The Juggle

“Girls can do anything!” got translated somewhere along the line into “Women must do everything.” – Kristi Coulter.

I will begin with an apology. I am sorry that your Cup of Jo may have runneth dry lately.

To be honest, this is the fourth time in a month that I have started this very column. I was unable to find enough time to myself to write a piece on work-life balance. Now that, Alanis Morisette fans, is ironic.

Juggling the Work-Social-Health trifecta can be an exasperating trick.

As with juggling balls, maintaining a rhythm between just 2 items is fairly simple. You focus on the first item until you feel confident. At this moment, you divert your eyes and focus on the second item. You focus on the second item long enough to feel confident. Once you are confident you’ve handled the second item, you return your attention to the first – just in time. Repeat.

Bringing-in that third ball adds complexity. You have to think two steps ahead. Your margin of error is smaller. You need hyper-focus and very quick reaction times just to keep the act going. If you divert your eyes too early: disaster. If you lose focus: big flop. If you get stuck on one item: everything goes to hell in a handbasket. What pressure!

Soon, it feels like you don’t have enough hands to manage this trick. You become exhausted from trying to do everything and be everything. At a point, you realize, you cannot do this forever. Even if you could, would you want to?

Trying to balance Work-Social-Health concerns in our lives is just as tricky. Having two of the three focuses allows us to feel accomplishment, but we seem to flake out on the third item.

  • We can be a kickass professional in excellent physical condition year-round. However, push-ups on money-stacks can be a lonely activity when your friends and family are out enjoying life.
  • We can spend our days at the spa with our friends, but neither our banks nor our friends are going to finance a life full of play.
  • We can work hard and play hard and ignore our health. The enjoyment, like our time on this earth, would be short-lived.

Even though Health-Work-Social are equally important areas in our lives, we feel we can only do two and lose our work-life balance. How is it that we have all gotten here?

I have three ideas.

First: we have set the bar too high. In the not-so-distant pass, we lived in small communities. At work, we competed locally. At home, we socialized privately. Our health was nobody’s business but our own. With the internet, communities have expanded to include the entire world. We compete against global conglomerates like Amazon. Our private moments are posted for approval on social media. Our fitness is judged by online postings of race times.

When every sale needs to be a “deal”, when every post needs to be a “like” where every race needs to be a PB, life is exhausting. We either need to have hyper focus, or we need to bear the burden of faking it until we make it.

Second: we have added in extra tricks. If all of these things weren’t enough, we sabotage ourselves by artificially making our juggling act harder. Imagine if Cirque du Soleil had to start a pack of cigarettes and finish them by the end of each show? We add all kinds of extra hurdles to our already packed lives: cigarettes, booze, serial shows, and Candy Crush, to name a few.

These distractions only make our work-life balance harder. Not only do they take extra time, but they make us less productive, healthy and social. If you thought a half marathon was hard, try training for it alone with a hangover and the black lung.

Third: we need to give ourselves a break, for heaven’s sake. In trying to do everything and be everywhere, we easily forget that this is supposed to be fun. Although life isn’t supposed to be easy, it is supposed to be enjoyable.

We have chosen wherever we are because, at least at some point, it seemed like a fun option. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy the lives we have. We only each get one (except cats – which is why they are allowed to be so damn unpleasant).

What should we do with these? Well, we can’t take down the internet. But we can choose to take time away from it on a regular basis. We can disconnect our lives from the competition and start trying to support one another locally, again.

We can kick the bad habits in our lives. The habits that, like YA fiction vampire villains, ask to be your boyfriend then suck the life out of you. We can re-prioritize our busy lives by ignoring things that claim to artificially relax us and using that time to get things done or, even better, to actually relax.

Finally, if we don’t like what we are doing, it is imperative that we act to change it now for the better. Maybe we can be on one baseball team fewer. Maybe we do not need to be the bodybuilding champion of the world. Maybe we can be happy just because we get to live here in sweet, sweet, Deep River Ontario.

We cannot change the world that we live in, but we can choose how we move within it. We can step away from our screens, kick an unhelpful habit and focus on the fun and relaxing parts of life.

We cannot juggle three flaming knives all of the time. We can, however, simplify the trick and remember that juggling is supposed to be fun.

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