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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

The Art of Balance

I barreled through the month of November with the determination and tenacity of an ambitious thirty-five year old, only to collide with my seventy year old self. How did I get so tired? How did I get so over-scheduled? What am I doing?

At a time in my life, when I no longer have to go to an office everyday, or put in the hours necessary to garner a paycheck, I found myself on the verge of burnout. Did you ever hit one of those moments where your body, heart and mind are demanding a correction, under threat of serious consequence? I’m there.

Women and aging is a big issue. We fight for relevance, for the opportunity to use every ounce of power and passion in our beings, regardless of the years. For many, having an empty nest is less about missing the kids and more about creating the art, music, writing, garden, leadership that was put on the back burner when we were making a family. It’s a fact that a purpose driven life thrives much better in the aging process than a life that recedes from interpersonal engagement and activity. That being said, the reality is this – we change at sixty, seventy and eighty. Our soul asks something different of us than it did when we were in our forties and fifties. Welcome to the tightrope.

For the past few years, I’ve taken everything that I ever learned in business and applied it to my writing and the promotion of such. I write on a disciplined and daily schedule. I attend classes that I think will improve my craft. I meet with writing groups. In two years, I’ve published two books, done over a couple of hundred podcasts and radio shows, created and delivered webinars and talks for the likes of Charles Schwab, Southern Oregon University, Covey Club and Dress for Success, Austin. Oh, and let’s throw in a new puppy into the mix! Wow, what accomplishments! Except that there were days when I was just passing my husband in the hallway and yelling something about dinner as I walked out the door, totally clueless as to how my drive was alienating those around me. Thus, the collision, caused by the inattentiveness to balance.

I hit the breaks, ate a fairly large helping of humble pie, and then journaled about how I was going to deal with my inability or unwillingness to live a balanced life. Balance is an issue that most can relate too. From time to time, our focus and determination go into overdrive and we get lopsided with our priorities. In the past week, I’ve had to take an inventory of what’s really important to me. I’ve asked myself what it is that I’m trying to prove? How can I do the things that I love, and not lose my child heart in the process?

First things first: My husband and our relationship remain number one. That means not bounding out of bed at 6:00am to write, but rather lingering to cuddle and talk, wake up slowly to the world while enjoying the love and gentle companionship of a marriage that, after all these years, still has the passion and joy of young love. It’s a simple thing that illustrates how profound simple acts can be.

Next, I adjusted my expectations about the new manuscript I’m writing. Write every day, yes. And also, slow down. Some of what drives me is that I feel like I’m running out of time. My mother and my grandmother were ninety when they died. If I follow suit, that gives me twenty years to make the art that I want to make through writing. Where mortality and ambition collide does not address the last vestiges of WHAT is to be accomplished. Rather, it addresses what I might lament. At the end of the day, will I cry because I didn’t spend more hours in front of the computer? Or will I mourn that too little of my time was spent connecting with my husband and best friend? Will I wish that I’d taken more walks along the forest trails? Will I long for more hours to sit on the back porch, drinking in the morning as light fills the day?

Each decade demands something new from us. I'm wading into the waters of turning seventy this spring, I have this inkling, that the contemplative life, the reflective life, the life of wisdom rescued from grit of my existence, is what will bring me peace and balance.

So I remain in bed a little bit longer, wrapped around the man who has given me such a good life, with whom I've shared every conceivable emotion and passage. I write at a later time, reminding myself to slow down and make the process as deliberate and thoughtful as possible. Make sure that I have time to nourish my child-heart who always wants to go into the woods, or along the water to commune with blue herons and small hawks.

In a moment’s decision, just like that, the correction is made – one of hundreds of thousands over a lifetime that has danced with everything. I do not fault myself for that. I just need to remember that the underbelly of such passion and drive is that I can easily get carried away by a current that leads someplace other than to the center. With my soul’s soft hands on my shoulders, she whispers into my ear, that the art of living is made through facing the shadow, seeking the light, and telling the truth about the journey.

And then I took a deep breath . . .


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