Last week, I was sitting around the table with some ladies in a coffee house, talking about the thing all five of us want to do well more than any other thing: be excellent spouses and parents and friends. We talked about how important this is and how important that is, and it was so good to hear from real women whom I really admire as they honestly talked about our struggles and our triumphs. As we talked, the word “balance” came up. I recoiled.
It’s not a bad word. There was a time when I thought it was a great word and I used it a lot. My friends and I have been striving for “balance” for years, We want to balance time with close friends and time with new friends. We try (and mostly fail, on my part) to balance time focused on our husbands with time focused on our kids. We think longingly of a a time when we can balance time spent on laundry and dishes with time spent pursuing our passions.
It’s just too bad we don’t live life in the middle of a scale. Jumping back and forth from one side of the scale to another to make it even out? We aren’t born to do that.
We are born with two hands. Two hands to pick something up, and two hands to put something down. It turns out, we have to put something down before we pick up something else. Our hands can only hold so much. If we try to pick up too much at once, we end up dropping things. We can’t afford to drop things, because what we hold is too important and precious. Our children’s upbringing. Our husbands’ love. Our friends’ trust. The care of our own souls. The world.
It turns out, there’s no such thing as balance. There is picking up one thing, and putting down another. There is holding close and there is dropping. I don’t know much about how to live well, but I’m learning that I have been given only two hands and I must decide what I can hold and what I cannot, when to put something down so I can pick up something else. I’m not worrying about walking on a wire in a balancing act anymore. That leads to frenzied unfocus, trying to figure out too many things at one time. With lots of prayer, lots of mistakes, I’m trying to live life with my hands holding what’s important and gently letting go of what is not for me at this time. A person can go through life putting down and picking up many things. There is no shame in not picking up everything at once. Figuring out what is for us and what is not is never a simple equation…but it may be simpler than we have been told thus far.
Because we only have two hands.