One doesn’t need to browse the Web very long in order to stumble across some expert or authority writing or talking about the need for balance in our lives. Certainly, there are numerous websites, books, and seminars that focus on living a balanced life. To bring about balance in one’s life is surely a worthwhile project. To achieve a balanced life is easier said than done.
What often happens is that the search for balanced living becomes an exercise in self-absorption. It becomes an obsession that can take over one’s life. There eventually comes a time when we need to set aside the stack of books and pause the Internet searches on the topic because seeking the balanced life has become unbalanced. At least that’s what happened to me.
The public library’s self-help book section became my stomping ground. It seemed like I’d read every book about the topic in the library. The librarians also thoughtfully pointed out new arrival self-help books. Most of them reiterated the same basic theories about balanced living. The books’ attractions were that they offered unique points of view or new nuggets of wisdom.
My boyfriend at that time, Steve was also into the self-help/balanced life book-reading habit. One afternoon, Steve snatched the book I had been reading from my hands. He complained that we had been so busy reading about balanced living that we had failed to apply our knowledge. We were living balanced lives by proxy. The situation had become so out of control, that it was affecting our relationship with each other.
He was correct. Both of us had very busy work schedules. There was precious little time left over to pursue our personal interests. The share of time we devoted to reading self-help books had crowded out too many of our non-work hours. Steve reminded me that life is more than researching better ways to live. At some point, a person has to stop studying the script and get on with the rehearsal. That day we promised each other we’d do less reading and do more living.
It’s good to remember that balance can be achieved simply by combining the resources of the mind and the intuitive state of the heart. There is no need to complicate matters. Yet the work vs. free-time balance is one of the most pressing struggles faced by contemporary society. Trying to make ends meet while maintaining familial and personal interests is tough these days. Getting caught up in a rat-race seems inevitable.
Steve once said that maybe one day we’ll find the proverbial balanced life. The condition between what the self-help writers say we can be, who we desire to be, and what we know we need to be. In the meantime we just need to be happy with who we are right now; otherwise we’ll just remain caught up in the search.
Of course he’s right. We all need a certain amount of self-reflection, reading, and contemplation. We also need to take a break from all of that for awhile and practice what we’ve learned. Whatever we like to physically do during our free-hours, it is best to do that. Draw, paint, do woodworking, tinker with gadgets, play with the kids and pets–the list of things to actually do is long.
Yes, it is good to study and learn. It is also wise to sometimes set all that aside and simply live. At least this is how it seems to me.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from filmmaker/screenwriter, Tony Gilroy. “When you really are enjoying what it is you do, who needs balance? There’s your balance! There’s your balance. When you’re really enjoying what it is you do, there’s your balance.”