The Great Balancing Act


live-unbalanced-1080x670There is such a thing as having too much of a good thing. Every want and every desire carries within itself the potential to turn into an obsession. The discipline that checks can devolve into cruelty. Adherence to rules and standards can lead to peace but also to the bondage of servitude. In order to live successfully and enjoy the ride, you have to learn to find the balance.

It seems God rewards common sense. Intuitively we know when we are out of harmony with ourselves. We know that what starts good doesn’t always end well. We can exercise the muscle and damage the joint. As we traverse through the thrilling peaks of life, we know we cannot sustain them and soon fall headlong into the valleys. What blesses us most is the level ground, the flattened hills, the filled in depressions, the balance. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Yet excitement and enjoyment only, like the delusion of drugs, leads ever to some future collapse. Exhilaration must be followed by some settling or else your heart blows up. But if nothing ever spikes your heart you may as well be dead. You have to occupy the middle territory.

It seems God made the world a metaphor for proper thought. All around us nature teaches us balance as abundant foliage in the summer drops off in the fall to make way for the spring.  Holes soon fill in and high spots eventually get smoothed out. The tide rolls out and rolls back in again. The enjoyments of life follow the struggles and without the struggles there is no satisfaction. Every weekend is preceded by its weekdays. Waking and sleeping, working and playing, accepting and rejecting, all choosing, all deciding part of one and part of another resulting in a balance. And life, it appears, offers itself to the one willing to seek until eventually located, only to be required again later on.

It seems God has designed our bodies and our minds to require a balance and if not indulged, though working out of balance for extended periods, eventually breaks down and wears out forcing its owner to stop until the balance returns. If you have too much going on and you are working too long and too hard, at some juncture the machinery fails and a short bout with illness or some other malady forces you to reconsider. You can drive yourself to extremes in acquiring great wealth yet have no-one left to enjoy it with because the journey drove them all away. You can have so many resources that you can live in perpetual play, until your play turns into a drug addiction or obsession or any unhealthy overindulgence in something fun. Your vessel was designed for equilibrium.

It seems God endorses moderation. The developed world is consumed with the symbols of youth, with the top of the chart being physical fitness disguised as leanness, code for being thin! The trouble being that generally the thin ones are also the youngsters. The older you get, the heavier you get, the less desirable you become. It is the “thin culture.” Enter a vast population of people virtually starving themselves to achieve some artificial level of fitness reserved for people whose full-time job is fitness. That’s not to say there is something wrong with fitness, but when the fitness exceeds logic and good sense or is so extreme that it requires a fourth of your waking hours, it is functioning as a compensation for something else. Every diet craze is solved by the watchword – moderation. Perpetual dieting, the bane of rational activity, always requires a period of deprivation followed by a period of bingeing on everything forbidden during the deprivation phase. The question isn’t how thin you are, the question is what are you really after with your thinness? You can enjoy all things in moderation, which is more of a mindset than a restriction. Level your mindsets…

The great balancing act of life is more about you being in control than any other factor in a life of a million variables. You, being the boss of your own butt, decide just how much time and energy you will give to a thing. If the effort required overwhelms you, it is likely too much. If the effort required is barely noticeable, it is probably too little. Continuing to work at your job long after you have left for the evening may get lots of work done, but it will work you over in the process. Your enthusiasm and commitment may be rewarded until you slip a little and find out rather harshly that you are in fact replaceable if the need so requires it. Working hard certainly isn’t the issue but rather why you are doing what you are doing and whether you are controlling it or “it” is controlling you. The balance of life is found in control.

In the profound humanity of our existence, we all find ourselves pushed and pulled to one extreme or the other. We all traverse mountains and then fall into our self-made valleys. We all like our likes too much and discover ourselves controlled by something we used to control and enjoy. It is part of our human condition and all of the emotions and joy and disappointment and sadness that goes along with it. Yet, our humanity is one of the best things about us. We feel and thus we act. And in our honest feelings we make fine tuned decisions and subtle adjustments ever seeking that which makes us feel the best about ourselves. The built-in balance mechanism a gift from God.

The question to ask yourself is, “How do I feel?” If you feel out of balance, rushed and harried, you are, so honor your feelings and make the change. This isn’t a decision other people make for you, it is a decision you make for yourself. It’s your life my friend, so pursue the balance only you can demand for yourself and enjoy your ride. It’s not being egotistical. It’s being responsible.

Just some good thoughts…

 

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A Birthday Benefit to Bless You…


13087680_10209327672770705_3701642277193729662_nWell, I completed another trip around the sun and came out relatively unscathed. Along the way, as always, I learned a few things about this game of life. I guess I shouldn’t say “game” as the outcomes can sometimes be disastrous. Maybe I’ll say “contest” because to win you have to compete and be serious about it. However, you can’t get too serious and really that’s what this blog is all about…

If I’ve learned anything this past year it’s that life is all about balance. Finding that balance is the sweet spot you’ve been pursuing. The balance I’m talking about isn’t an equality of events like equal time working and equal time playing. It’s more like seeking to get better while appreciating how far you have come. It’s control but not with too tight a grip. It’s following the rules, questioning the rules and sometimes not following the rules. It has ups and downs; times for striving and times for letting things be. It’s a sweet, delicate balance that you can and should figure out. Figure it out!

Whenever and wherever you are engaged in an activity that falls into the “too much” category, there will always be something behind it. Whether it be pleasurable or fear based, too much of anything always has something behind it that you may not be aware of, yet. Too much work with all of its promised financial reward takes a toll on things of far greater value. Too much fun, too much liquor, too many women (or men) all have a penalty and some pain. Defining what is too much is where the fun (and the contest) begins. It’s not complicated and you already know the answer, but maybe you’ve been avoiding it for some time now. Don’t avoid it!

I learned that if you’ll take the time to ask the questions, you’ll usually get the answer. Our job is never to know all the answers, but rather to take the time to ask the questions. Never fall for the catch-all, cop-out that life is a mystery or life is unfair. Life becomes very clear when you ask the right questions, to the right Source. Life is not so much unfair as unknown and again your job is learn, then know. How much time have you and I wasted wallowing around in the bog, perplexed and confused, killing ourselves trying to figure things out? And usually, if we’re honest, we didn’t find our solutions from endless worry, but generally a short time after we finally let it go. Let stuff go!

Relationships comprise a large, if not the largest, part of our existence. We spend so much effort determining how the other person should be and only a quarter of that time figuring out how we should be. If we’re single we search for the perfect mate yet dismiss our own imperfection. We look for and focus on flaws, shortcomings and differences, never considering that our differences are necessary, and that our flaws and shortcomings require another’s assistance. My insatiable desire for fun is mitigated by my wife’s sense of responsibility and her persistent accountability is offset by my pressure to break out of the norm. It’s balance that endures not the high peaks of total agreement and desire. It’s the friction that smooths the path, where two hearts learn to work together. As my good friend Mark Wallace once said, “Marriage isn’t two lives molding into one life, it’s two separate lives working together as one.”  You’re not supposed to be the other person and they’re not supposed to be you. Remember that and you’ll find the elixir to all of your relationships. Just do you!

I’ve learned how to be good and how not to be so “good.” Good is such a subjective term and is loaded with hidden requirements. It’s not being “bad” to eat chocolate cake, no matter how much you weigh. Nor is it good to exercise until your knees ache. It’s not bad to sleep in nor is it always good to get up early. It’s a balance. Trying to be good to please God is a plan destined to fail. How good can your good be? Does your being good exact such a toll on you that you end up hating yourself and other people? Do your requirements for being good exhaust you? Have you become so good that no-one can stand being around you? Remember when your Mom told you to be a good boy? Did it help you or did it teach you to be deceptive? You see, this whole being “good” thing is like cancer that eats away at you until you die. It’s far more productive to recognize that you’re not always good and just accept it for what it is. A diet doesn’t work because you always do it right, it works when you consistently get yourself back on track. Quit abusing yourself and get back on track!

Traveling around the sun for another year taught me many lessons. But, by far the greatest lesson is in learning to find the balance. Life is all about responsibility and having fun; discipline and letting loose; adhering to the rules and willfully breaking them. It centers on relationships that involve people very different from yourself. Life is a process, a journey and requires that you continue to grow despite the adverse conditions. It’s about figuring out how to love and accept yourself for your good and your bad, no matter how good or bad you are.

I’m looking forward to another rotation around the sun and learning to figure out this thing called ‘getting older…’

Just some good thoughts…

 

The Good Life…


Good-LifeThere’s something out there that all humans are after. It’s something often talked about but rarely found. It’s the inner heart desire of every person that draws breath. It’s a goal, an experience, a journey and a destination. It is the pursuit of all pursuits, the good life!

If you’ve lived any amount of time, you know there are as many theories on the way to get there as there are people. One man’s good life is a nightmare for another. One woman’s unacceptable is another’s acceptable, and even more, a victory. For some it’s money. For others it’s family. For some it’s solitude and quiet space. For others it’s opportunities for learning. Truth is, you have the privilege to decide your good life yourself. But, there is one consistent thing that underlies all variations of the good life. It is  the most glorious and delicate balance in life. It’s called self-control…

If you’re like me, you tend to bristle up when that “control” word shows up. Nobody likes to be controlled. And, sometimes it’s tough to control yourself, especially when that controls involves the things you love. But, and you cannot find a larger but, self-control is truly the essence of life; the good life. Here’s the paradox, the more control you exercise, the more free you become. Now, before you get besieged with sadness, self control doesn’t mean refusing happiness or good feelings or good things.  Self control is more about enjoying your happiness and producing good feelings and maintaining your good things.

Have you ever had the experience of finally deciding to control some aspect of your life? If you were successful, i.e. lost the weight, stopped a behavior, brought some ‘out of control’ aspect under control, how did you feel when the job was done? Conversely, those areas that are out of control; those aspects of you that drive “you” nuts, the things you do over and over and over again and despise yourself when you do them, how do they leave you? You see, your feelings, though not 100% reliable, are trying to tell you something. They’re telling you that you need to get a grip on you! And, sadly, you know it’s true.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Fun is always fun, but there is a ‘too much’ fun. Wine, the great mood enhancer, has an end point where it changes from a sparkle to a sedative. Tasty food is delightful but the Thanksgiving gorge is over the top. Discomfort is the tell-tale indicator. Bad feelings are the barometer. If you really think it through, there should be no down side to a good thing. But the downside sometimes applies not to the thing itself but the quantity of the thing.

In every realm of life, there’s an expectation of control. Control keeps you healthy. Control protects your finances. Control enhances your experiences. Control makes your highs higher and mitigates your lows. Your life depends upon your willingness to control it. I would surmise that whenever you observe someone who seems to be living the good life, behind that life is some element of control; decisions you maybe never see.

Life is always about staying in balance. Work is good unless you work too much or too little. If you work too much, you allow it to compensate for other areas it was never designed to cover. It becomes a consuming force and begs for remedy. If you work too little, the penalty is found in dissatisfaction and angst. Even a day at work where your focus is not on work but quitting time, makes for the longest day ever. If you’ve ever lost your job, you know that time off is not really time off when your responsibilities aren’t handled. But, how sweet is your vacation when the work preceded it?

Life requires both the things you have to do and the things you get to do. If all you have is things you have to do, you’ll live your life in misery. Likewise, if all you do is things you get to do, you’ll soon be found wanting. A lawn must be mowed before you can enjoy the patio. The bed must be made to make the night’s sleep that much nicer. Food is eaten on clean dishes. Work comes before play and play is made possible by work. The weekend comes at the end of the work week, not before it. The balance is the beauty of it all.

I think you may discover one day that the good life you were after was right there for you all along. But instead of being found in fame and riches, it is found in a thousand little choices; choices you make in defense of yourself. Choices that don’t always feel good, but always feel good if you know what I mean. The ability to sometimes say no, to yourself… The sublime, inherent ability to finally take command of yourself; your elusive self! That, my friends is the sure steadfast definition of the good life – getting and then staying in control of yourself…

You don’t know where to start, you say? Begin the next time you start to do something you really wish you wouldn’t do. Listen to the gentle urging inside you when there’s a decision to be made. Pay attention to that thought back there telling you something you have been trying to ignore. You already know where the control needs to be, you just need to make up your mind to do it. And when you do, notice how that feels and see if you cannot get a glimpse of the good life yourself…

Just some good thoughts…