What if We Didn't Try to Live Balanced Lives?

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We talk about balance a lot, probably because it feels really strongly like our lives are way out of balance most of the time. Or because when things are in balance it can feel like one little change here or there could knock us over. Make us unbalanced again. It's precarious, as balancing acts tend to be.

Recently I listened to an episode of the Nerdette podcast interviewing Grace Bonney where she talked about it differently. Instead of balance, which they referred to as a sort of seesaw back and forth between working and not working, highs and lows (or worse, getting both sides balanced and then sitting, immobile, doing nothing suspended in the air), they talked about it as chemistry.

Chemistry is not all or nothing. It's not win or lose, and it doesn't stand still. It's a mix. It's like cooking or baking, where you need a variety of ingredients to make something good, and if something seems a bit off you, that just means you need to take stock of what's there and can try adding something different.

Similarly, the argument goes, if something feels off in our lives, maybe it's not about trying to be high or low on the seesaw, but about looking at the mix of our lives and seeing what needs to be augmented. Do we need to add a few more walks in the woods? To eat better food? Get some more exercise? Go to bed on time? Try an art project? Alter something at work?

What I like about this is that it can feel like "more time doing nothing" is the end goal of a "balanced" life. Like it's just suffering through work and then not working and that's it.

This chemistry approach makes me want to look at my life as a whole.

It also feels a lot less stressful for me. Whether or not the seesaw image seems apt to you, balance is always kind of stressful and precarious: doing cartwheels on a balance beam or spinning plates on poles require such a high level of focus and perfection that there is very little room for something to go wrong. Chemistry, explosions aside, has a lot more room for improvisation. When you are cooking or baking you can counteract a mistake, or experiment and add new flavours.

It can be both responsive AND proactive, which is neat.

I am curious to try looking at my life in this way - not as a balancing act of the obligations and the joys, but instead as a mix. If my life were a cake, or if I'm more honest with myself, a casserole, what flavours would I want in there? What is predominant right now, and does it need something else?

NOTE: Turns out Grace Bonney got the idea of chemistry from Andrea Gompf of remezcla.com. Credit where credit is due! Also, hooray for people named Andrea. :)

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