Last night, I was thinking about a show I saw with my kids last summer. It was The Midnight Circus (for all of you Chicagoans); a truly wonderful performance. If you ever have the opportunity to go I highly recommend it! My kids watched in amazement as acrobats performed feats of strength and agility; they laughed as clowns clowned; their eyes were transfixed, mouths agape as two dancers wound their way, romantically intertwined, in a dance up and down a suspended rope of red fabric. Then there was this extremely talented juggler...
The act started out as one would expect, with a couple of balls. Then some neat tricks (you know; one handed, behind the back, under one leg and then the other)... However, it became much more exciting when his assistant joined in and started throwing more balls and random objects into his act: He continued to juggle, tossing objects back to the assistant who would no sooner replace each one with 2 more. Soon he was juggling what seemed to be an impossible number of things of all different sizes and shapes. It lasted for just a moment, in reality only 1-5 seconds, though it seemed much longer. The whole audience stood with bated breath—all waiting to see if he could do it or if he would make a mistake and drop them all. He didn't of course, not only because he was truly talented, but because he had captured our attention so completely that no one noticed as he steadily and quickly regained complete control by tossing each object back to his assistant one by one in quick succession. He finished the act with the same 2 balls with which he began, bowed, and we all applauded for his amazing accomplishment.
Ok, so get to the point already...
While not necessarily profound, I had a moment of clarity last night that I felt worthy of sharing. It occurred to me that this act is much like my life. The differences being, my life is not an act, it was never intended for an audience, and the amazement wore off quite some time ago as the running time has far exceeded the 5 minute limit.
I can recall times in my life when I only had a couple of things to juggle. Life was manageable. I was in control because I recognized that I could choose to add whatever things I desired that would make my life more exciting and fulfilling, or to discard the excess when things became overwhelming. Even marrying and having children were choices I embraced with open arms, while continuing to juggle all of my other responsibilities and interests. At the time, it all seemed well within my ability to manage.
Over the course of the past seven years, however, and seemingly without choice, the magnitude and quantity of things I've had to juggle increased until I finally reached that point of 'impossibility.' That was 2 years ago. I am still juggling—more now than ever—but it is not amazing. I am exhausted. I've finally realized I just can't continue this way indefinitely.
The problem is that it has become much more difficult to decide and to discern, between the myriad significant things with which I am coping—which is expendable and which is not when they all seem important?
What should I let go of when my choices are: Which child's needs are more significant than the others? Which of the therapy sessions, doctor appointments or assessments that "[my] children need" are truly necessary? Do I really need to battle every day, to advocate and navigate a less than perfect school system, to ensure that my children get the educational support they need to succeed? Should I continue my ongoing and time-consuming battle with the insurance companies to recoup the tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills and debt we have accrued—that I must keep resubmitting with "more information before they can make a determination"—or should I just let it go? Do I fight to keep my marriage together when times are hard, the stresses of a tough economy, and coping with the challenges of having multiple children with special 'needs' have all taken their toll and pushed us both to our limits? Should I give up my store or my philanthropic work—even though, aside from my family—they are two of the only things in my life that I truly find fulfilling and make me feel 'significant'? Should I stop paying bills, fixing the broken refrigerator, watering the plants, feeding the gerbils, doing the laundry, taking a shower... Really, which of these things can I just let go of?
Of course, this is all dramatic, and the reality is that this didn't all 'just happen' to me, and while some decisions may be harder than others, I DO have choices. It's just that, as hard as it has been to reach this point, I've found it even harder to allow myself the time to take a deep breath, step back, and let go of some of some of the things I've been juggling for so long. Why is that so hard? Perhaps I have just become too accustomed to the routine, or I've become addicted to some odd sense of accomplishment for being able to handle it it all...
Whatever the reason, I realized last night that it is time to make some changes. I need to simplify my act a bit and start taking care of the most essential things again—including myself. The acceptance of that reality is liberating.
I am not recounting this as a comparison to anyone else's life. Everything is relative and the challenges in my life are no more meaningful or significant than anything any other person deals with every day—just different. It's for this reason that I wanted to post my thoughts on the subject. I think most people can relate to my feelings (or have been able to relate to a time in your life when you felt this way). I'm just suggesting that, when life becomes overwhelming in this way, perhaps the 'Balancing Act' is a better trick to master. I'm going to start working on it. Today.