Striking the balance.

I’m a Libra so apparently I’m balanced.

These days I’m finding it increasingly difficult.

How to steady the tightrope between work and play, offline and online; craving the energy of a big city and wanting to escape to the countryside?

This weekend was good to restore some balance. I did the sorts of things that have been lacking in my lifestyle lately. Cooking, wine-drinking, reading books, creating things, playing with the dog. Switched off the screens and paid attention to what’s happening around me.

Over New Years I did the same. A week off the grid in the rainforest.

I don’t always have the option to run away to ‘tech rehab’. Neither do I have the want.

It’s what Hugh McLeod calls The Sex & Cash Theory, ‘balancing the need to make a good living while still maintaining one’s creative sovereignty.’

Whether it’s making a living or making it all work, if you are a human, you are going to struggle with duality in your life.

The “sexy” stuff – creating art, jumping out of planes, writing that novel – doesn’t match up with the “cash”, the things we do to survive, like day jobs, sleep and eating.

We are told it can though. That we can make it all work. If we just try a bit harder.

Women often bring up this debate around work/home life balance. Artists inevitably struggle with the tension between doing creative work and  ‘work that pays the bills’.

So what to make of it?

I’ve come round to thinking that chasing any harmony is going to be a lot of hard work. Possibly elusive. You are chasing things that are always going to be in direct conflict.

The exciting part is owning up to that chaos. The division between wanting to be one way or the other does not result in two discrete entities, but rather a continuum from one extreme to the other.

The idealistic picture you have of freedom – the pot of gold you are chasing – is not necessarily the one you really want. Do you really want to sit on a beach every single day and never work again?

We want a variety of things. Not just to create art or to be in a movie or get paid to play video games or be part of the NY Knicks; we want to eat, sleep, drink, talk, and dream some more.

Dad and I were looking at black and white photographs tonight. We got talking about what makes a monochrome picture amazing. It’s not just the white and black but the range of shades in between.

So who are you, really, and what do you want? Lots, I reckon.

9 comments

  1. Yes, I find it tough to strike the balance and I also experience a lot of ups and downs in the process. Some days I have found harmony (finally) and that very next day… I’m lost and far from it. I’m a Libra as well, but the scale of life isn’t evenly weighted I guess.

  2. Nice post Bryony. Being Leo, it is all or nothing and balance is just a concept. I find that I am flat out working or flat out resting. Case in point, tried to ‘ease’ into the new year work schedule and gave up after 6 hours. My thinking was, I either work or not. Doing things in half measures just didn’t suit. Doing what you love and paying the bills… thats another matter for sure.

  3. Hans Rosling says in one of his talks that our vision of a modern and rapidly evolving country is measured the wrong way. He says “culture” should be the no. 1 measure – the concept that how we relate and support each other through deep, rich connections is that makes a country successful, not necessarily ‘wealth’ as it’s traditionally measured. I think the work life balance is about saying “what do I absolutely have to do to earn the money my family ‘NEEDS’ ?” Then do that money earning work. But that is all. Fill up the rest of the 168 hrs. we have each week with those items that give us connections – time spent in communion with our family, friends, laughing, eating well made foods, listening to music and in nurturing our spirit and being immersed in ‘nature’. I think short term, money satisfies us. But long term, it’s our memories of ‘moments’ (not unlike the concept of the ‘Kodak Moment’ of advertisements) that sustain us, enrich us and give us solace as we age, become slow, and die – as we all will.

  4. Addendum

    The Dalai Lama was asked what surprised him the most;
    he said, “Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
    Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
    And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
    the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
    he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”.

  5. Great post Bryony. I too am a Libran and really struggle when my scales are out of balance. Like you say though, this is probably not unique for those of us born in September and October.

    I want it to be more OK for us to step back and rebalance. Too often the expectation of ‘go, go, go, I’ve gotta get this done’ takes over and we don’t put ourselves as priority number one (oops, I didn’t mean for that to rhyme).

    Take a moment or two of zen in the craziness of the ‘have to do’ and you’ll find yourself doing more of the ‘want to do’.

    Thanks for making me stop and think.

    K

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