Life Balance, Black Holes and a new Theory of Domestic Relativity

I’ve fallen off my running routine lately. Haven’t been to yoga in weeks. I sit for long hours in my office chair reading that ‘Sitting is the new Smoking’. I’m in danger of becoming physically inert. On the other hand, my kids are happy and healthy, and my creative life is thriving. I’ve written pages and pages of fresh new words. All this leaves me contemplating balance: what does a balanced life look like for a working, married mom? Is there such a thing? Or is it a mirage?

It seems to go like this. When my work life takes off, the housework suffers. When I’m writing more, I am getting outside less. When everything is running on all cylinders with my daughters, I can’t find time to connect with my husband. I used to feel badly about this – incompetent, out-of-control and deeply frustrated – why can’t I hold all of it altogether, all the time? And then one day, I just gave it up. The bathroom I started painting in March? Four different ‘test-colours’ still dot the walls, drop-sheets are heaped on the floor and the towels haven’t seen towel bars for months – I removed them to facilitate the impending painting). The vegetable garden? Never saw seeds this season. And my blogs? I went AWOL.

Did any of it matter? No, not really.

Then, a couple Saturdays back, I heard a woman share stories of her daily life that put a whole new spin on the balance ball. I was listening to Definitely Not the Opera on CBC Radio 1, an episode focusing on what we learn from our kids. Host Sook-Yin Lee was interviewing the writer Marie Myung-Ok Lee, whose son survived spinal cord cancer as a toddler, and now lives with severe disabilities as a result. Marie’s story of day-to-day life as a writer, wife and mom held me rapt, not least of all when she said, “It’s not whether you have everything. It’s whether you have enough.”

I sat in my car and stared out the window contemplating the universe-flipping truth of that statement; and then I felt humbled, momentarily idiotic, and very, very grateful. Also, saner. After all, in comparison, my life is easy, a cakewalk.

This business about having it all? About life balance? About Superwoman with her nanny (or not) and her house-keeper (or not) with perfect nails and a day job, running marathons and writing magazine articles about how to do it all? I don’t want any part of it. On any given day, I hope I can remember to stop, raise my arms to the sky and give simple thanks for my blessings. Thank you, it’s enough. It’s plenty.

I’d like to embrace a new twist on an old saying, a sort of theory of domestic relativity: You can’t hold all of it together all of the time. And beware, that if you are lured in by the temptation of outer perfection, your inner world may collapse like a black hole. “A black hole ” according to NASA, “is formed when a star of sufficient mass undergoes gravitational collapse…a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out.”

That places sounds eerily familiar. It sounds eerily like depression. Thanks, but I’ve done that trip already and I’ve had enough now.

So if that kitchen floor doesn’t get washed today? So what? And if the bathroom is still sitting, paint-ready, 6 months later? Oh well. And if I only manage to run once this week? It’s not ideal – or maybe it is – and I’ll take it.

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