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.

The Dream of the Silver Spoons

Silver-Spoon
I woke up this morning shortly before the alarm to a barrage of dream fragments; they ranged, as usual, from vivid to blurry, and with varying degrees of accompanying narrative. One image did stand out from the others as I poured my coffee, though I forgot to tell Mani about it.

Often, I’ll “review” my dreams before fully waking up; sometimes dreams go *poof* in the instant I open my eyes, and still other days the nights will linger like a dark screen. Anyone who has known me for any amount of time can tell you that it verges on ridiculous, the amount of dreaming that goes on. From apocalyptic to pedantic and everything between, my dreams are steadfast companions that travel with me no matter how far I venture or how close I stay to home.

So that one image that stood out this morning — it was of my father giving me a collection, his collection, of silver spoons. They were all different sizes, and I think there were four or five all told. One was small, as you’d use to feed a child. Each had a story. They may even have been from different countries or generations. In the dream, I’d decided to get a tattoo of the spoons spooning each other, largest to smallest, on my upper right arm. I held them up to my arm to gauge the length of the tattoo.

It didn’t even occur to me that my dad might have a real-life spoon collection.

Then the day happened. I helped Pearlie finish packing for her much-anticipated week in Acadia, Maine with my sister’s family, alternating between practical things like a quick trip to CVS to pick up toothpaste and bug spray (and an iced doubleshot latte for me) and more emotional ones, like orchestrating a speaker-phone meeting of the minds with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, to reassure Pearl that it would be a fun week despite her fears of not being with either of her parents.

Tears were shed, hugs were had, and thankfully, we checked off the last item on her sweet little packing list in time for me to greet 40 participants in Dive Into Poetry, which began today (registration is open till Sunday, by the way!). Amazingly, when the phone rang at 10:00, I’d just placed my own bowl of steaming oatmeal on the table and was ready to settle in to an hour with a fabulous coaching client discussing consciousness and curiosity and clear seeing.

My sister came by our place to pick Pearl up a little after 11:00; miraculously, she only forgot one thing. We said goodbye and I blew her a kiss, which I saw that she caught in her hand (though she’d hate that I’m telling you that detail, I bet). By this time, my dreams from last night had fully receded with low tide, leaving only the light of an exposed day in full swing. A 20-minute emergency nap. Another coaching hour, this one raising the question of how we teach what we have to learn, culminating with a gorgeous, living list of ways to gauge EASE. Ah, ease.

Then I made lunch for Mani and wrote Monday’s prompt for The Story Sisterhood, by which time it was almost 3:30pm. Time to go to her dentist appointment (she hasn’t driven in well over a year due to the neuropathy in her feet, which is healing). During Mani’s appointment, I greeted and welcomed newcomers in the Poetry group, and also played a few rounds of Candy Crush on my phone. When she came back into the waiting room, I was relieved to hear that she doesn’t need any major dental work beyond a couple of fillings that need to be replaced (we had both been nervous about this, due to potential mast cell complications).

On the way home, we decided to stop by my parents’ house to welcome them back from a trip. We took a little tour of some freshly painted rooms, received lovely gifts from their recent time abroad, and then chatted in the kitchen about this and that before saying goodbye.

But it was a Jewish goodbye, meaning Mani sat in the car with her door open while my parents stood on a porch step and I lingered somewhere in the middle, our conversation still meandering here and there. And that was when I remembered the dream. The image I’d woken up with this morning, so vividly, but not spoken of and thus — I thought — forgotten all about. The spoons. My father.

“Oh! Wait! I just remembered a dream from last night!” Surely neither Mani nor my parents could’ve been surprised by these exclamations. I went on. “Dad gave me silver spoons, maybe four of them, all different sizes.”

My mom said, “Your father has a whole collection of them! He brings a new one home every time we travel!”

He did? He does? Who knew?

She hadn’t even finished her sentence before he’d gone into the kitchen; I saw him through the window as he open the silverware drawer. A moment later, he came back outside with three silver spoons in his hand, each a different size and style. One was from China; the other two of unknown origin. He handed them to me, as if reenacting my dream.

“No tattoos!” My mom admonished. (I assured her I plan on getting a hawk feather on my right arm, not spoons. I’m not sure she found this assuring.)

Shaking my head in disbelief as I walked around to the driver’s side, I called back to my dad — who is also a Freudian scholar — “Hey, what do spoons in dreams mean?”

“There’s no universal symbolism,” he said emphatically.

“Don’t ever think you and your father aren’t connected!” said my mom.

“May the Schwartz be with you,” I joked, looking him in the eye. I like sharing a name with him again.

But naturally, me being me, I looked it up later, after making dinner for Mani and then dinner for myself, after washing the dishes and getting caught up with all of my writing peeps. Spoons can mean nourishment — both offering and receiving. They can indicate prosperity and wealth.

And in this case, since they were a gift from my father to me, it occurs to me that they were a kind of blessing on my home, on my work. Perhaps a dream come true, quite literally. A symbol of approval, even, the kind you can spend your whole damn life chasing down.

What a mystery. What a gift. Thanks, Dad.