?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Standing on my head

This is a rambling post initially inspired by something a number of my LJ friends are posting about today:

http://mrissa.livejournal.com/606197.html
What I would like you all to do--and any of your friends and family who want to, the more the merrier--is think about balance in your lives. It applies in all sorts of places. So I would really, really appreciate it if you could do something to bring about a little more balance in your own life, and then come over to my lj to comment or write me an e-mail to tell me about it. It could be very literal, doing a few yoga poses or balancing your checkbook. Or it could be a lot more abstract than that. Leave work on time that Friday to give non-work activities more of their place in your life. Read hard SF if you've mostly been reading high fantasy. Spend more time by yourself if you've been feeling pushed into more extroversion than you have available. Call your grandmother if you feel like you haven't had enough time with family and are lucky enough to still have one. Balance, balance, balance.

Please? This is frankly pretty hard for me, and I would kind of like to put it in a larger context rather than feeling alone with it.
And http://mrissa.livejournal.com/612058.html

What I find most interesting about these posts are the semi-stated and semi-unstated definitions of "balance." Balance your checkbook, do yoga, read something different, talk to someone you don't usually talk to. Why do those things count as "balance"?

Some of the comments and some of the other people making posts referencing this post suggest that balance is about improving your posture, or about figuring out what's important to you and doing more of it, or about figuring out what's not so important to you and doing less of it.

I am having a weird emotional reaction to the term. When I hear the term applied to life, I think of balancing on a tightrope or on one leg. I think of "doing something very difficult where I have to be ultrafocused every second and constantly readjusting." That sounds unpleasant to me.

When I think of what I want my life to be like, terms like "smooth" and "flow" and "movement" come to mind. I used to think, and to a certain extent still do think, that I'm living my life right when something comes into my life that I feel a strong sense of "rightness" about and I grab onto that and let it lead me somewhere. On the one hand, I've been rethinking that because the big epiphany moments of "Aha! This is my purpose now!" seem to be coming more rarely. On the other hand I think moments of "feeling right" about doing smaller things come more often.

I do sometimes feel like making specific goals of the "I will do X by Y" variety, but when I make those goals they mostly don't seem to help me achieve X. In other words it is not the fact of having a goal that leads me to achieve X. It's something else—it's because on some less accessible level I want to do X/ it feels right to do X, and in that case I will do it whether or not I have explicitly set a goal....although articulating the goal does help me focus on it a bit more.

The only external motivator that will help me achieve X is if I promise someone to do it. But I am very cautious about making promises and won't make a promise if I am not pretty sure the internal motivation is there. So I can't use such promises to "trick" myself into doing something that I wouldn't do otherwise.

Something in me feels suspicious of predicting the future, and I think of making explicit and detailed goals as predicting the future. When I ask myself what I am suspicious of, it works out to something like a superstition of the variety "If you say that something will happen, it won't happen." It also works out to feeling that it is very wrong for me to be mistaken, as if there is someone watching who will leap around with glee pointing a finger at me and saying "AHA! You were WRONG!" if I explicitly state that something will happen and then it doesn't happen.

I actually end up projecting this onto other people, so if people state goals, I sometimes feel worried and/or embarrassed on their behalf.

This mental entity is also a reason why I have historically avoided talking very much about my feelings. If I communicate that I feel a certain way and then later on I don't (which often happens, feelings being fleeting), I feel humiliated. On some level I think that I should only communicate something if it is going to remain true for a long time. (Or if I know it won't, I have an obligation to communicate that, too.)

I know darn well that no one is watching what I say every nanosecond trying to find inconsistencies. And if I am conscious enough to remind myself of that, the tendency does not affect my behavior all that much. But most of the time I am not consciously thinking about it, and then it does affect my behavior. Not only my external behavior (what I communicate) but also my internal behavior. I habitually slide into being pretty unaware of my feelings. I would rather feel them and then choose whether to engage with them or not, than to not feel them at all. Mindfulness meditation has been helping me with that and now it's a little easier for me to check in with myself and have an answer to "What sorts of things am I feeling right now?"

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
crazed_lynn
Feb. 13th, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)
I, too, have a "reaction" to the very idea that one has to bring balance to one's life. And I really don't care much how one defines balance. It is as if one should be doing X to offset Y and Q to offest W and B to offset L because too much of Y, W, or L is bad or wrong.

What comes to mind are good things to counteract bad things. I think it is a whole lot more pleasant to just give up the idea that there are bad things.
firecat
Feb. 14th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
I didn't really see any "you should's" in the posts I read, and I haven't given up the idea that there are bad things (although I contemplate the idea in my Buddhist meditations), but I'm OK with thinking in terms of "Is this beneficial to do?" rather than, as you say, "Do I need more of this because I have a lot of that?"
(Deleted comment)
firecat
Feb. 14th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
Yes, I distrust culturally created oppositions. I guess part of the reason I distrust them is that I see a habit of my culture to reduce conversations to "this vs. that" and I would rather have conversations like "this and then this and what about that and look at this other thing!" And I see some notions of "balance" reinforcing the "this vs. that" habit.

I like your "I am the moderator" metaphor.

I tend to think of all the things I want to do in life as like a deck of cards. I can't do them all at once. So sometimes I put a card down and pick up another. Or, like Fluxxx, sometimes I put one down and pick up three, or vice versa, and sometimes I encounter a card somewhere I didn't know about before and add it to the deck, and sometimes I lose a card down the sofa cushions, and...
eveningstartwo
Feb. 14th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
I also like your metaphor. I think about balance as more of a all round thing as opposed to an either/or. Picture the Wii balance board where one must balance in all planes not just two.
(Deleted comment)
firecat
Feb. 15th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
I can see how that would work better than balancing. Personally neither works for me because of the implication that I'm doing something difficult that requires hyperfocus. If there were any kind of juggling that felt easy to me I might feel differently, but I've never learned how.
beaq
Feb. 14th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
"I would rather feel them and then choose whether to engage with them or not, than to not feel them at all. Mindfulness meditation has been helping me with that and now it's a little easier for me to check in with myself and have an answer to 'What sorts of things am I feeling right now?'"

That sounds pretty balanced.

:-)
firecat
Feb. 14th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
I'll take your word for it :-)
miz_geek
Feb. 14th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
I find it really interesting that you think of balancing on a tightrope or on one leg. The mental picture I have is of the zodiac scales used for Libra.

To me, balance means that my life isn't too lopsided, that I'm not being pulled over too much to one side or another (or veering wildly out of control). I think "smooth" and "flow" would describe this, too. I don't know that I have any specific idea of what "too much" is.

I guess I don't think of it as balancing two things against each other, but as balancing real life against my mental list of what's important to me.
firecat
Feb. 14th, 2009 04:54 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think if I had the same mental picture that you do, or maybe something like "riding a bicycle," I would feel differently about the term "balance."
wild_irises
Feb. 14th, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
The big message I'm getting from my work in Portland is "be more unbalanced." While this is basically a way to think about my life, I also find myself leaning back so my chair is on two legs instead of four, or doing other "unbalanced" things.

Maybe I'm looking for a "balance" between being balanced and being unbalanced? Who knows? I just know I like the space where I'm between balances.

Thanks for writing this!
firecat
Feb. 14th, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
The big message I'm getting from my work in Portland is "be more unbalanced."

Fascinating!
aquaeri
Feb. 16th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
I resonated with quite a lot you said here, although "balance" for me is about riding a bicycle, not a tightrope walk :-). But I do very definitely resonate with the ideas about not having grand goals and plans, but things coming up and me recognising them and saying "yes!" to them. I don't feel embarrassed for other people having grand goals and plans, so much as awkward, because they tend to see the world in a way where I don't feel I fit in as a worthwhile entity, if that makes the remotest bit of sense.
firecat
Feb. 16th, 2009 06:16 am (UTC)
I definitely struggle sometimes with the worry that a certain sort of person looks down on me because I don't plan out my life very much. Mostly I feel that the critical voices come from inside me.

Heh. Maybe instead of celebrating a "more in balance" holiday, I will celebrate a "no shoulds holiday."
aquaeri
Feb. 16th, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
I think as I understand the original spirit of the idea, that would be entirely appropriate :-).
lcohen
Feb. 16th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
Something in me feels suspicious of predicting the future, and I think of making explicit and detailed goals as predicting the future. When I ask myself what I am suspicious of, it works out to something like a superstition of the variety "If you say that something will happen, it won't happen." It also works out to feeling that it is very wrong for me to be mistaken, as if there is someone watching who will leap around with glee pointing a finger at me and saying "AHA! You were WRONG!" if I explicitly state that something will happen and then it doesn't happen.

I actually end up projecting this onto other people, so if people state goals, I sometimes feel worried and/or embarrassed on their behalf.

This mental entity is also a reason why I have historically avoided talking very much about my feelings. If I communicate that I feel a certain way and then later on I don't (which often happens, feelings being fleeting), I feel humiliated. On some level I think that I should only communicate something if it is going to remain true for a long time. (Or if I know it won't, I have an obligation to communicate that, too.)


i didn't have a strong reaction to the word "balance" but i had a very strong resonance with this particular thing. this right here is the heart of the problem for me with what happened when i posted about getting my switch flipped. i posted the day after and i was right about some things but i was very wrong about other aspects--and i felt bad about that. and i am probably too hard on myself and you are probably too hard on yourself, but that doesn't make that feeling go away.

there's probably more for me to chew on.
firecat
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you are being hard on yourself but it helps me to know I'm not alone in this feeling. I look forward to anything you care to share about your further ruminations.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

March 2018
S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by chasethestars