Thursday, November 3, 2011

In search of the Middle Ground

Every so often I’ll come across an article that talks about finding balance in life. Everyone is busy. I’ve never met a person that said that they weren’t busy. We’ve all got too many balls up in the air, scrambling so we don’t drop any of them.

But is there really such a thing as balance? Is this Middle Ground some mythical place that we all aspire to but unfortunately, doesn’t exist?

I was reading the eulogy of Mona Simpson for her brother, Steve Jobs, and a line in the article struck me:

Yes, this is the kind of parent that I want to be. Family first.

But I’m just an employee. And as an employee, I’ve got people to answer to, stakeholders to please.

It’s not a bad a situation. I love what I do. I’m lucky that I find fulfillment in a job that pays good money (not a HUGE amount of money but that’s neither here nor there). But there are days when I wish the little guy wasn’t as demanding; that he’d be happy to play on his own for an hour so I can finish checking the growing pile of papers on my desk. There are nights when I pray that he would fall asleep right away so I can bring out my laptop and work on a test that’s needed the next day. These are the moments when I begin to wonder if I’ve got my priorities mixed up.

A friend once commented that she feels guilty when she has to set aside her sons’ needs in order to do chores at home. Mee? I don’t feel the same. I was folding laundry earlier today (dirty laundry at that) when I realized that I actually like doing housework. How crazy is that? I like cooking. I like mopping the floor. I like scrubbing the bathroom tiles. I enjoy it because I know that all these little things are for my family and I do all these things with joy in my heart. It helps too that I have the luxury of choosing not to do it when I don’t want to (call for take-out, ask a cleaning lady to come in, send clothes to the laundromat).

But I do feel guilty when work-needs loom over my head when my son needs/wants me. I’ve also been thinking about my own needs. I’ve been lost in a spiral of other-people-first with very little say or control on how my “free time” is spent. It also doesn’t help that there are things in my world that are out-of-sync and no matter how I try, it just won’t line up.

Treading in scary waters now. I went out with my best friend recently and talked a bit about the unhappy stuff. Things that I didn’t want to voice out for fear that saying them aloud would make them real…but keeping them inside didn’t make them any less real. It didn’t make the needs any less important, or the hurt any less painful.

I am a problem-solver, but there are some things that I can’t seem to solve.

Maybe my life is out-of-whack because I’ve been trying to find balance when there is no way to balance everything. Peons like me, who must work for a living, must have shifting priorities. One day it’s family, another day it’s work, and the next day it's self. I’m constantly telling myself that someday it’ll get easier. I don't want to feel guilty. Family, work, self, they're all important. They're all a priority.

Maybe, like the spoon, there is no Middle Ground at all.

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