“I want to be strong, not smart!”
There it was. My inner 9-year-old, stomping her foot, and placing her hands firmly on her hips (that didn’t really exist when she was 9, but, actually, my inner-any-age doesn’t look at all like my outer me). She got my attention.
It was early in the morning–and I mean early–and I was trying to decide what thing to tackle in the early morning darkness and the absolute quiet of a house where everyone is sleeping–even the cats. And I leaned my head back with the agony of all that put itself out there for completion, exasperated with myself that I let things get so out of whack in so many realms of my life (work, home, purse), and when I closed my eyes, I heard her. “I want to be strong, not smart.”
Does it follow? Not in a normal mind, I bet. For me, it was like the ultimate Homer Simpson head-smack. “Doh!” I’ll try to unravel it, but this may take some work on your part, so bail out now if you can.
I have not followed the Work/Life balance thread that is out there now. I read the original post at Peacebang and a few blog postings since, but I haven’t read any of the comments because, well, it’s been a week where the balance doesn’t fall toward reading comments or many other things not work-related. But, somehow, I think this inner kid was yelling at me about the same sort of thing. Sort of.
The tough thing about balance for me is in putting things into the day that don’t come naturally or willingingly. In living my life, I rely heavily on doing (in this order):
- the things I like,
- the things that are easy to do, and
- the things that I’ve put off doing because I don’t like doing but now are EMERGENCIES. Like paying bills and doing laundry and making phone calls. I don’t like doing these things. So I don’t.
Growing up, I was “the smart one.” (Please don’t read this as me thinking I’m smarter than the average bear, because, quite frankly, my life doesn’t bear that up–oops, bad punnage in there, quite unintentional, I think.) In the world, I rank slightly over the hump of the bell curve and that’s about it. But it was the strength of my life–it was easy to be smart and so I was. I did well in school without really trying and I read whatever I could and I did a lot of my reading while sitting on a variety of bleachers next to my mother while my sister competed in track. She, if you haven’t guessed, is the “strong one.” (She’s also pretty damn smart, smarter than I am by a long shot, but her lack of glasses and her physical capabilities that also made it damn near impossible for her to sit still for any length of time—she used to stand at the dinner table, one knee on the chair so as to pretend to sit to appease my mother—earned her that other label.)
We play to our strengths and we let our strengths play us. At least I do. The people I know who are most effective in the world are people who play to their strengths, but also own their weaknesses. They don’t only do what comes easily and naturally; they pay extra attention to those parts of their lives that require them to stretch and in doing so, they achieve the balance that teeters and totters, but overall, gives their lives meaning, gives their families a safe and stable homelife, and gives back to all the communities in which they live.
This goes to our religious practice, as well, I think. Someone I have known as only head-and-reason kind of religionist suprised me recently by not just giving a sideways glance to what others call “spiritual,” but announced an effort to study and delve into what “spiritual” could mean for him/her. I consider myself a heart religionist (if we are going by body parts), but when I look at the kind of services that speak to me, they have to engage my head, as well. I have to look at the balance–and I have to work at it, too. This is why I choose a Unitarian Universalist faith—because, while it would be easy for me to be led by my heart, I need the challenge to my head, as well (like I said, I’m the smart one). There’s more here, but I leave this particular thought by saying that even if I am the smart one, I still need to be nudged to engage my brain as well, but when I do, the rewards are pretty great. Transformative, if you will.
So, when it comes to work/life balance, there may be something here. My life is skewed strangely right now, but the truth is, it always has been and always will be. My strength is not in staying in balance, in staying in one spot. My strength is in pushing over to the teeter side until the totter side screams for balance and back again. I’d rather see myself as the person standing in the middle of the teeter totter, one foot firmly on one side, one foot firmly on the other and doing tai-chi-like moves that allow me to dip one way and the other while staying focused on what I am called to do, not whether one foot is higher than the other.
This is not to say anything about anyone anywhere in the world. I can’t imagine what it is like to be a minister and have a life outside that, as well. After being an at-home, June-Cleaver like (in a very non-pumps and pearls, dinner-on-the-table kind of way) mom for more than 10 years and then a part-time working mom, full-time at-home mom, I’m now a full-time-employee/full-time-mom and it is requiring adjustments on the parts of everyone in our lives. In fact, my husband cooked dinner twice this week, tidied up the house and even vacuumed after work one evening. As I was making the hour-long commute home one of those nights, I phoned him and thanked him for his efforts and he said “you really do need a wife, now, don’t you.” And I said “Yes, and thank you for being her today.”
Yes, there’s something intrinsically sexist, stereotypic, and just plain wrong about that conversation, but it also reveals a lot about who we are as a family, about who we are as a couple, about how things change and we all have to adapt. And, we have, we are, we always will.
I want to stand astride that teeter totter til I die—feet planted firmly, requiring me to be smart AND strong in my ability to regain balance when needed, but acknowledging that balance ain’t what life is about. Nor is being only strong or only smart or only engaged in the heart and/or mind.
I’ve been teetering for too long now. It’s time, I think that inner-9-year-old was telling me, to totter.
See you on the playground.