daily grind

#reverb15: Day in the Life

*This is actually April's #reverb15 prompt, but as you know, I'm late on all the things right now. As I mentioned in my previous post, I believe there is power in the ordinary, that our daily lives can be full of the same kind of magic we experience at heightened moments of joy. I try to take notice of these possibilities: a flower opening, the way I feel after a workout, relishing the thrill and release of going downhill on my bike (it's sheer bliss after the steep uphills), the smell of the air when it rains. It is too incredibly easy to get caught up in the go, go, go of my life, in deadlines and emails and responsibilities. Celebrating the ordinary, the details of the everyday is a way to better pay attention. This year I (kind of) participated in Ali Edwards' Day in the Life on Tuesday, May 11 by taking photos all day and posting many of them on Instagram with the hashtag #ditl.

A typical day begins around 6:30 a.m. sometimes later on days I don't teach. I shower, do make-up, hair, find something to wear, look at my phone. I pack my lunch, fill my water bottle, grab a protein shake and head out the door close to 8. If there's enough time like there was on Tuesday, I might swing by Starbucks and get a tea.

Coffee Love.

On Tuesday, I held Finals Week Office Hours, and students could stop by to troubleshoot or talk about their final projects. I didn't have too many take advantage but the ones who did found it helpful and I answered emails in-between.

It's a busy week.

Around noon I eat lunch. On Tuesday, I had a chickpea burger with hummus and Dole's Endless Summer Salad. I need a lot of containers.

I spent the afternoon in my office, and met with a few students, answered more emails, and worked on a conference abstract.

I leave campus around 5.

The flowers near the parking lot are in bloom.

It's been a long day and it's incredibly windy outside. I don't feel like going to the gym so around 6:30 I do 2 Miles of Interval Training with the Leslie Sansonne video for my mile a day in May (#31miles)

2 miles Interval Training with Leslie Sansonne for #31miles

I'm sweaty, so I shower.

Then I make dinner: turkey burgers, cauliflower, and strawberries.

I remember I need to return a free Redbox that I only watched half of. So I rush off, but on the way I have to take a picture of the beautiful sky.

Gorgeous sky to cap off #ditl.
Gorgeous sky to cap off #ditl.

That's a pretty good representation of my days during the week in Oxford. A weekend would be another story altogether.

embracing the pie chart

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This month I've been participating in 30 Days of Lists, this fun project where you respond to a prompt each day and use whatever format, journal, craft, scrapbooking supplies to display your response. A recent prompt was about defining what balance means to you. I appreciated the way many of my fellow listers handled the prompt, acknowledging in subtle ways that they achieve what "feels" balanced. I also appreciate that the prompt asks each of us to define for ourselves what blance looks like.

I don't believe in balance. Perhaps I should say, I don't believe in the pursuit of balance. Life is messy, chaotic, busy, full of rich experiences, fantastic conversations, opportunities, people, places to see. I want to use my time in ways that fuel, excite, and recharge me. This means that there are times when my focus and my energy is going to be devoted to one aspect of my life more than others. Whenever we juggle a lot of things, various roles, and projects, the advice we get from one another, and from society is: balance. “You have to find a balance,” people say whether they’re talking about motherhood, professional life, dating, family, hobbies, teaching, research etc. I completely understand that if all of your energy and time is going into work that other areas of your life suffer, and that sometimes we tend to define ourselves by our career, that we feel pressure to succeed in one area more than others. I see the danger in that, certainly.

My brother is one of the most ambitious people I know. He isn't happy if he isn't working on a project and he pushes himself and those who work with him to an incredibly high standard. But he told me last year that he doesn't want to wake up one day and wonder where his life with, or regret not spending enough time with his daughter and wife and family. He has to make a conscious choice to relax, to schedule time off, to resist the pull of work, and doing. I can see this as a recognition for the need to balance out his work life with other pursuits. And in this way, I get the importance of balance as a concept, a reminder that there isn't just one thing for us to pay attention to, or one place to find joy.

What I resist about balance is the idea that I SHOULD find balance, that to be happy, or successful I have to achieve a kind of equilibrium among all of the various things and people that require my attention.

The pursuit of balance is dangerous, because it implies that balance is in some way inherently positive and therefore, not having balance is somehow bad. I think this is particularly troublesome for women who have been told that you can have it all: career AND family. It isn't that I don't think this is achievable to raise a family and work outside the home, but the pressure to be successful in more than one arena can be overwhelming; it can feel constricting to people who perhaps want to choose not to have children or choose not to work, or do non-profit or volunteer work, or anything that runs counter to traditional concepts of career success look like. I also think this is changing a bit, slowly, as entrepreneurial efforts by women are being recognized. But like anything, sometimes it takes the larger culture a while to catch up. Until then, it seems, we have to constantly battle expectations, our own included.

In my world, my life, balance is unrealistic. I embrace the pie chart, a way to divide my time. I don't want to feel guilty or unsuccessful if laundry isn't done or my kitchen floor hasn't been mopped. There are times when I feel like I am getting things done just in time, that I'm barely hanging on, and that way too much is up in the air. I think it's important to be aware of what you're taking on, which parts of your life are going to require a smaller sliver when a new project or opportunity comes along. The metaphor or perhaps even literal pie chart can show you what takes up most of your time,and which areas in your life are being ignored or regulated to smaller pieces.

You could also think of it like the usage limits on your phone or electronic device. There's only so much space in your mind, in your heart, in your day. Be honest about the time you can devote to the things you do, and realize prioritizing is about making choices, but it's not about balance.

Screw balance. Embrace the pie chart.