Dear Ones –
The other night at my event in St Paul, a young woman asked me about how I achieve balance in my life.
First of all, I love that she thinks I have achieved balance in my life!
Secondly, I felt the need to speak out once more against the subtle tyranny of the word BALANCE, which I think haunts and punishes modern women more and more every day.
We are constantly being told that we should be achieving balance — that we should somehow exquisitely be negotiating the relationships between our work lives, our home lives, our romantic lives, our health and well-being, our spiritual selves. You can’t read an interview with a famous woman these days that the journalist does not applaud her for having achieved BALANCE….and then if you turn the pages of that magazine, you will find ten more articles showing how you can achieve balance. too!
The word BALANCE has tilted dangerously close, I fear, to the word PERFECT — another word that women use as weapons against themselves and each other.
To say that someone has found the secret to a balanced life is to suggest that they have solved life, and that they now float through their days in a constant state of grace and ease, never suffering stress, ambivalence, confusion, exhaustion, anger, fear, or regret. Which is a wonderful description of nobody, ever.
Balance, when we do find it, is a breathtakingly temporary condition. We stand upon a world that spins at 2000 miles an hour. Our minds, meanwhile, spin at 200,000 miles an hour. We collide every day with other humans who are also sliding and spinning wildly. The landscape of our lives, therefore, changes by the minute. You find your balance one day and think, “Hooray! I have solved it” and then five minutes later the world utterly transforms again, and you’re knocked on your ass one more time.
That’s just how life is on this planet — messy, fast, out of control, unpredictable. It’s all terribly interesting, but also terribly unstable.
That being the case, I dropped the myth of BALANCE a long time ago. (I buried it right next to PERFECT.) My life seems happiest — as I tried to explain to this young woman the other night — when I just surrender to the madness, and embrace the glorious mess that I am…and also when I embrace the glorious mess that everyone else is, and the glorious mess of the world itself. My life gets the most painful when I try to set the entire mess (myself other people, life itself) into order.
The world is like a dropped pie most of the time. Don’t kill yourself trying to put it back together. Just grab a fork and eat some of it off the floor. Then carry on.
If you can get some stuff done in the chaos sometimes, god bless you. If you can basically hold it together, propping yourself up with duct tape and glue, rock on. If you can manage stay upright even one hour a day, you’re doing pretty great, as far as I’m concerned. And if you can be kind to the other stumbling fools around you half the time — well, that’s just heroic.
Basically, I think we are all just sloppy stupendous champions.
~Elizabeth Gilbert, Facebook post, July 13, 2014