Sunday, September 15, 2013

Playing Tug-O-War With the Ocean

A few weeks ago we were at the beach trying to eke as much fun out of the end of summer as we could. Towards the end of the day, our daughter saw a huge kelp bundle floating in on the waves. I guess she decided that it needed to be part of the sand sculpture they were building because she spent the next 45 minutes or so trying to bring it all of the way out of the water. My husband and I watched her, and laughed, and marveled at her persistence. At one point I said, "Only she would play tug-o-war with the ocean and think she's gonna' win." I noticed that my smallish 8 year-old was frequently trying to use her bodyweight to muscle the kelp up the beach instead of using the motion of the ocean to help her. The other day, the image of her fighting the ocean popped into my head as I was waging my own internal tug-o-war.

I struggle with balance. A lot. And I'm really awful at time-management. As sad as I was to see summer end, I was excited that THIS school year, both kids would be in school ALL day!!!! More time to work, more time to get housework done, more time for ME :) The first day they were back in school I unfroze my gym membership so that I could start taking classes again. I promised myself that I would schedule in time for my own personal workouts. We're a week and a half in and even though I really do feel like I have more time, I'm still constantly being tugged in multiple directions. The feeling of being pulled apart is not new and isn't even entirely uncomfortable for me. The hard part is the guilt I feel once I make a decision . . . a huge wave of guilt crashes in and sucks my positive energy away with it. I choose to stay at the PTA meeting and miss Yoga . . .  a wave crashes over me that I'm not sticking to my exercise plan. I take a Zumba class instead of doing the laundry and cleaning the house . . . a wave crashes over me that I'm not taking care of my family. I get a chance to take on a new personal training client or teach a new class in the afternoon . . . a wave crashes over me that it means less time with the kids. I choose to go to Yoga instead of helping to set up the Book Fair . . . a wave crashes over me that I'm not pulling my weight at the school. It seems that no matter how much more *time* I seem to have, and no matter what I choose, I feel like I'm losing.  

What I realized the other day is that the only way to win is to stop fighting. I kept thinking as I watched my daughter that if she would wait for the wave to bring the kelp almost all the way up and then pushed it as a mass to the farthest point of the wave, the kelp would not get pulled all the way back in as the wave receded. If she just waited patiently, the next big wave would help her push the kelp a little farther into shore. Patience and Strategy. I've realized that there are a lot of opportunities for me to exercise. There are a lot of ways that I spend time with my kids and help them (including making money to help support our family and provide experiences for them). There are a gazillion ways I will be able to help out at school this year. I just need to be patient and work on my time-management. Patience and Strategy. And when the waves crash in, and I start to feel guilty about whichever decision I make, I need to turn that feeling around. Instead of letting my positive feelings get sucked away, I need to let the receding wave take away the guilt. We all have multiple demands on us at any given moment: jobs, romantic partners, kids, family members, friends, pets, volunteer organizations, personal endeavors and hobbies. It is impossible to say yes to everything and to make everyone happy; we all know that. But it's not enough to just learn how to say "no" ~ we have to actually accept that it's okay to say "no" and then, to let go of the guilt. We can't be everything, to everybody, all of the time. But we can be enough, for the people who really need us, when it matters. And right now, I'm going to practice floating on that knowledge and learn to enjoy the rhythm of the ocean.