I had a wonderful conversation with my eldest son Ian, home from college for the holiday weekend, about the rigor and discipline required to make his life interests and pursuits all “work.” I was struck in talking with him at the thoughtful way in which he has putting into play patterns of behavior and thinking that support his choices—for academic rigor, for music as a vibrant vocation, for community, for physical and spiritual health.
In the conversation, I found myself thinking about my own struggle at times to find the time and the energy to make the many parts of my life work together with minimal stress and disruption. Certainly, while I have many more years of practice at 52 than he has at 20, I still have a lot to learn.
I am aware that the ephemeral “balance” we speak of here in North America (especially for working people) is in fact, less a balance than it is a complex, varietal harmony. The web definition of balance is “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady” or “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” I do not find that my day-to-day life has much in the way of even distribution…there are some days that are a nuts to soup run at a full sprint with barely a pause for reflection or quiet thought, while other days contain big chunks of weighty dialogue and interpretation. Nor are things always in the correct proportions—some days are chock full of domestic/familial pleasures and duties, while others are weighted heavily to feeding the maw of industry that pulls on me as a business owner.
Instead, it seems that my life and the many elements of it are often more of a metaphoric harmony in progress (definition of harmony: “the combination of different musical notes played or sung at the same time to produce a pleasing sound”). It strikes me that I am often seeking those right activities that, in combination, allow my life to work—and they vary on any given way.
As a young person just entering adulthood, Ian is finding that he has decisions to make about the quality of his life and the time he spends doing things that have meaning. And as I often say to clients, we all get the same 24 hours, so the challenge often lies for us in, simply put, the picking! What shall I pick today from the to-do list, from the obligations I have, from the pressures of work and social time, physical fitness and nutrition, sleep and spirituality, relaxation and stimulation? Love and belonging need to be tended to, but so does the economic engine that my work and yours provides for the lifestyle we want.
Net-net—it is a subject worth thinking about, before the alarm goes off early and the race of busy-ness begins. What do I want to do with this day ahead? What must be tended to for the work that matters? What are my personal social or love needs? What about sleep and fitness and nutrition? The rigor and discipline that this requires is significant and I appreciate the visibility I got into my son’s thoughtful process during our conversation. I also was struck with the importance of bringing grace, patience and forgiveness to myself and others when the best made plans and discipline fail me or them because at this moment in time, my choice had to mean a compromise—I must travel on a Sunday for a client, or visit a family member who is ill, or skip a workout to read to a child.
Ian represents a generation for whom the quality of life seems conscious and at the forefront, a goal that was less present when I was the same age. The gift of his musings for me is a reminder of the options available to me, and to my colleagues and clients, about not only the WHAT that we do everyday, but the HOW and the WHY. And in so doing, there seems a beautiful harmony available, which while not always perfectly balanced, is, on the whole, very pleasing.