01 September 2011

Keeping the Balance in our Lives

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I push myself hard. I always have a to-do list (both in my head and written down). I have a demanding full-time job, and I have a long list of things I want to accomplish in the other hours. There's being social: email, phone calls, Skype, Twitter, blogs. There's writing stuff: drafting, editing, querying, critiquing, learning. There's life stuff: paying bills, planning travel, researching purchases.And of course there's the every day tasks that need to be done - cooking, cleaning, exercise, etc, which could nearly consume all free time if I was conscientious enough (don't look closely at my kitchen appliances, okay?). Even if the TV's on I'll always be doing something else. Down-time has become a stranger, and the stress of everything means I don't ever sleep through the night.

This will be a familiar story to many people. I've come to realise recently that I can't keep this up. First my brain started to give way - I got headaches, dizzy spells and I couldn't think straight. Then my body gave up - I've been sick for the last two weeks, with a cold that turned into a chest infection. I put back my back out as well. No energy. Nights of being up for hours on end coughing and blowing my nose sapped all my strength. I had reached the end of myself. I needed to recharge (and I also needed drugs and lots of them!)

On the weekend my husband sent me outside to sit in the sun. I was still - delightfully still - as I admired the bright spring bulbs and let the strengthening sun penetrate my skin. And I thought for a moment, "I could just let go and be." I mean I could stop striving to achieve goals, stop working to make things better, stop opening myself up to other people and opportunities. Maybe it would be nice to just rest in where I am in life, and stop giving myself a huge list of things to do.

Just as suddenly a contradiction overtook me. No, there are things in my life (in our lives) that aren't right. There are struggles that could be smoothed out; passions that need fulfilment. The "work hard, play hard" philosophy ensures I experience the world (e.g. by earning enough to travel, and then spending a huge amount of time scouring for the best deals) and open myself up to the possibility of making my dreams come true (by pushing myself to taking writing seriously). The thing is, I can't be "on" all the time. I need to recharge. Being present in the here and now also needs to make it on to my lists. Taking time to breathe, I will ensure I have enough breath to accomplish all I need to.

I'm also taking a real holiday - we're off to the Sunshine Coast (Queensland, Australia) on Saturday, with my sister-in-law's wedding the following week. We've never been there so I'm looking forward to Australia Zoo, Fraser Island, whale watching and beach-strolling.

I don't think this post is very coherent, but hopefully you can see what I'm getting at. Have you ever reached the end of yourself? How do you ensure you don't burn out?


  1. Charlotte, I hope you're feeling better.

    It's funny how our bodies will force us to take a rest if we don't cooperate. I'm dealing with my back lately.

    Enjoy your holiday and rest in between the fun stuff!

  2. Oh, I miss home! Have fun up there :)

    Hope you're feeling better. Sometimes we have to sit still and just be.

    I struggle with this daily. Since having kids, I've just had to deal and accept the fact that some things have to slide. And there are days where everything but the necessities slide. Are they my favorite days? Not particularly, but I have more than just me to think about now. I've been on that end of burn out way too often lately though, and I need the extra down time or I'm miserable, and that's no way to live.

  3. Thanks for the kind wishes guys! I'm starting to get really excited :-)