Abandoning the Quest for Balance

Your career goals and your home life compete for your attention.

Just this morning, before reading my Chani Nicholas horoscope, I said to Mani: “I feel like I’m a stay-at-home mom and running a business.”

This is true. Both are true. And I wouldn’t have it any other way — I am grateful every day that I can shape my work life around my family’s needs, without having to negotiate every small thing with a boss. I am grateful that my work has grown roots.

At various moments in my life, people have basically warned me about making things hard, or at least harder. Coming out, getting divorced, stepping into a brave new world beyond the closet and perceived security of nuclear family — a harder life. Self-employment (also beyond perceived security of traditional employment) — a harder life.

What I have found is so very different than “harder.” What I have found is that ease is part myth, part privilege, and part luck of the draw. There is no “easy” life. There is no “easier” path. No choice is without consequences, and yet so often we focus only on the (feared) consequences, not even getting a chance to find out what else could lie on the other side of a risk taken.

The chasm we leap into is usually not as deep as the one we might be settling for when we stay stuck in situations — relationships, careers — that require us to contort our psyches and bodies in painful, often invisible ways.

My career goals and my home life are so utterly intertwined. To experience these as competing would be detrimental to both. I’ve all but abandoned the popular quest for balance and accepted that some days, I feel like a rock star, and other days, all I want to do is nap and play with the puppy. I do not think twice about eating leftovers, ordering pizza, or having spaghetti for dinner three nights in a row. As long as we all have clean underwear and the bills are paid and we are spending time together, I’m good.

I do not adhere to a strict routine. I write on the fly (like now). I read all of the writing in my groups and offer feedback as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. I don’t exercise as much as I would like, but I’m also not at war with my body. Yay.

How much is enough?

Last night, Pearl needed help with his math homework. I needed help helping him. Thankfully, Aviva came to the rescue and explained how to simplify equations to the both of us. We watched some cute little kid videos. Everyone said “I love you” to everyone else before bed.

How much is enough?

I have ideas but know I need to carve out time — intentional, protected time — to play with and flesh these out, so that they can become new offerings to people who might wish to explore writing as a creative practice and a means of greater self-knowledge. I see this as utterly connected to the wellbeing of our world and the dismantling of oppression. Once again, the “parts” cannot be separated from the whole, nor can we do and be everything at once.

Two or three years ago, my wife could barely stand long enough to stroll the aisles of Target. As I write, she’s getting ready to go do some work. There is a rhythm to our lives once again, one I missed desperately and feared would not return. There is something to not taking normalcy for granted.

I just watched a short clip on an Instagram account I follow. The woman has lung cancer and has been sharing her experience. A few months ago, her message was simple: “Love yourself. No matter what.” She said the one thing she was feeling regretful of, as she hovered in the uncertainty of illness, was being hard on herself for all kinds of stuff.

I’m not sure how I got here. I could go back and reread, retrace the bread crumbs, and try to wrap it all up with a pretty ribbon. But you know me — that’s not happening. I will do what I always do: Hit “post” and call it practice. Share and call it showing up. No big lesson or message to impart, just me, and real life, and words and being and a brand new day.

No Pushing, No Pressure

Running this morning, I found myself thinking about the connection, for me, between writing and running. The common denominator is that both are ways for me to come home to myself.

In the winter, I lose this connection considerably. I used to run year-round, and in the past few years, this has ceased to be true. I resort to walking… and sitting. A lot a lot of sitting.

So as soon as temperatures creep up into the 40s, then 50s, then those first blissful days in the 60s, to the perfection of low-mid 70s, and even the mornings on days when 80s will feel too hot in the afternoon, running does not feel like a chore.

In fact, I can’t wait.

I don’t go far or fast. Average of 20-25 minutes, and doubtful it’s much more than two miles at my slowed-down midlife pace. But this doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that after those first hard five or seven minutes, at least some days, the running feels easy. Like flying, however slowly, over the sidewalk, through the Amherst College rugby fields, onto the bike path, through the trees, shade and sun, roots and branches.

I break a sweat and feel so grateful to be home in my body. And the same is true when I write (sans sweating). I feel I am coming home, to see what it is I will have to say, what am I noticing. Always, there are 10,000 things, thoughts, possibilities, and I’ve gotten to where mostly I don’t worry about the fact that I will miss most of them. It’s enough to come and show up and make room.

We live in a culture that prizes pushing. Pushing harder, going further and faster. Winning. If this is your jam, more power to you. But for me, no thanks. I opted out before I even began. I don’t want to jockey and vie for my position. I don’t want to prove my worth or beat your score or play the game or climb the ladder. No, no, and no again.

What do I want, then? To come home. To be at home in this skin, in these bones, in this mind, in this beating heart. In these words, in this practice, in this family I’ve made and claimed. In this life, with its teething puppies and its burst of color and its seasons of inside and outside.

I want to run and swim and bike and walk and make love and laugh and play and make music and fight for things worth fighting for — not to compete, but to show up because I want to, and because it is a privilege to have a healthy body and a working mind and a full, full life.

A Writing Prompt: On the Question of Struggle and Ease

Does writing have to be a struggle?

Yesterday, I posed this question on Facebook, and it turns out a lot of us have thoughts about this; the responses were insightful, interesting, wise, and varied.

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The conversation has me thinking about both how we define struggle and also, how we relate to ease, what these concepts have to do with privilege, with expectation, with culture — and what remains of just *being* when you strip all of these away.

What values do you assign to these words? Is struggle always a bad thing? Is ease necessarily a good thing?

I think of resistance slogans like ¡la lucha continua! and I feel a swelling of pride and power in struggle — to struggle against injustice, for example, is a very different thing than to struggle with freeing your own words onto the page (or is it?).

Are struggle and ease mutually exclusive?

What’s the difference between struggling and persevering, if any? Does ease always mean easy?  What are the origins of how you relate to these words, and how does this affect you today as a creative being?

Marge Piercy writes:

“Doorways are sacred to women for we are the doorways of life and we must choose what comes in and what goes out. Freedom is our real abundance.”

There are so many points of entry, so many questions. Every question is a doorway to greater freedom with and within our writing.

Your prompt:

Consider how struggle and ease show up in your everyday experience. Play with being objective, i.e. make a list of what you have to work your ass off for and another list for what you don’t have to think about at all. If you’d like, choose ONE thing from either or both lists for a deeper dive and closer look.

Start by setting a timer for 10 minutes. Be curious. See where the inquiry leads. There are no wrong answers. Keep your hand moving without judging yourself or editing as you go!

Do you long for more creative ease?

Are you a woman or femme working on a long-term project and wishing you had more accountability, structure, and companionship along the way?

Are you super busy but don’t want your writing to wither on the vine?

Jewels on the Path is a small (limited to 12) secret group that offers you a weekly rhythm for showing up with new work, honoring the ebb and flow of your personal creative process, and practicing asking for and receiving the kind of feedback you need and want most.

Spring is here and with it, an invitation to gently nurture new words — and a new way of relating to your writing!

You can sign up for the group only, or include 1:1 coaching sessions. The new session begins on Monday, April 2 and runs for 16 weeks.

Does this sound like just the thing your writing life needs? YAY. Contact me before the end of the week. Let’s talk about your writing and your life. It doesn’t have to be a struggle.