Balance Begins with Falling Over

Woman trying to balance on one footThe quest for balance is practically an American past-time. We read magazine articles, self-help books and blog posts about how to balance our work lives, our personal lives, our workout lives, and whatever other lives we claim or aim to lead (spiritual, volunteering, blogging, dog-owning, chia pet watering, sleeping, Angry Birds playing lives.)

But we each only have one life, right? And what is balance anyway?

I think this quest for balance is ill-conceived. In the physical sense, if you’re laying like a corpse you don’t fall over. That’s the most balanced you can be. But who wants to be a corpse?

No, I think balance begins with falling over.

As a kid, when I learned to ride a bike, water ski and snow ski my dad told me that falling meant I was getting better. Now, he might have said this to encourage me, since I fell a lot, but I believe he was right. When we push our limits and lean so far we fall down, our muscles get stronger and the next time we can lean that far and NOT fall over.

You have to be off balance before you can attain balance.

While I’ve experienced this many times physically in sports, it’s also true in my daily life. When my work schedule or my training schedule or my kids’ activity schedules crowd the calendar, they throw my carefully orchestrated life off balance. And I love it.

Yes, it stresses me out sometimes, because I don’t have a larger allotment of hours to accommodate the busyness.  But when I’m a little off balance, it means I’m living.

I’ve been living this spring. Somehow I landed a couple extra work projects right as I jumped into marathon training, which happened to coincide with my kids’ busiest sport and music season of the year. It’s been a little crazy. Something had to give, so for the past few weeks I’ve put off getting together with friends, stopped cleaning my house and taken a hiatus from writing this blog and working on my current novel-in-progress. I’ve probably neglected a few other things too.

It’s my way of staying upright while leaning toward a few limited priorities. At the end of the month, when I’ve completed a big project, crossed the marathon finish line and attended the final meets, matches and concerts of the year, I’ll lean to the other side. I’ll invest more time in friendships, yard work, blogging and those fictional characters I miss so much. Before long I’ll probably be off balance again.

That’s okay. I’m not on a quest to live a balanced life. I’m on a quest to live a full life.

What throws you off balance? Do you think it’s possible to achieve a balanced life? How?


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  • Really interesting post. Thanks for writing it. I find running a mile a day makes my day seem better.

  • jte521

    Right now I feel like everything is throwing me off balance! Normally as long as I can fit in time with my hubby, time to run/read/cook, and work isn’t insane, I feel pretty balanced. But busy times of year – with work, family (especially around birthdays/holidays), friends – can throw me off balance.

  • Jen, when I hit those times when I stay off balance too long I start saying “no” to everything. It usually helps after a couple weeks, though it sometimes upsets people to be told “no”.