Recalling Your Personal
Think back to the
last time you felt things were really in synch, when your life contained a reasonable mix
of challenges you relished and chores that were only a drag, and the amount of time you
had to spend running hard was balanced by enough R&R to recharge.
you also found during those times it was not such a struggle to keep your brain from
bouncing off course.
of the time we are running too fast to think about how to pace our lives in a purposeful
way, much less considering how to adjust expectations up and down each day. Instead, we
just tend to beat ourselves up if we're not making progress on all fronts at once.
I have been lucky to hit a
balanced stride often enough to see the patterns in how I attained it. Now I'd love to say
I've figured out how to make it a permanent state, but I haven't. Nobody can ever control
all the demands, or all the changes, coming in from outside. But if you can visualize what
that balance point looked like, you may do a better job of juggling.
Up and Wind Down: The first time I hit one of those balanced phases
with enough perspective to see it as such was about eight years ago when my consulting
business was bustling and I had an office with a few associates. (This was also the time,
if you saw chapter 1.2, that I had enough space that I did not
live with piles all around.)
My kids were old enough to
be occupied at school all day, but young enough that school had not quite become the Big
Struggle. They had their "work" during the day, then they had their play. And so
did I. Our evenings and weekends were not cluttered with giant guilt trips about loose
ends untied. Saturday mornings we (usually) cleaned up our clutter, then we were free for
It looks so relaxed
compared to how pressed we all feel today. But even then I needed my "wind up"
and "wind down" time.
I geared up in the
mornings with lots of coffee, two newspapers, and breakfast TV in the background. My
eldest went to school on a bus, and my youngest was a "late bird" for whom
school began at 9:30. That gave me enough time to first get conscious and then get dressed
without putting toothpicks under my eyelids.
At the end of the day, it
was the same in reverse. After dinner we all had some unwinding time together before
hitting the hay.
It was my first big taste
of a lifestyle that truly suited my rhythms. It was probably also the last time my kids
and I all had the pleasure of being in synch at the same time.
My now-husband and I
enjoyed a similar window of synchrony when we were first dating. Both self-employed, we
had enough work to afford the pleasures we cared about, but not so much we couldn't also
kick back and relax.
That balance of effort to
reward and work to fun let us discover how well our rhythms matched when we were free to
follow them. And that sense of how much in synch we are down deep has been the glue
keeping us bonded through more harried times, looking ahead to when we can attain it
Time Lessons: What have I learned from my own "prime times?"
First, my brain bounces
less when I cut myself enough slack to recharge after a heavy sprint. Second, that there
is only so much I can put on my attentional plate and still be effective. I simply can't
expect peak productivity all of the time towards all ends, especially not during these
middle-life years when I am trying to be a parent, a spouse and a producer all at once.
Realizing there is a
balancing point to my effectiveness and a limit to what I can juggle without dropping
balls, I have to continuously adjust my aims relative to the rest of what I am trying to
If kids are in crisis, my
work agenda will suffer; when work is extra-intense, the domestic side will slide; if my
husband is overloaded, he may be less of a helping hand at home for awhile. Everything
always cycles. The balancing never stops.
When you find your
personal primes, even if only with hindsight, remember what they were like. Then use them
as sanity-saving cushions during the bumpier parts of your life when you can't have it all
and need to decide what really counts.
The better you can recall
the paths to your personal peaks, the more likely it is you will find them again.