In Search of the Good Balanced Life
by Joanne Leitschuh
I remember at the tender age of 17, sitting on the floor in the dark listening to a John Denver record: "Sweet surrender, live without care, like a fish in the water, like a bird in the air." This song expressed how I wanted to live. At 17 I thought life was getting stressful, you know, with all of the "trying" things to fit in like, majorette practice, clubs, piano lessons, home chores, a part-time job, relationships and not to mention chemistry and algebra! Oh, to live without care
Now, some thirty years later in the office, with a task list of challenging projects, I still have the desire to "live without care like a bird in the air". One day it just hit me in the face. I asked myself what KIND of life did I want to live -- not only today -- but for the next ten, twenty or thirty years? Because I have a full-time job yet have many other responsibilities at home, I became desperate to experience a balanced life. I had found myself in the fast lane, wanting and doing it all. Surely, a life lived in and outside of the office that is the best that I can make it is not only good for my own well-being but also good for the people I live and work with.
All aspects of stress -- its causes and cures -- appear in most publications these days. However, I can't believe it's a new concept. I'm sure my grandparents experienced stress in all kinds of ways back in the early 1900's. Both had to find a balance in their business and physical work in their home and garden. There probably was emotional stress in relationships and raising children and even financial stress at certain times. How did they cope? Are the challenges we face in 2005 any different?
I truly believe that the only way to "tackle" life is from the inside out. If we are not careful we can take in stresses and activities that aren't mandatory and necessary. Today's society can bombard us with the urge to have a perfect body and the fashionable clothes to put on it; go after a fulfilling career; keep a multi-tasking schedule; own the dream home; prepare exquisite gourmet meals; experience the to-die-for holiday; get the ever-loving spouse and raise ideal children. When these things don't automatically appear in our lives, we think we are lacking -- at least that's what we are led to believe. No wonder people are working harder and longer to make more money to keep up the pace and try to get that "I have arrived" feeling.
Reading Ruth McGinnis' book, Living the Good Life, caused me to take stock of the current activities in my own life. She believes that, "Whenever personal value is determined by what you do, how much you earn, how hard you work, and how much you own, your life becomes meaningless. Life is not about reaching goals. It's about the process of being on a meaningful path." McGinnis also gives suggestions to help her clients live a balanced life. She places a lot of emphasis on making small positive choices throughout the day in the areas of work, diet and exercise, family, personal and social time. Doing this, they eventually make permanent changes for a better, healthier, balanced life. "Finding a flow of balance in your lifestyle is a subtle art, because balance doesn't necessarily mean smooth sailing or having and doing it all. Living in balance is a shift you make -- and you're the only one who can make it. This shift takes you from doing to being, from wanting to enjoying what you already have, from overextending to nuturing, and from chasing illusions to standing still and listening."1
So, is a good, balanced life possible amid the hustle and bustle of business? You bet! Czelsaw Milosz once said, "One must liberate oneself from complexities, from taking one's fate too much to heart, before being able to rejoice simply because one is alive and among the living." 2 I know there is guidance for each of us to enjoy the life we've been given. If we only slow down and listen, we will hear the right word at the right time. In every hour of every day, we can know what it means to accept the events that come our way yet be sweet under provocation and calm in the midst of turmoil. A good life is one free of worry, anxiety and fear. This is true living from the inside out.
What can be accomplished with a balanced life? A lot! Just think of all of the time we spend doing -- sometimes frantically -- things that are of no true value and don't contribute to our own health or to those around us. It also seems ironic that a balanced life is one that is not self-centered, but becomes full when we consider others. Gentle attributes like meekness and quietness of spirit need to become vital in our daily lives if we are to find the time to spend with the people we should be with and for the things we are truly meant to accomplish.
A balanced, self-responsible life is simple yet full, healthful and uncluttered. We have new-found energy and enthusiasm for our work, and have rich human experiences with other people. We walk with a light yet directed step. Our faces express calm and inward serenity. It can be seen in the little choices of our day such as a look, a word or a tone of voice. A good life is like a true and wonderful romance -- a "sweet surrender".
1. McGinnis, Ruth, Living the Good Life, Fleming H. Revell, 2001.
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