My husband says that I am “an all-in or all-out” kind of person. I haven’t always known where to put this information as I ‘see’ gray, I’m not just a black and white type of person. There is always another way to look at things and I feel that I have the ability to understand both sides most of the time. However, as I was thinking about this while exercising this morning, you can be an all-in or all-out kind of person AND see gray in the world. It is more about balance and how you achieve balance in your life. Yes, balance. I have read many a book that have discussed it’s importance, offered ways to find it, gave examples of others who were off balance and after following three easy steps, they found it.
Somehow the illusive three easy steps were never enough for me. No, I must start on one side of the curve until it is fully explored in it’s extreme until I figure out that this will just not work for me. After said exploration, I sprint to the other side of the extreme only to find that this extreme doesn’t work either. Only THEN can I find the balanced perspective that I had sought all along.
I am turning forty-three in a few days which is always a good time to reflect on where I am and where I am going. Over the past twenty years I have lived and embodied two extremes: career driven, take no prisoners, keep going at all cost versus mother, wife, a little granola and all are welcome. I went to the University of Washington as the first person in my family to go to college. I graduated in 1992 which was a year when the newspapers warned that college students wouldn’t be finding jobs. I was on a mission to get a job and start my career in the business world and that I did. I worked for a large computer firm right out of college and then switched to the pharmaceutical industry where I was in sales, sales training and marketing. I moved to New Jersey and worked ten miles from Manhattan. While working 60 hours a week, I went to graduate school at night to earn an MBA, got married, traveled for work and pleasure, went to grand events in Manhattan and did not stop even as pregnancy had me sick (really sick, sick) and oh so tired. M-U-S-T K-E-E-P G-O-I-N-G. Where I was going, I have no idea. I was on the extreme side of that bell-shaped curve. Balance? Nope.
Over the next ten years I fully explored the other side of life on the edge: motherhood. After experiencing the effects of living in the Northeast after 9/11 my husband and I started getting Montana Living Magazine. It was time to head back to the Northwest and move along that path called life. My husband was able to get a transfer back to Seattle six weeks after Daughter #1 arrived. Suddenly, I am in suburbia central, my best friend (husband) was traveling all the time, no job, no school, no friends, and caring for my screaming baby who did not sleep. WOW! Talk about wanting to get back to the other side. I may have been numb but at least I was dressed up, solving problems and had a sense of accomplishment. I did interview with a few companies but I couldn’t get my heart into it. I started to read brain development and parenting books and suddenly I could not do it and luckily we had set our life up so that I didn’t have to go back to work since my husband was traveling so much. The all-in and all-out thinking was front and center. I knew nothing about raising a child or about being a mom. I didn’t have a mom and the various step-mothers I had did not do anything to help my confidence. I had no gage for how to balance my career and being a mother. I was so afraid that I might mess this up that all I could do was hold my oh-so-colicky baby and love her. I held tight to the edge I was on and fully embraced that time to learn about myself, my girls, our family’s health, psychology and most of all, what my life passion might be.
Over the course of that ten years we had two more beautiful girls and I jumped fully into the soccer/dance mom life – it took about three years to stop fretting that I would never get a job again and to trust that it would all work out. It has all worked out as now I can rest. I have explored a life in the corporate world, dressed in suits and meeting with the movers and shakers. And I have explored the stay-at-home mom side of life without showers, screaming babies, mind-numbing repetition, big hugs, snuggles and more love than I ever imagined.
In the next decade I am free to explore the middle, to be balanced. Maybe now I don’t have to be all-in or all-out, I can just BE.
Have you lived on the edge of that bell-shaped curve? How do you achieve balance? Is it possible to live in the middle?