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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finding Life Balance

Several weeks ago I was sitting stuck in traffic with my four-year old screaming in the backseat because he wanted something. What it was I honestly can’t remember. What I do remember is that I had rushed all day to run errands, squeeze in a workout, write on my latest book and put my house in some semblance of what I like to refer to as order. In other words, I had a lot on my plate. The air was blowing a cool 68 in my car, but I was hot. Suddenly, I couldn’t get a proper breath.

Freeze for a moment on this second in my life. Time ticks by, I try and fail to get a proper breath, and then I roll all the windows down, desperate for some air. Finally, halleluiah, I managed to take several, slow deep breaths.

My mind scanned the possibilities before me—heart attack? Unlikely, I’m a tall, athletic, health nut with no family history of heart problems. Panic attack? Hmm…unlikely, but still…the idea settled in my brain, and as I drove I examined the possibility. I’m normally unfazed under pressure. Actually, I normally thrive under pressure, but I realized as I was driving that perhaps I had forced myself to thrive under pressure for too long.

Fast forward to the next day. I had several moments in the day where I felt like I couldn’t get a proper breath. What the heck was going on? I scanned the radio looking for something that wouldn’t frazzle my nerves more and turned on National Public Radio. Diane Reamer was interviewing Allison Pearson, the author of I Don’t Know How She Does It.

I was immediately interested. Mrs. Pearson was speaking about getting over depression which had resulted from years of pushing herself to work in overdrive. After listening to the entire interview, I had an epiphany. NO, I’m not depressed, but I have been pushing myself to work in overdrive for years. As I approach forty, I realize I want better life balance. I am in control of everything. If my life is too hectic I’ve made it that way. So, in the last two weeks, I have been striving toward my goal of life balance. I am still working on my writing, but not so much that I leave time for little else.

I started making list of things I need to do, and I put the most important things at the top. If the rest doesn’t get done, one thing I can tell you for certain is that the unfinished task will be there tomorrow.

In the spirit of life balance, I went to the lake with my girlfriends this weekend. I had a blast. I have some of the most wonderful friends in the world, and I am blessed to have a circle of soul sisters who would stand by my side no matter what.

Also in the spirit of balance, my husband and I decided to buy tickets to see one of our favorite rock bands, The Foo Fighters. We’re both going to leave everything behind for two glorious days, while my mother-in-law watches our children. The concert is far enough away that we get to stay overnight.

In the spirit of balance, I organized my house! This sounds crazy, but I’m very type A, and in the last year or two I’ve focused so intensely on writing that I’ve let some areas become disorganized because I was too busy writing. Not anymore! I cleaned that junk drawer, cleaned out my kids closets, and got on Shutterfly to organize and create an album for all the pictures I’ve taken in the last two years that have been sitting on my camera’s flashcard untouched.

I feel good! That inability to get a proper breath is gone! Everyday, I ask myself what is something you want to do for you that you think you don’t have time for, and then I do it. Yesterday, I bought a coupon organizer and today I’m going to actually organize them! This makes me happy! Crazy but true! I’m also going on a field trip for my son, and I am going to take one hour to finish writing my latest chapter. Everything else on my list will be there tomorrow if it doesn’t get done.

How do you do it? How do you tame the beast to try and do everything in order to keep yourself stress free? I’d love to hear from you!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. Great post, Julie! I'm so glad you don't have the breathing problem anymore - I know that feeling well and it's terrifying!!

    For me, the only way to keep my sanity is to outsource. I have a nanny 30 hours a week who not only takes care of the baby but also cleans the kitchen, does my laundry and, if Bella sleeps long enough, she organizes things like my junk drawer or linen closet.

    And twice a month, we bring in a house cleaner.

    These things cost money, but I realized my sanity was worth way more than what we pay these invaluable people!!

  2. I love my coupon organizer. :) I like to be frugal on the every day, necessary things...so I can spend a little extra on the fun stuff or find a good way to relax.

  3. Jerrica,
    It sounds like you have mastered the art of finding balance!

  4. Same here, Catherine! I love to save on groceries and use that money to go to dinner or buy something for the kids or myself!

  5. I think you have the key to finding balance. When I finally realized I couldn't do it all (which was hard for me to admit), I just took one thing at a time. It works! Keep it up and the balance will find you.

  6. Balance? What's that?

    I'm still trying to find a schedule that works for me with this school year. This is the first time I have kids in two different schools. I feel like I'm awake earlier and up later trying to accomplish everything that happens. Add in late night baseball and kids too ramped up to sleep until 11pm at night and I feel very out of balance.

    Only another month and baseball ends. I'll be so happy for that. I'll get several hours of my life back. I think the biggest thing I need to remember to do is read. I feel guilty for doing that lately with so much other stuff to do. But I always feel soo much better after reading a book.

  7. Julie,

    I can relate well. You and I started writing at about the same time and it did consume my life for about 2 years. My laptop went on vacations and long weekends, but that really defeated the purpose.

    But my stressful life started way before writing and it was of my own making. Procastination and poor time management are my enemies.

    A few weeks ago I had a health scare that turned out to be nothing, but it made me take a serious look at what I've been doing. Suddenly things that I thought were important weren't at all.

    I finally scheduled the manicures and pedicures for my daughter and me she had been asking for all summer. As I was sitting there relaxing for the first time that month, I thought back to the last time I had a pedicure. It was before my son was born in 1998! I used to go in for a manicure weekly and pedicure monthly. What the heck happened?

    It's time for me to slow down and be in the moment.

  8. LOL. Okay. Just as I posted, two workmen called from outside my house to say they are here to put in our new fireplace. And I'm having a party tonight and just cleaned the house. It figures! :)

  9. Julie ~ I often feel overwhelmed. I work 40+ hours at my high-stress day job. I'm a single mother of a teenager and I write in all my spare time to make my various deadlines. I have noticed lately that I have so much to do that I don't know what to do first and I end up staring into space like I'm a catatonic coma victim, not the best use of my time. LOL. So I need to find a way to get my life a bit more organized to free up my mind so I can actually think- I just need the time to do it. :)

  10. Anonymous,
    Thanks for stopping by! I like your tip that the balance will find me!

  11. Beth,
    I think part of finding balance is also telling my kids no to certain things. I so relate to your hectic baseball schedule. My oldest son wants to play every sport known to man. When school started this year he wanted to play flag football, baseball, do wrestling and do cub scouts. We told him he could pick two, and that has been such a wise decision. Hang in there!

  12. Samantha,
    I'm glad to hear you took a little time for yourself and your sweet daughter! Take a deep breath and enjoy your party tonight. You know what else I realized helps me relax, listing to opera music!

  13. Ava,

    Your ending comment reminds me so much of me! I've been walking around for two years thinking I need to carve out the time to get more organized or simply slow down, and I kept telling myself as soon as this book was done. Of course, then it was as soon as that book was done, and then it was as soon as the edits were done. Then it was as soon as I get an agent, and then I said as soon as I get published. Then I realized the other day my life was one long 'as soon as' moment, and I didn't want to live that way for one more second. Of course, you cannot change having to take care of your son, or work you day job, or meet your deadlines since you are such a fabulously successful writer, but I hope to hear you do eek out a little time for yourself and have some fun!

  14. So glad to hear that you found your balance. I think when you decide enough is enough a lot of unnecessary external pressures disappear. I'm pretty laid back these days. Have you noticed that no one ever turns up when the house is perfect? With three males in my house, perfect is impossible. LOL

    I don't rush around like the raving lunatic I used to be. I take for myself. I stop and listen to my internal monologue and dismiss the worried or snarky bits that have crept into my thinking. Sort of a tune up for my mental health. Keeps me sane.

  15. Heather,
    How true about the house! How come company only calls when it's a mess? I have a great writer friend who said, I don't want people standing around at my funeral talking about how clean my house was. I want people standing around at my funeral talking about how great my books were! This is so true to me!

  16. Julie, great advice and exactly what I needed at this moment in my life. I, too am feeling overwhelmed being the only bread winner in the house atm. So with that said, the one thing that I try to do is limit myself to cleaning one room a day. And I spend at least one hour a day with my kids. Those are my two really big to-do things on my list. And you're right, everything else can fall by the wayside. Great blog!