Balancing Act

"Keep going, come on!  Pick up the pace!  We're going to catch them!"

“Keep going, come on! Pick up the pace! We’re going to catch them!”

I’ve been thinking about the feeling that there are things I have to do.  I find myself wondering if there is a way to bring the joy I feel when I do the things I want to do to the things I think I have to do.

After all, do I really have to do anything?

"Let's go!  Let's go!  Let's go!  We're getting there!"

“Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go! We’re getting there!”

Yes, I have to eat.  Yes, I have to drink (at least water).  And, yes, I have to sleep.  I enjoy all of those things none-the-less.  For example, I can eat just to fill my belly, grabbing whatever happens to be convenient and edible (which I still enjoy, truth be told) or I can make a really delicious and nutritious meal that makes me feel cared for and grateful.

Similarly, I can drag myself off to bed far too late and flop myself between the sheets feeling like I wasted another day.  Or, I can be aware of when I’m getting sleeping, decide I need to rest and enjoy sliding into bed, allowing myself to sink into the mattress with a feeling of bliss.

"We're going the wrong way!  We're never going to catch them now!"

“We’re going the wrong way! We’re never going to catch them now!”

Is it what we do that counts or how we do it?

Having a job means getting things done whether we want to do them or not.  Is it possible to learn to really enjoy what we do day-to-day?  I enjoy feeling like I can take complex problems and break them down to tasks that can be achieved.  I enjoy feeling like I came up with an idea that will work.  I enjoy feeling like I can bring my own unique contribution to the table.  Is that enough?

Realistically, it’s hard to enjoy every single thing that we do from the moment we get out of bed to the moment we retire.  I mean, can I really learn to take joy in taking out the trash?  How does the concept of “I am enough” apply when it comes to the mundane aspects of life?

"They're too far away.  Let's head back to the lake."

“They’re too far away. Let’s head back to the lake.”

I don’t think the implication is that we should set limits that say “I’m not going to take out the trash because it’s not a task I enjoy.”  After all, I do not enjoy having trash laying around my home.  I do enjoy having a house clean and orderly enough to look like it’s inhabited by humans.

Perhaps this is really another balance point.  Spending enough time on housework to feel comfortable in the space without doing things for the sake of what I think other people would think if they stopped by.  Is that enough?

AU0A9007

“This looks familiar. How many times have we flown over this lake?

And how do I take the concept of enough to work?  It is impossible for me to ever do enough to feel like I’ve done everything I could do–there aren’t enough hours in the day.    I guess enough means finding the balance between feeling like I’ve made progress and allowing myself the time I need to do other things that are important to me.

Is “enough” just a new word for “balance”?

Off in the distance

Off in the distance

For the Joy of It

"Should we land?"  "Maybe."  "I need to know--I've got my landing gear down!"  "Well, I don't know . . ."

“Should we land?” “Maybe.” “I need to know–I’ve got my landing gear down!” “Well, I don’t know . . .”

I recently read “Daring Greatly,” which has led to the concept of “enough” reappearing in my life for yet another lesson since I haven’t internalized it.

It’s a hard concept.  It means acknowledging that we are flawed, incomplete, wrong, and sometimes downright ornery, and it’s enough.  It’s about knowing our limits, ending perfectionism, and focusing on the completeness of “enough” rather than on what we aren’t, what we haven’t gotten done, and what we don’t have.

"Naw--not yet.  Let's fly another circle."

“Naw–not yet. Let’s fly another circle.”

I’m not so good at enough.  People who know me well say things about me like, “she doesn’t do anything at less than 110%.”  I get obsessed.  I go all-in.  Then I get frustrated by my imperfection and usually move on.

I’m pretty good at balancing enough when it comes to time management skills.  It can be measured and monitored and limited in ways I understand well.

"Are you serious?  Now you decide!"

“Are you serious? Now you decide!”

Where I have more trouble with the concept of “enough” is figuring out when I’m doing something for the joy of it vs the desire to please.  I find that when I do things out of the desire to please, it ends up pleasing no one, least of all me.  Who wants to be around someone who is feeling resentful and put upon because they’re fulfilling an obligation they don’t feel up to fulfilling?

On the flip side, when I do something for the joy of doing it, the only pain I experience is cramping in my smile muscles.  There are certain things that just make me feel joyful.  Sharing something I love with someone else who’s interested is a biggie.  It’s the same experience as giving someone a really great gift–it just feels like I have the ability to make a difference when I can give someone else something they want–especially if they never knew they wanted it.

"Let's join that group!"

“Let’s join that group!”

This begs the question:  what is the difference between joyfully sharing something I love and getting joy from people enjoying it vs trying to please others?

Perhaps the difference is how vested I am in the others enjoying it?  Maybe there is only a hair-breadth’s difference between sharing my joy in something without needing someone else to approve vs feeling more or less lovable based on whether others approve or not?

After all, when someone is just sharing what they love without the expectation of reciprocation, it’s hard not to catch their joy.

If I do something purely out of joy, I can allow the space for someone not to be as excited as I am.  In allowing that space, it almost guarantees they will at least appreciate my joy if not experience their own.

If I do something because I think it will please someone, I need them to be pleased.  That need creates a sense of expectation that can cause push back or resistance–why should they be obligated?  It reduces the chances of pleasure all the way around.

I’m not sure I really understand this, but I think I’m making progress.

Soaring over the lake

“We’re never going to catch them now–More altitude!”

The Road Not Taken

"Fly left!"  "You Fly left!"  "I am flying left!"

“Fly left!” “You Fly left!” “I am flying left!”

At the Sandhill Crane Festival, a woman who seemed to know the refuge well told us about a pond that was supposedly a short walk away.  She advised us to follow the rope that had been erected to keep people in the viewing area from wandering too far into the refuge.

When we reached the end of the roped-off area, a gravel road led in the direction the woman had indicated.  I had a moment when I wondered if we were supposed to go down this road or not and thought briefly about going back and asking one of the wildlife officers, but I reasoned that walking a road with no sign and no rope in front of it would be OK as long as we didn’t stray off the road.

"Darn it!  I told you to fly left!!"

“Darn it! I told you to fly left!!”

We went about 200 yards when we suddenly heard a fast-moving vehicle approaching.  It was coming in so fast, we moved off the road in fear of being run over.  It slid to a halt on the gravel and two wildlife officers jumped out of the truck.  One was moving with the energy of someone in the midst of a flight-or-fight adrenaline response.  He looked irritated and sounded angry.  I don’t remember what he said, but what he communicated was that he viewed us as either idiots or criminals for not realizing we weren’t supposed to walk on this road.

"I give up.  Just go wherever."

“I give up. Just go wherever.”

We responded amicably, but felt obligated to explain.  No matter how pleasant we were, his accusing tone did not diminish.  Afterwards, for my husband, who felt like he had pushed the point home that it was not unreasonable that we would think it was OK to walk down a road, the incident was over within minutes.

I, on the other hand, felt like I was a bad person for not asking first.  Feeling bad quickly turned to anger, “Why would he think it was obvious we weren’t supposed to walk down a road?  Why was he so angry about it?  It was a simple mistake–he didn’t need to be so upset!”

"Hey, you up there!  Mind if we join you?"

“Hey, you up there! Mind if we join you?”

I played this scene over and over in my mind, thinking of different things to say ranging from sarcasm to empathy that either ended in cutting him down to size or connecting with him and having him understand that I’m a nice person who made a mistake.

In the end, I realized that, of course, this is really about an inappropriate need to please others.

Feeling like there’s someone out there who will tell a story about me being stupid (or worse) hurts.  I want to take the story out of that person’s mouth and rewrite it.  But the only person who suffers is me as I waste time inside my head writing a script for a new exchange that will never happen.   That time would have been better spent enjoying being with my husband, my dog, the sunshine, the glory of life.

After all, I am enough.  Mistakes and all.

 

"Sure--just fall in line!"

“Sure–just fall in line!”

On the Subject of Enough

Turkey's Tail

Turkey’s Tail

Enough is one of those concepts that seems deceptively simple.  When someone is serving up a giant portion of something, we say, “oh, that’s enough, thank you” to let them know we can’t eat that much.

But what is enough?

I'll lichen you if you lichen me

I’ll lichen you if you lichen me

According to Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin, when it comes to money, “enough” is the intersection between being able to cover your needs/comforts and still having time and energy to enjoy them.  It’s the point when to obtain more would have diminishing returns.

According to Brene Brown, “enough” is about sufficiency:  “Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.”

More turkey's tail

More turkey’s tail

Yet, we are collectively bad at knowing when something is sufficient.  This may be an American culture thing, but let’s just take a look at cars.  How many Americans drive giant SUVs designed for off-roading?  How many actually drive off road.  Ever.  It’s like buying a mountain bike to ride on a paved bike path.  If you’ve ever ridden a mountain bike on pavement and then hopped on a road bike, you understand the physics behind “efficiency” in a deeply personal way.

The color purple

The color purple

A road bike is enough for riding on the road.  More rubber in big nobby tires, more bounce in soft springy shocks, more strength in a big frame all adds up to more work to go forward.  If you don’t need to ride through mud puddles, over tree stumps, or up incredibly steep slopes, a road bike is enough.

But where we get into trouble is the day we decide, after having purchased a beautiful road bike, we want to try mountain biking.  Soon, we have a mountain bike and a road bike hanging side-by-side in the garage.  Now, when we want the mountain bike, the road bike is in the way and vise versa.  It suddenly takes a certain amount of space and twice as much time to get the bike we “need” down and put it away again.  Before we know it we’ve gotten so irritated by getting one bike out of the way to get the other bike down, we’ve given up on biking all together.

Log covered in Turkey's Tail

Log covered in Turkey’s Tail

So, we decide both bikes are too much and we sell them.  But now, we are not getting enough exercise.

I don’t actually know where I’m going with this, but I think the message is the same in all cases.  Enough is a balance point.  Whether we’re talking about money, cars, bikes, or our sense of worthiness, it’s a balance between what we think we need and what we’re willing to give up to have it.

So, how do we know we are enough if we don’t know where that balance point is?

 

Not-flying Saucer

Not-flying Saucer