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Reclaiming Balance – Part II

I thought I had set my last entry as ‘private’ but for some reason it still got published.  I struggle over how much to ‘put out there’ so to speak, in terms of revealing what’s going on with me personally.  Writing is one of my main ways of figuring things out.  A dialogue with myself, so to speak, that helps me sort out what’s going on in my head.  I can re-read it later and reassess.  I do hold back a fair bit from this public forum – but I also deliberately put some things out for public viewing.  I’ve had readers react negatively to this, but I actually have a reason for doing this.

Life is a struggle, and trying to live life even somewhat outside of the mainstream is really tough at times.  I have read many blogs that provide all sorts of fabulous information on how to live more lightly with our Mother Earth, but this info is often presented in a way that suggests that these efforts are easy.  That anyone can do it.  And while it’s true that the changes I’ve made in my life are simple – each one on its own that is.  The sum-total shift in living has been extremely hard.  Indeed, impossible at times.  And so I share this struggle because I don’t want people to read my blog and feel badly, or offended, or – worst of all – give up what efforts they are making, because they cannot find time in their life to cook everything from scratch, or they still use plastic bags or whatever.

What I am doing is an experiment in social change, and I put myself through a lot of strife in the name of ‘research.’  I have come to believe deeply in what I am doing, but I have also become quite clear on how the changes I’ve made in my life are not something that can be implemented on a wide-scale within the current neoliberal (i.e. free market) capitalist model of our economic system.  This system, as I alluded to in my last post, drives people to have to work more and more and more, while earning less and less.  I read an article yesterday that pointed out that the average American now works one whole month more per year than they did 25 years ago, while real wages have declined since 1972.  It’s no wonder we’re all at the ends of our ropes most of the time!  How on earth are we supposed to be also cooking from scratch, growing some of our own food, and avoiding toxic plastics and chemicals?  Furthermore, 70% of the American economy, again according to this article, is driven by consumption.  In short, we are in a vicious cycle of shopping and working (as beautifully depicted in the Story of Stuff video).  Indeed, when I lived and worked in the US, this was exactly my experience and my observation of those around me.  Things are less stressful in Canada, but we are heading in this direction in a big hurry.

So now that I’ve returned full-time to the working world, all of this is hitting me at once.  I’m tired and have been spending little time focused on what is most important to me.  The result is that those elements of my life that I cherish most deeply are slipping through my fingers like sand.  My relationship failed, my pantry is almost empty, my dogs are untrained and bored.  My house is a catastrophe.  My life has become solitary.  And all this after just two months of full-time work! Of course much of the trouble I am sure is readjusting to such a crazy pace of life, but it’s also making it very clear to me just how stressful life is for most people.  It’s the ‘stewed frog syndrome’ so to speak.  When it happens gradually, we don’t  notice the constant  ratcheting up of pressure that is cooking us.  When it happens all of a sudden, we are scaled!

I have been scalded.

So what to do about this?  This is my new challenge.  I am determined to figure this out.

This weekend I didn’t work.  Instead I spent my time focusing on getting what I can back into balance.  I slept.  A lot.  I did yoga.  I hiked my dogs.  And I cleaned my house.  Actually, I didn’t just clean my house, I attacked it!  I tackled my long ‘to-do’ list and got on top of a lot of things that were constantly nagging at me. I purged things I don’t need, or that left me feeling cluttered.  I even dragged my landlord’s ugly couch out of the living room, put up shelves along the windows and placed all my plants and books around the room to make it cozy and inviting.

I’ve decided to adopt an ‘if you build it they will come’ approach to my home and life.  By this I mean I need to live the life I want to be living, not just think about it.  This is what I did this summer – I fixed up  my house so that it could simply but comfortably welcome guests.  I cooked up a storm so that I had plenty of food for any visitors.  I kept good bottles of wine in case the mood struck us.  In short, I made my home inviting and lived in it as if I expected it to be full of love, and that’s exactly what happened!

And then this fall things got busy.  I let my guard down, I let things slide.  I took on too much.  And before I knew it, the space in my life for what made me happy quickly closed.  I justified this based ideas that I could put this on hold for a few weeks or months, and on the conclusion that no one would come visit me out in the middle of no-where in winter, so why bother?  Well of course no-one will come if there’s no space for them here!

And as for putting things on hold, this was a big mistake.  With the intense pressures of today’s society for us to put all that is important on the back burner in the name of earning an income, constant vigilance is in order.  We must guard that space, defend that balance.  We must work on it constantly, even if we only have a few minutes a day to do so.  How to accomplish this?  Well, that is now my challenge.  I need to figure out how to keep a roof over my head while simultaneously keeping room in my life and heart for friends, family, love, food, community, nature and of course, myself.

This is not going to be easy.  But even after two days of taking some time to focus on balance, I am feeling like a new person.  Rested and in a peaceful surrounding, my heart is on the mend and I am once again feeling energetic and happy.  I have created some space in which to find my centre, just as in the dream I had a few nights ago where I walked into the zen-like room and felt good.  Now I must defend it, nurture it, help it grow.

3 Responses

  1. I’m sorry things have been rough, and I agree with you…well, on everything, really. We seem to always work more and more for less and less, and trying to live in a way that’s different within that paradigm is really difficult. I’m just out of an intense work period where the apartment’s a disaster, I haven’t been eating that well or cooking as much a normal, and exercise is a distant memory. I also took the weekend off – tidied a bit, slept a lot and, most importantly, spent a lot of time reading and knitting on the couch. It hasn’t solved every problem, of course, but it’s nice to feel better enough that I can start to find a way towards working through what needs to be done both in terms of work and in living life more on my terms. I really hope you keep feeling better, and that things settle down a bit more and become more manageable.

  2. It is all absolutely true – and I admire your approach to your blog, which is very thoughtful. It’s funny. I was having a strangely similar conversation to someone about children. She has two children (I have one and unlikely to have another). And she said that she spent most of her time mediating between the two; that she didn’t find the extra labour of two kids tiring, but rather the emotional demands tiring. I really appreciated her candor, because what I so often am told is, “Oh, two children are easier because they look after each other,” downplaying the labour and effort involved and, conversely, denying that there might be benefits to having just one! Speaking candidly about life choices and challenges is important and I’m glad you did so here.

    • Thanks Barbara! I appreciate your supportive words. I haven’t had much time to write lately but I do plan on getting back to it regularly as soon as possible. Very interesting comment about two kids being more work in terms of having to mediate. I would indeed have never considered that either. We definitely need more dialogue about the basics of everyday life!

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