Two afternoons a week I work with young children, which is at once exhausting and wonderful. This week a 5 year old boy told me: “I can keep my balance even when I’m crying”. It was one of those out of the blue comments that kids make that ends up being so profound. I’d been thinking about writing a blog post on balance for a few weeks and his words were the last bit of inspiration I needed.
Life is a balancing act. We all have different areas of our life – work, children, partners, friends, hobbies – that we desperately try to keep in balance. We work so hard at it but often find ourselves working too much and upsetting partners and children, or so involved in a new relationship we temporarily abandon our friends, or maybe we just don’t give ourselves enough time for self-care and hobbies. When you suffer from M.E., or any other long-term condition, balance becomes particularly important. The advice given to you when you’re diagnosed with M.E. is often vague but usually involves keeping to an activity diary and pacing yourself. This involves not spending too long on any activity and alternating the type of activity you’re doing, e.g. going for a walk after sitting and doing a mental activity. Keeping to strict pacing and activity alternating is frustrating and boring, and can make you obsessive and terrified of overdoing things. Worrying about overdoing things is not going to make you better. At the Optimum Health Clinic we were taught about the different types of tiredness, one of which is environmental tiredness. This form of tiredness is resolved by doing something different rather than resting.
But what about the things in your life that are bigger than having a shower and making dinner? How do you keep your partner, children and friends in balance when you have M.E.? With difficulty. Your partner wants to take you to the cinema but you’ve used up all your energy on getting the food shopping. Your children want you to play with them but you used up all your energy on doing the laundry. Your friends invite you out for a drink but you used up all your energy at work. Some people in your life will be understanding, some will be actively helpful, some will find it hard to understand and may walk out the door. It is heartbreaking when someone leaves you because of something that feels beyond your control and you are trying so hard to fix.
One of my favourite books is Eat, Pray , Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It has helped me so many times during my healing journey. Liz goes on a journey of self-discovery after she leaves a broken marriage and an all-consuming affair. She heals herself with food, friendship and meditation. When she falls in love again she is terrifed she will lose herself, and all the ground she has gained, as she spends more time with her new lover than on her self-care. The medicine man she has been visiting in Bali tells her that “sometimes to lose balance for love is part of living a balanced life”. I always keep this quote in mind. I have been fortunate that throughout my illness my mum has encouraged to sometimes lose balance for things that are worth it. What I have discovered is that losing balance to experience something amazing – whether it be a music concert, a night out with friends or falling in love – is worth it. To spend your life colouring within the lines is no life. I’ve worked hard to keep myself alive so I might as well enjoy the life that I’ve clawed back.
Balance is an important maintenance tool for anyone. If you’ve been working hard you need to have fun with friends. If you’ve been exercising hard you need a rest and some food. But don’t worry about keeping your balance all the time, especially when falling in love or crying. Fall on the floor and roll around bawling your eyes out, or laughing with joy.
Do you need to work on balance in your life?
Are you too strict on yourself and need to lose balance to experience life?
Do you need to address the balance between what you are giving to others and what you are giving yourself ?