I’m a black and white person. I don’t really like middles or in between. Either it is, or it ain’t.
But I’m learning, slowly, that’s not the way things are. Yes, there are some things that are black and white, but much of life is lived in a tension between the two.
I don’t do tension well.
I’ve fought it for years, especially after becoming a parent. You always hear about perfecting the “balance” between parenting and everything else, and up until recently, I bought into the lie. I had thought there was some magical recipe for achieving that balance. A perfect schedule, a certain number of hours spent playing, an answer to the problem of balance.
I’ve realized this past week there is no answer.
Balance in its very essence is a tension. A tension between the many extremes pulling at you, all wanting their way. If there was no tension, there would be no need for balance.
Think of it as someone trying to balance on a ball. They are being pulled in every direction the ball wants to roll. As they are trying to balance, they shift one way then another. Sometimes they may be able to stand perfectly still, for a moment, but usually they are being pulled toward one extreme or the other. To lean completely to one extreme is to lose their balance and fall, but in moving between the extremes, never giving totally into one for long, balance is achieved.
In this case, there is no perfect answer. It’s an ebb and flow. Realizing there is no perfect answer has brought understanding in a way no one answer could. Right now I balance between the tensions of work, chores, and family. My tendency is to be goal oriented. To be tenacious in one thing until it is completed. But writing, teaching, chores, and family are all on going processes. They are never really finished or complete, and all fall apart without regular attention.
So how do I find balance? That perfect middle. In my realization this week, I realized I don’t. Some weeks like last week will lean more to the family side. The boys and I played outside enjoying the few remaining days of warmth. When we tired of warm, we pretended it was a rainy day and had hot chocolate, popcorn, and a movie. On Friday the boys helped me clean the house, and I only accomplished one chore of my long list that day, but they were willing and happy to help. Something I hold onto when it happens.
This week is leaning more toward chores and work. I had to finally address the floors that had begun to support colonies of who knows what. When my Shark Vac broke in the middle of doing the floors, I had to take a few hours to fix it and put it back together. Then since a class just ended, I let the boys watch a movie while I furiously graded papers close by. On Friday I did get my long list done, but a rainy afternoon allowed for playing games and watching movies together.
Realizing that there is no perfect answer has brought a peace, but not the one I had hoped for. I had hoped God would grant me the formula for getting it all just right, to be able to live without the tension altogether. Instead, He’s teaching me to walk with Him daily in the tension. Asking each morning, each moment, what this day needs, and trusting Him to lead me through it.
This. Is. Hard. I won’t tell you that I love it when my floors become worlds of their own, while I’m off playing outside. But I do love playing with two boys, being the one to watch them smile, look into their eyes, and laugh with them. I don’t love it when I need to sit them in front of the TV just for a few moments of peace to finish up grading, but I do love the opportunities that job provides for our family.
It’s all a balance. A constant movement between the tensions pulling at you. The answer I’m discovering isn’t in the amount of hours given to each task or relationship on a given day. It’s found in weaving them all together, allowing them each to pull harder on some days than others, and trusting God to lead. Balance is achieved not in perfecting, but in allowing each tension, each relationship their turn to pull and in remembering to return to center and find that moment of balance once again before allowing the others their time, too.