Finding balance in life has been a concern of mine for a long time.
From the number of times it comes up in conversation, it appears to be
a major concern for many others as well. My struggle for balance came
to a head recently with a series of inexplicable dizzy spells.
Admittedly, I’ve been running non-stop since my mother passed away
suddenly two years ago—abandoning a work situation where I felt
inspired but unappreciated, leaving a 20-year relationship with my
husband to find out who I was and to find opportunities to grow,
abandoning my self-care practices to commit myself fully to my career,
taking no ‘time out’ to rest or recoup. I left behind my sense of
security and let go of my connections to the past—even changing my
name. The race I’ve been running and the choices I’ve made have often
left me feeling ‘unbalanced’ and disoriented.

When I was growing up, following my parents’ and grandparents’ dictums that “Anything in moderation is good” and “Excess is to be avoided” made sense. When an activity, relationship or even a purpose becomes all-consuming, we’re liable to suffer in some way. So I’ve struggled, trying over the years to ‘get it right’ and not make mistakes in an effort to follow my elders’ sage advice and live a ‘balanced life’.

What I’ve recently realized is that when we end up ‘overdoing it’ (whether it’s in terms of working, playing, relating, shopping or whatever), we’ve essentially stopped choosing. We’re doing whatever we’re doing because we should or have to…not because we’re choosing to. A workaholic is as compulsive as a shopaholic or a hedonist. Every ‘-aholic’ is seeking instant gratification, a never-ending spiral of ‘hits’ from whatever source gives them that sense of immediate feedback. The problem is that eventually, the source of the ‘hit’ stops having the same impact: its effectiveness dissipates over time. Whatever it is we were initially doing to ‘feel good’ (or in my case to do the ‘right thing’) ends up being a burden and a source of suffering and struggle.

This perennial struggle to ‘get it right’ is what I think most people are talking about when they speak about work/life balance. Since I think I have a problem with this, I probably do. So today I’m looking at whether I have actually been choosing in the moment, or whether my ‘ism’ has been choosing for me. Regrettably, I admit that, until now, my workaholism has made my choices.

The point is that now I can see that the lack of balance is a kind of signal or ‘red flag’ to let me know that I have gone too far and am either out of control or in danger of losing control. It is my ‘chooseometer’, giving me feedback that it is time to stop and get clear that life is just a series of choices and that when I am choosing everything is in balance and when I am not choosing it really doesn’t matter whether I am at home or work because either way isn’t giving me what I really want. And as the old adage goes, “We can’t ever get enough of what we don’t really want”.

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