Sunday, January 17, 2010

the balance beam.

i have been thinking a fair bit about how to achieve more balance in my life. it seems to be more and more relevant in recent years, not just for me but also for the people around me. i think it might be one of the bigger challenges for folks at my stage of life, world 'round.

a lot of people seem to settle into a fairly domesticated routine. routines are comfortable. routines allow us to feel in control of our lives. and the domesticated routines allow for higher productivity. all of these are positive outcomes, and yet the thought of each day being identical to the ones before it, and after it, prevents me from ever truly imposing the most productive routines on my life.

comfort, control and productivity are all things i seek. but i also enjoy interaction with other people more than almost anything else. the domesticated routine almost without fail, limits us most in the social pieces of our pie. while my social pie piece has never been all that small, i have noticed that most folks who have become more domesticated over years have by necessity shrunk down their social pie piece... and mine has actually grown in recent years. the cancer blip was probably a large part of it. being that sick taught me a lot of things, and by far the biggest lesson was that none of the other pieces of the pie will ever matter as much as the people in our lives. we can strive to be productive, domesticated efficiency machines, and to an extent we all should -- but no job, hobbies or activities will ever shape our lives nearly as much as the people in them.

there are few things i enjoy more than real conversation, even if it is hypothesizing for hours about why the world seems to work the way it does. i also love meeting new people, if nothing else but for fresh perspectives. i think i might always need these parts of my life, but i don't want them to always trump the other pieces of my pie.

close to a year in india has also made me acutely aware of how focused on efficiency we are at home. everything is focused on using every minute of our day in the most efficient way possible, and as much as the laissez-faire attitude of india can be frustrating -- especially for folks raised abroad -- it has stopped to make me question WHY we focus on it so much at home. between delhi and bangalore, i was home for 6 months, and i remember even meeting friends for coffee involved scheduling ahead by 6 days, nailing down the exact time, location and other details well in advance. the strict scheduling and focus on intense efficiency spirals out into all parts of our life until we're in a go-go-go mode, and i definitely found it stressful when i returned. i permanently had a feeling of "gotta do X, gotta do Y" and so on even for the most trivial things. with the noticeable exception of the workplace, i have fully adjusted to 100% spontaneity in almost every part of my day in Bangalore. it in many ways makes more sense to me -- when exactly did 'meeting someone for coffee' turn into 'meeting someone for coffee in the most efficient way possible'? and more importantly, why? i resist conforming to what i now view as unnecessary (although it's likely that i'll instantly revert back to the more stressful, efficiency-focused lifestyle at home :)). and i have come to recognize the go-with-the-flow, spontaneous attitude as one of my most favourite approaches to taking on the day.

obviously, it comes down to balance. the ideal outcome would be productive, efficient workdays, evenings filled with activities, and social weekends. i have not yet learned how to switch from one mode to another; when i am most on the productive track, i spend a lot more time in my head and far less time interacting with others. i become far more reclusive than i otherwise am, and in time the productivity doesn't make me feel quite as satiated as solid interaction with others. on the other hand, when i am spending most of my time interacting with others, it becomes the focus of my time and other parts of the pie take a backseat. achieving a routine of balance is by far my biggest current goal, but i am not sure how to create one without repeatedly jumping from one extreme mode to another.

i clearly don't have the answer just yet, nor do i have a conclusion to this post. i think many of us are struggling with the same battles right now, and we're probably all going to reach different conclusions on which size we want to maintain for each piece of our pie. let the struggle continue :)

2 comments:

Sheets said...

i think growing up means you actually become aware of this struggle.

if you find the answer... please share!

Andrew Milroy said...

"a lot of people seem to settle into a fairly domesticated routine. routines are comfortable. routines allow us to feel in control of our lives. and the domesticated routines allow for higher productivity. all of these are positive outcomes, and yet the thought of each day being identical to the ones before it, and after it, prevents me from ever truly imposing the most productive routines on my life."

Said like one of the most poetic philosophers I know. ;)