My fifth grade phys-ed teacher wore the same t-shirt every day for a week. “Gymnastics is flippin fun” spread across her non-existent chest as she demonstrated various drills on all kinds of equipment. As she vaulted, flipped, and tumbled, I watched in awe and became determined to defy gravity, just like her.
I was ten. I could do anything.
Then I approached the balance beam. It was taller than I expected, and not nearly as wide. My small hands could wrap around its diameter, and the thought of standing on it made me uneasy. Nevertheless, I stood tall in line, waiting my turn. Some of the girls before me were “gymnasts” and could jump and land solidly on the four inches of leather. As I watched them, and my teacher cheered them on, I figured since I was good at most sports, I could handle the balance beam.
Hoisting myself up wasn’t too hard; I was able to swing a leg over the beam and straddle it seamlessly. However, unsure of my next move, I let my legs swing and contemplated my fate.
”Let’s go, Potenza!” (my maiden name) Mrs. Sawler clapped her hands and shouted, but her tone was just short of encouraging. “Get on up there!”
My legs still, I leaned forward and managed to place one foot on the beam. Foot number two remained, dangling in the air. I was not flexible enough to hold this position. There was nowhere to go but up.
I butt planted on the mat one millisecond after I stood. My arms flailed, and my legs shot high over my head. My butt didn’t hurt as much as my ego, and I lay there, wishing the mat would swallow me whole. Eventually, my teacher’s face loomed into view.
“Stick to soccer, Potenza. And work on your balance.”
Well, I’m here to report, after 35 years, I’m officially done working on my balance. People, especially women, are supposed to strive for balance. We can have it all; we can learn how to balance family, career, self care, side gigs, and we can look fabulous while we do it.
I call bullshit.
There is no such thing as balance. A balancing act is just that – an act. I realize this is contradictory to everything we have heard since the age of 25, but guess what? I have a family, a career, I work out, and I blog, but I do NOT have balance. That would mean all things listed above get the same amount of attention, all the time. Impossible. I typed this post during my lunch break. My husband and I have to set a time to have an actual weeknight conversation. Working out after work means dinner is an hour later, or I have to work out at 5am, and lose sleep and time with my kids in the morning. And there are nights when I have to look at those children and decide whether to give them a bath or a home cooked meal. Don’t judge me.
The point is, every time something is gained, something is lost somewhere else. That’s not balance. And I’m finally okay with that. I spent many days telling myself I suck at life because I didn’t get my hair done, I didn’t fold the laundry, or god forbid, I missed the gym. Even on the days I manage to do everything, nothing is done perfectly. It’s been really hard to accept this, but I’ve learned it’s more important to feel balanced and calm in my mind than in my life. That could also mean skipping out on everything for an hour and roaming aimlessly around Target. Again, don’t judge me.
So, sorry to disappoint you, Mrs. Sawler, but I am no longer working on my balance. It’s not that flippin’ fun. In fact, we should all get credit for the Olympic style juggling acts we perform, not the balancing ones.