance between scale and space.
If I take a step back and look at my life as a whole over the past few weeks – what we’ve done (activities/events), how I’ve felt (my emotions/my headspace), the temperature (indoor family and individual moods/the physical outdoors) – there has been a lot of heavy and fast. Personally, I had been consumed with writing and feeling. As a family, we’ve been adjusting to temperature fluctuations in and out of the house – the kids in full spring fever mode. With respect to homeschooling, we’ve been finishing up lesson blocks that made the kids venture inward and focus a lot of their energies on grasping new concepts. Our weekends have been eaten up by event after event. And when things are busy, Ever-Patient and I just don’t schedule time to re-connect.
There are times when we need to move fast. It is inevitable when you have a large family that enjoys a vast variety of interests. There are times when we think heavy. Milestones occur. Being conscious of the passage of time hits hard as these important milestones are reached. Even transitions as predictable as the changing of seasons can throw us off as we re-enter mini stages of grief and acceptance of time moving on.
I have felt this uneven proportion of the heavy and the fast. Over the last few weeks, there has been a slow, unconscious shift. I only became aware of it when someone had asked me, “Why haven’t you been blogging lately?” Oh yeah! At one point, I had been writing here at least 2-3 times a week and lately, I have been posting here only once a week.
Writing hasn’t been in the forefront of my mind. I love to write but finding good blocks of time to get into a flow has been difficult lately. When I can’t get a good two hour block, I don’t even want to begin putting any words down. I have a notebook full of ideas and thoughts but haven’t sat down to sort them out.
The thinking and the feeling took its toll on me and I needed a bit of a break. I’ve found myself returning to activities that occupy my hands and my will. Activities where I touch and I feel on a physical level and less on an emotional one.
I’ve opted to take time to sew and knit over writing.
Working on this spring jacket and finishing a belated birthday gift…
I’ve opted to train and increase my energy stores over writing:
I’ve opted to read long and loud to the kids in the afternoons in a makeshift fort on my bed:
We’ve spent more time outdoors.
Discovering a patch of snowdrops with friends…touching the delicate drooping petals:
Here is a snowdrop verse by Christina T. Owen that we are committing to memory in case we come across another patch blooming:
I found a tiny snowdrop, blooming in the cold,
I’ll share with you the secret the little flower told:
“Though winter still is here, it hasn’t long to stay.
I came ahead to tell you that spring is on the way.”
Making fairy houses…the soft touch of moss under our fingertips is a tiny carpet for the fairies:
In relation to what we need right now, after a long period of reflection, thinking, and feeling deeply with our hearts, we need to move, do, and feel with our hands.
I have turned to my knitting needles instead of my black notebook. I have sat at the sewing machine instead of the laptop. We have cleaned and purged indoors instead of circle time and math practice. We have ventured outdoors or have read books in a fort instead of completing projects of handwork and homework. We are reciting poems instead of copying them. Ever-Patient and I are spending a lot of time together after the kids have been put to bed as #5 is finally following bedtime routine and sleeping in his own bed.
In art, there is the golden ratio – the perfect mathematical proportion found in nature and the human body. In our lives, we have our own ratio, our own perfect proportions that keep us content and feel relatively balanced. The problem becomes when a life in balance is defined as life with equal amounts for everything in a limited time frame. And it gets worse when “everything” encompasses things that other people value which in fact you really could do without. Often when I have been guilty of trying to fit “everything,” I end up feeling stressed and worn down. In contrast, doing things that fulfill my needs and our family’s needs as opposed to forcing a “well-rounded” life often leave me feeling energized and rejuvenated like accepting a spontaneous offer from a friend to meet-up even though I really should complete a writing task. I still have the responsibility to complete the task, but now the writing assignment becomes easier to accomplish after the inspiring conversation with the friend.
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau
If you notice a lull in my blogging, I am probably placing some foundations under my castles in the air.
Can we fit the things we need in our life in proportion to what makes us feel fulfilled? Will that achieve our own personal feeling of balance?