I’m going to do something different today. I’m going to write the kind of post that I haven’t written in a long time. As I look back over the past few months, I see a lot of lighthearted, funny posts. I see some reflective ones, maybe even a few that are ahem, “helpful.” (Depends who you ask, right?) But there’s been a level of guardedness. Today I’m going to write a different sort of post. It’s a naked post. No, not that kind of naked. (Great, now someone is going to Google “naked bloggers” and find this post.) But it’s time for me to get real for a few minutes. If you’re not up for that, no hard feelings. Go get a coffee and I’ll see you next time.
I never understood what the big deal was about “finding balance.” It seems like everybody is looking for it, and complaining about how they don’t have enough of it. But shouldn’t it be relatively easy to strike the right balance in your life? Do the things that matter to you, stop wasting time on the rest. Do some soul-searching, read a few books, make a schedule, write a list of your life goals, talk to a therapist- does it really have to be so complicated?
Apparently so. I’ve written about my own struggles with finding balance, particularly in this energy-draining world of blogging. I’ve written about trying to stay present with my kids. I’ve written about wishing I had more time in the day so I could really do it all. This subject is not new to me at all.
But something happened on my road trip with the kids last week. All in all, it was a success, considering I spent 25 hours in the car with my two children over the course of 6 days. We were like a mobile Best Buy store with our DVD players, iPad, Kindle, Leapster(s)… but it worked. The girls were amazing in the car- they were cooperative, good sports, and kept themselves entertained. Sure, we had a few rough moments, but I knew what I was signing up for. We got to spend time with my parents, several aunts, a handful of cousins, and my 92-year-old grandmother. Memories were made, photographs were taken, and more tears were shed than even I was expecting.
Have you heard the expression “dark night of the soul” before? It’s generally used as a metaphor, but I had a literal one the last night of our trip. About three hours into our five hour drive that afternoon, it became extremely windy. Those of you who have been with me awhile may recall that my oldest daughter is terribly afraid of the wind.
This was bad- it took a lot of effort to keep the car under control, and debris was blowing across the freeway. We stopped at a rest area because my toddler (of course) needed to poop, and my daughter became hysterical. I knew we weren’t going to make it two more hours. I called the hotel, cancelled our reservation, and made one at a closer exit, all the while listening to my second grader screaming and sobbing in the back seat. I stayed calm, instructed her to put her headphones on with a movie so she wouldn’t hear the wind and make a blanket tent, and she eventually settled down.
The hour it took for us to get to the hotel was a rough one, but we made it. When we arrived, I frantically began grabbing the things we’d need for our hotel stay, and papers and wrappers began blowing out of our van. The automatic doors wouldn’t close because it was so windy. I kept dropping things. Somehow I needed to make it 50 feet across the parking lot with both my children, our overnight bag, the bed rail, the laptop bag, their pillows, and my purse while gusts of wind pummeled me. Swearing ensued.
When we arrived at the elevator, all three of us were laughing hysterically. Unfortunately, the moment of levity ended abruptly when I was unable to get into our room. Did you know that some hotels now have keys that you simply hold in front of the door and it unlocks? Yeah. I didn’t. I pried everywhere, trying to find the key slider part and inadvertently breaking the top off. I dropped all of my bags on the ground, mindful of the creepy hungover guy who was staggering around the hall like a zombie. When I finally figured it out, I began heaving our bags through the door. I snagged my shirt on the handle, bashed my back into the door frame, and watched grapes rolling across the carpet. I lost it.
I began uncontrollably crying as I herded my bewildered children into our hotel room. I stepped over the spilled bags, locked myself in the bathroom, and sobbed. I could hear my children crying on the other side, and I managed to get myself together after a few minutes and come out to comfort them and apologize. I’d stayed calm during the wind crisis, helped my daughter to cope with her anxiety, and got us into the building. The stress finally caught up with me, and I had nothing left.
I apologized while still blubbering, as my children ran around trying to pick up the spilled grapes and offering me various clothing items off their own bodies to dry my tears. I felt awful- what kind of mother falls apart like this and needs her kids to comfort her? I felt like a failure. I was so exhausted I thought I’d just go to sleep at 8:30 with my kids, but sleep wouldn’t come. I lay in bed for several hours, trying to come down off the adrenaline rush.
When I finally fell asleep, it was for only two hours. I spent six hours awake until I finally fell asleep for one more hour in the early hours of the morning. Those six hours were intense. Hence the “dark night of the soul.” While I tossed and turned in bed, thoughts and realizations slammed into me, even though I tried unsuccessfully to push them out and meditate myself to sleep. One recurrent message seemed to permeate the rest of the noise- “Too much. Too much. Too much.”
It occurred to me how sick and tired I am of being distracted, overwhelmed, and stretched too thin. I am tired of typing at the computer or checking my iPhone when my kids are trying to talk to me. I’m tired of thinking about which blogs I still have to visit for the day, or how many comments have gone unanswered. I’m tired of staring at dry erase boards, notebooks, and spreadsheets, all reflecting different lists of things I am supposed to be accomplishing. I’m sick of the chatter in my mind. I have too much going on. Too many projects, too many ideas, too much screen time.
Such a unique conundrum, eh? Certainly nobody else has ever felt tyrannized by their to-do list. (Insert self-deprecating shrug here.) I love writing, and I love blogging. I have two books that I am dying to write, not counting the HerStories Project follow-up that is already in motion. (Very, very slow motion, may I add.) I have song parodies to record, and funny articles to write. I have an actual day job that pays me that I need to go to every day, and an upcoming curriculum project looming. What the hell am I doing?
Finding Balance for Bloggers- Is It Impossible?
And like many bloggers, I often get frustrated and think- “What’s the point?” There are literally thousands of other “mommy bloggers” sharing similar messages. There are freelance writers struggling with memoirs in every city of the world. Akin to my mantra for sweeping the kitchen floor, I often think “Why do I even bother?” It seems I have been reduced to the tired old cliche- I have been spending far too much time attempting to capture life and not enough time living it.
This epiphany of sorts left me feeling wrung out, sucked dry, and somehow relieved. It dawned on me that perhaps these stubborn ten pounds would melt away if I started to let go of some of the unnecessary stress and distraction in my life. Maybe I am holding on so tight to everything that even my physical body is refusing to let go of weight. Would I have been able to keep myself together that night if I hadn’t allowed myself to become so depleted?
I will not stop writing. I will write my books someday, I will keep blogging, and I will continue to pursue my goals. But on my terms, and while being mindful that not everything has to be done right now. My children are not going to be this age forever. I am terrified that ten years from now I’m going to hate myself for wasting months or years being disengaged with my children by allowing myself to be sucked into my computer screen. So I will stay present, for the sake of my future self.
I don’t know what this new “balance” thing will look like. Maybe I won’t post as frequently, or will recycle old posts. I might not do my ParentZ Bop videos as often, and I may skip Finish the Sentence Friday sometimes. (gasp!) I don’t want to “work” at night- I want to hang out with my husband on the couch. I will not deprive myself of sleep in order to be a better blogger. And I need to stop making myself crazy with invisible demands, the greedy pull of social media, and too many pie-in-the-sky ideas. It’s time to focus on only the goals that matter the most, and it’s time to really savor the time I have with my family. I give up- I cannot have it all.
Maybe you aren’t a blogger, and can’t quite relate to the lack of balance that often springs forth from entering that world. But maybe you are a stay at home mom who volunteers for every single opportunity because you think it’s your job. Maybe you spend too much time on Facebook and can’t focus on what’s in front of your actual face. Maybe you are working hours at your office that are too long and too intense but you feel you have no other choice.
We all have our energy-draining Achilles heels that prevent us from attaining that elusive balance. I’ve showed you mine- what’s yours?
Psst- sorry this post was so long. If you’re still with me, perhaps you’d like to read more? Sign up to receive my email updates. As mentioned, I won’t be posting very frequently, so there’s no danger of filling up your inbox.
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This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday.
This week’s sentence was, “I never understood what the big deal was about…”
Next week’s sentence is,”If I could go back in time…”
Special Co-host: My beloved friend Katia at IAMTHEMILK suggested today’s fantastic sentence!
Janine at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic
Kristi at Finding Ninee
Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?
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