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“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.” ~ Jana Kingsford
Some of my best writing topics come from conversations I have with my girlfriends.
Recently, on a power walk with a friend, we were discussing the new year ahead as we always do in January and February, when things feel fresh. All the hopes and dreams we had for 2022 are now stale or dead and buried with no chance of resurrection.
She told me about a question she pondered with her family over the holidays. They were each asked to pick a “focus word” for 2023. She said she didn’t pick a word right away because she really wanted to think about it but eventually came up with one: wellness. For 2023, instead of once again dialing into diet, fitness, and new habits to “achieve an end goal” she would instead focus on simple wellness for her mind and soul, and hope the residual effects would trickle down to some weight loss and a healthier body.
I’ve thought about it a lot since our walk and came up with my own word for the coming year: balance. Most often, when I don’t feel balanced, it keeps me from the things I know will bring me happiness. I can’t seem to get out of my own way. Overbooked, and constantly running, I usually put myself last and pay the price. There’s no gas left in the tank for me.
I have to look at each day differently. Work, play, chores, healthy habits, socializing…each moment requires me to focus in a state of balance instead of varying degrees of catching up, killing time, or the worst—making time. Operating with balance in mind allows me to prioritize my activities in a way that should create some joy instead of chaos. It means slowing down a bit so I can put things in order of importance for myself.
Balance for me means knowing when I can’t solve a problem for someone else, and recognizing that I am not an expert in the life of another person. I don’t need to always help or give advice. Extension is wonderful, but carrying weight for others all the time creates toxic tension.
Balance for me means directing my energy toward what I want to do over the things I have to do (or think I have to do) before I can relax. I can start small. For example, I can find balance in the next hour by simply prioritizing what I’d like to do in the next hour. If I’ve had a long day at work, and I walk in the door at five, I don’t immediately have to start making dinner. I can sit down. I can relax and have a cup of water. I can go for a walk to clear my head. I can breathe. I can come back in a better mood to make healthy food choices or converse with my spouse. The hour after I get home from work need not be wasted, but I also don’t have to do anything super productive right away.
In the spirit of “passing it on,” each day we can do the following 12 things to find a bit of balance in our lives:
1. Listen before we speak.
2. Begin the process of winding down earlier at night, in order to get enough sleep and sleep better.
3. Wait before eating anything when we’re hungry.
4. Get out of bed 10 minutes earlier each day so we don’t feel rushed.
5. Learn something new to keep our spirits lively, even if no one cares to join in.
6. Clean something that needs a good cleaning.
7. Create something—try a recipe, paint a picture, write a chapter.
8. Fix something that needs fixing—even if it’s just screwing in a light bulb.
9. Send love to another living being.
10. Recognize, in the moment, the “energy-robbers” who throw off our balance.
11. Let the day flow instead of thinking about the past or the future.
12. Know that we are not alone, no matter what we’re feeling.
I have another friend who told me that ever since the onset of COVID-19, she just hasn’t been the same, and she can’t seem to get it back, whatever “it” was she had before. I connected with that sentiment immediately, and we shared a moment of support for one another. We quickly concluded maybe it’s okay we don’t feel the same—we are three years older, we’ve been through the ringer, and we don’t need to go back. We can progress forward and do things much differently than before. We can create a focus for the year instead of a goal.
Balance and wellness aren’t magical pinnacle places where everything feels good and done. They’re not things to achieve; they’re states of being to continually aspire toward. They’re an ever-evolving practice that may bring us a bit of steady flowing peace instead of the short-lived rush of accomplishment.
What’s your focus word for 2023?