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life balance book vs. smartphone

The One Question I Never Asked (aka Finding Life Balance)

I’m more excited than I should be typing this, but I can’t help it. By this time tomorrow, I will be out of Atlanta and in the company of my sisters, my mother, and my nephew on the other side of the country. It will be my first real chance to step away and review the true status of my life balance as of 2018.

I’m extremely grateful that I have the option and opportunity to step away from everything, if only for just a week and a half–and literally just in body. But sometimes, that is all you need.

(Mystic statements aside–seriously, I hope that’s enough time. :|)

I won’t go into the details of how this year has been for me just yet. I’m going to save that for a huge and exciting New Year’s Day Extravaganza POST AT YEAR’S END!

What I will do for now is reflect on the impact that this year has had on me, in regards to my life balance.

New City, Old City

Since I moved to Atlanta ten years ago, I have been struggling to find my proper life balance. In 2008, I arrived with the usual 20-something stressors of a woman with a new job in a new place:

  • New, bigger, busier city–and me with zero social skills
  • Relocating with no furniture, no family or friends, and no money

It’s a lot to process for anyone. At the time, I didn’t know that some of my stressors were due to my introversion, my social anxiety, and my high levels of environmental sensitivities. I simply felt like a mess in every situation I fell into.

A person can live in a city for years and still consider it a stepping stone to where they really want to be.

And honestly? Until just a few weeks ago, that was exactly what I considered this city.

I was living in it. I wasn’t living as part of it.

My Life vs. “Their” Lives

I look at some of the friends I grew up with (thanks, FaceBook) and watch the progress they’ve made as the years have passed. Some of them are rising acting stars, playwrights, successful novelists. Some of them have been happily married for years. One or two have a baby on the way. A couple of them have several babies.

I look at their lives…and a pang hits my chest.

It’s not envy. I couldn’t be happier for my friends who have all obviously worked hard for the lives they wanted.

Still, it is human nature to look at someone else’s life that appears, for all intents and purposes, to be perfect; reflect internally on your own; and, just for a blink, think, “Why is my life not that awesome?”

Oh–you don’t do that?

Well…I do, dagnabbit.

Life Balance Revelation

I’d like to share a story, if I may.

At the end of 2017, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to dive back into daily meditation. I used to be a huge proponent for meditating in high school but had grown away from it as the years (and college and depression) passed through. Meditating has always made me feel better, but the time it takes to prepare a sacred spot can be time-consuming.

“Excuses, excuses!” I’d told myself on that first fateful December 2017 night, and thus lit a white candle and inserted some industrial-strength earplugs to help me maintain my focus.

I chose a visual meditation method in which I ascended to a plane where an ethereal group therapy session was being held (yeah, I don’t skimp on my imagery!). The facilitator, a black woman with short hair and deep purple robes, welcomed me, introduced me to the group, then asked me why I’d come.

Immediately, I released all of my emotional woes to her and the group. As I had “imagined” everything around me, I knew it was a safe enough place to tell them all of my frustrations and problems. I knew I wouldn’t be judged for “taking up too much time” or being whiny or just mind-vomiting. I knew that “they” were there to help me.

The Question That Changed Everything

Sure enough, the facilitator and company listened patiently, and asked questions appropriately to gain clarity of some of my concerns. Internally, I was rather impressed with my own imagination. I hadn’t gone this far into characterization in a long time; maybe one of my woes (could I still write fiction?) wasn’t as far gone as I thought.

Then, the facilitator looked at me, took a deep breath, and asked someone that I had never, ever considered asking myself.

Why are you waiting to be happy?

My real eyes POPPED open.

“…Huh.”

I don’t know why this was a question that I’ve never asked myself.

I don’t know why, despite the significant number of counselors and therapists I’ve had, I’ve never heard that question.

It’s a simple enough question.

And yet.

Shaken out of my meditation, sitting there in the darkness of my bedroom as I repeated the question to myself, I had absolutely no answer to give.

Making Life Balance THE Priority

If I’m watching everyone around me have such a great life, why am I not doing anything to enjoy my own life?

Seriously. Why am I not getting off my lazy butt and looking into all of the events and adventures and projects that will lead me to my best life ever?

I mean, will the steps I need to take to gain my life balance be difficult?

Heck. YES.

But, I want to be happy. So, I took a deep breath and made the effort to be happy.

And 2018 has been the absolute fruits of that effort.

But.

One thing this year taught me is that life balance does not stop with just getting out of my house more, traveling to other countries, and switching my fashion sense (I like skirts. So sue me.).

The last three months alone opened my eyes to a lot of emotional and mental damage that I wasn’t even aware of. Mentalities that I thought had made me proud, independent, and strong had in fact made me bitter, isolated, and standoffish.

I thought life balance was only about external forces: balancing work with play, sleep with physical activities, social interaction with time to yourself.

I forgot about building and maintaining relationships; understanding why I behave and react to events the way that I do, and taking time to check in on myself.

Because I wasn’t doing that.

But this year was making me realize I needed to. In more ways than one.

I’m still determining what my game plan will be in 2019. However, I do know that my focus will be on developing a fully realized life balance for myself.

And that will start with getting away from home to clear my mind–if just for a moment.

Adieu, Atlanta. I will see you again at year’s end.

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