[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. – Goethe[/mk_blockquote]
I’ve been tired and cranky lately. Always stressed. Constantly dashing. This isn’t totally surprising. After all, I’m in a stage of life that is notoriously busy – managing not only my own hectic schedule but those of three just-as-busy-as-me teens. I remind myself regularly that this is a stage – and a fleeting one at that. Soon enough, my kids will be able to drive and won’t need me to chauffeur them around town. Soon enough, they’ll be off at college and beyond and I’ll be left to fill my own days to brimming (or not) as I see fit.
But these thoughts, meant to be palliative, add a tinge of sadness to my crankiness. My knee-jerk reaction to them is that I don’t want this time to end. I don’t want to rush a single second. I don’t want to miss a minute.
It is in this instant that I get a clear glimpse of my actual problem. It isn’t the class schedule at my studio. It isn’t that I’m teaching more than I ever have. It isn’t that the volunteer project that I’m involved with has collided with a deadline for the yoga book I’m in the midst of. It isn’t any of the things I keep analyzing and studying to see if they’re the reason for my mood. It isn’t any of these things because these things are my work. I love what I do. I value it and it adds great meaning to my life.
While the reason for my crankiness isn’t my work, per se, my work is at the root of the problem. Simply put, my work has overreached its bounds in my life. The fact that it is so rewarding and that I feel so called to do it, helped to blind me as it happened. As my work has grown, it has thrown the balance between my life and my priorities out of whack. This imbalance, not my pace or the fullness of my days, is the source of the sadness and crankiness that I feel when I fall into bed each night.
Though priorities will vary person to person, as will the ratio that feels balanced, psychologists have narrowed down a group of priorities that seems to fit most. These are typically depicted on pie charts. Work. Family. Friends. Love. Self. Sleep. Some charts include a slice for chores, which I think is a good idea, as they certainly don’t fit well into any of the other areas although they do have a nasty habit of consuming time. My work slice has squeezed the other slices to a point where it’s become uncomfortable. Though I love and value all that I’m doing each day, the fact that I am not living in synch with my priorities is making me cranky.
I’m in desperate need of a realignment. Not of my priorities. They’re actually fine. I want to spend as much time as I can with my husband and kids (and maybe, just maybe, see a friend or two), and to fill the rest of my days with my practice and work. The problem is that I’ve allowed my daily schedule to get out of synch with my priorities. This happened a little bit at a time – the sum total of many, seemingly inconsequential choices. Each time I said yes to one more little commitment – “after all, it’s for the church.” Each time I added a lesson or a class – “after all, she’s doing so well!” Each time I agreed to another meeting – “Everyone else Is making time to attend.” Each time I thought, “Well, it’s only one thing, I can probably squeeze it in.” Each of these choices, despite my good intentions, helped to throw my life a little more out of balance.
Being out of balance is a curious thing to watch. Most people slip slowly out of balance. In a yoga class, I can actually watch it happening. As if in slow motion, my student’s standing leg will lose energy, the ribs on one side will start to droop toward their hip, one shoulder may start to crunch up toward their ear (as if that could somehow hold them up!) or their back may begin to curve forward. The instant they realize that they’re out of balance all slowness disappears. Usually, their arms suddenly whip out to the side or even flail around. Sometimes, their whole body jerks upright. Sometimes, they even yelp or gasp.
Nine times out of ten, it’s not the slow slip out of balance that knocks them over. It’s their sudden, quick, forceful correction that takes care of that. If I’m right there behind them, we can, together, sometimes salvage the posture. My quiet suggestions are not anything brilliant or earth-shattering. Rather, they are a steady repetition of the basics of our opening standing position, Samasthiti. “Steady. Power up your foundation. Lift your sternum. Engage your core. Breathe.” These basics are essentially a return to the priorities of every yoga posture – calm, focus, finding a sturdy foundation, extension of the spine, awareness of the center and the breath. With these priorities again at the helm, it is possible to save any posture, even one that is precariously out of balance.
Now that I’ve recognized that my priorities have slipped out of balance, I must choose how to respond. Like my students who knock themselves over trying not to fall, my instincts scream in a panic, desperately seeking an immediate solution, a quick fix. “You need to cut classes from your schedule! Work less!! Be more present for the kids before they leave home!!! Pay more attention to your marriage!!!! To the house!!!!! To the dog …” Luckily, the yoga teacher in me is quietly suggesting another possibility. Hers is much less hasty and more thoughtful than her reactive counterpart. “Let’s get back to the basics. What matters most to you? What feeds your spirit? What do you love?”
A deep breath and I realize that shuttering my studio would be shuttering one of the brightest spots in my days. Another deep breath and I realize that neither the kids nor my husband are around for me to care for or to dote upon all day. A third deep breath and I realize that I don’t want to spend more time working around the house or taking care of my dog. Another, and I can almost laugh with relief – simply remembering what’s truly important to me has proven to be a big step in resetting my balance. From this perspective, the adjustments I need to make actually seem do-able. From this perspective, balance appears to be totally salvageable.
PS. I am already feeling decidedly less cranky.