Rethinking Balance On International Women’s Day
Illustration by Gemma Correll
Happy International Women’s Day! In light of the #balanceforbetter theme (designed to promote gender parity) we’ve been thinking a lot about the word balance itself and how it applies to our community specifically. So, we asked some women from our breast cancer community to weigh in on what the word balance means to them. Here’s what they had to say.
“What can I do to bring more joy, right now?”
Balance for me is measured in joy. Am I feeling sad? Stressed? Bored? Overwhelmed? Deep breath, and I ask myself “What can I do to bring more joy, right now?”
That one little mindset trick is usually all it takes to change my state from feeling like I can’t cope, to feeling like this is all unfolding as it’s supposed to, and this moment is the only one that matters. Maybe I turn on a great jam. Maybe I super cuddle my kids. Maybe I go and get a milkshake. Maybe I call my aunt, or love bomb my friends. The exact solution depends on the environment, my mood, but the answer to achieving balance is always “more joy.”
I believe balance is an unrealistic expectation and don’t believe that any of us can achieve balance. When I think of balance, it takes me back to elementary school and those cheap plastic scales in math class. One activity would be to gather items from around the classroom and get them to equal the same on either side.
One of the many definitions of balance is stability produced by an even distribution of weight. Now let’s apply this to life. To balance everything in life–work, family, friends, extracurriculars, health and fitness, a home, kids, pets, a car etc, it would mean that everything has equal weight. Equal importance and equal time. To me, that’s impossible. Everything can’t be balanced because as we move through life different things become a priority, which means other things, which may still be important, don’t take up as much time/space/energy etc at that moment.
I prefer the term prioritize, which, to me, focuses on and ranks various things in one’s life by importance at that time. As a person changes over time ones priorities can change. I think this also lessens the burden that comes with the pressure to balance it all.
If you see me running around trying to get lots of things done, know I’m not trying to balance anything but rather prioritize what needs to get done.
Balance is something I have strived for throughout my life, although what that balance looks like has certainly evolved with time. When I was young, it was all about attaining physical balance on the ice. My goal was to become a professional figure skater, and I was very fortunate to realize this goal for over a decade. I then aspired to find the perfect balance of being the best wife, mother, daughter and friend. I quickly began to realize that the balance was getting more difficult, the more that I added to my life. I was busy making sure I was filling up everyone else’s cup, when mine was almost empty. Then one morning in March 2016, my world as I knew it was gone. Diagnosis: Stage 4 terminal Breast Cancer at age 38.
Even in the face of this diagnosis, I had to find a way to still balance being a mom to three young kids. Being a wife to my husband. And now fitting in treatment, side effects and appointments for cancer. That’s when I was finally able to let go of “perfect”. Balance in my life is no longer saying yes to every parent volunteer sign-up. Instead, I make time for each of my kids in ways that are important to them. I don’t feel guilty for choosing a coffee date over cleaning my house. Now when I am tired, I take the time to rest instead of just pushing through and ticking another thing off my to-do list. The truth is that list will always have to-do’s. Making sure that I have enough time and energy for the real things in life is my motivation to find my balance. It is only then that I am able to get through my treatment and the ups and downs that come with being a cancer patient. Skating might have taught me how to balance on ice, but its true gift was a lesson in staying centered, even in the face of life’s falls, lifts and jumps.
I don’t actually believe in balance. As an entrepreneur, you come to realize there will always be something that will have your attention more than everything else at any one time. I think it’s deceiving when people say things like, “You need to have balance,” because everyone’s definition of balance is different. The important thing I try to remember is to check-in with myself almost daily. Especially if I’m feeling tired or frustrated. I literally will ask myself, “How are you feeling, mentally, physically, emotionally?” and I listen to my first response. I always know when something is a bit out of whack. I know if I don’t go to the gym, eat poorly or have any unsaid communication, my day is going to be less shiny, so I try and make those things my non-negotiables. And as someone who is the key resource in my business, (it can’t run without me) I can’t afford to not be top of my game.
Photo credit: @girlsquadinc
Breast Cancer has opened me up to all kinds of new ways to find balance within my life. Yoga has been the biggest source of balance, sometimes literally (my tree pose often sways in the wind, ha ha ha). Yoga has re-connected me to my body, reminded me of how strong I am and allowed me to move forward with love towards my new body. I have limitations, but so does everyone. Finding balance between my limitations and abilities has been very empowering. Yoga has helped me find peace and love for my new body and my new life. I have modified yoga to fit my new body. This is my balance for better, taking something I thought I may never do again due to lymphedema, fatigue, severe joint pain etc. etc. and making it work for me.
CLICK HERE TO MEET MORE BADASS WOMEN IN OUR COMMUNITY!