The frantic pace of modern life
I remember these days well.
Paul: Get the kids up. Take Maya to 8:30 a.m. violin lesson. Rush her to school. Run to the office. Work until 8 p.m. Kids dig up lawn to make mud pies. Pay bills.
Diane: Get up early. Jump on Nordic Track exercise machine. Convince plumber that the leak leaks. Walk Naomi to school. Work. Get allergy shot. Back to work. Pick up kids. Snacks. Take Maya to group violin lesson. Naomi to soccer. Make dinner.
Paul and Diane: Supervise homework, clean up, stories, bed time. 10 p.m., collapse.
Ferry kids to gymnastics. Buy food. Clean house. Get shoes for Naomi. Watch soccer game.
The pace of modern life is faster than a speeding train. The family train speeds along, dropping and picking up passengers along the way, but rarely slowing down.
During those years, I yearned for a simpler, slower life. I imagined looking out the window, watching the scenery go by. I pictured walking by the park, smelling the flowers, and watching the fish swim in the local river. I dreamed of fewer hours at the office.
Putting it all together—family, career, marriage, and self-care is a tight rope act with no net. We want it all—meaningful friendships, a loving marriage, quiet time for reflection, great leisure time, and satisfying productive work. Racing across the taut rope, otherwise called modern life, is a balancing act extraordinaire. The only problem—we all keep falling!
Why? Despite our surefootedness, there are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Most adults these days aren’t sleeping enough, so we end up with 17 hours or so for living our daily lives. Subtract 8-9 hours for work, forget about the morning-get-the-kids-off-to-school-feeding frenzy, and that leaves 6-7 hours to balance among chores, friends, self, family, exercise, spouse, and recreation!
Everyone tells us to “Work smarter, not harder!” I don’t know about you, but it seems like I’m working harder, even though I want to work smarter. I hate reading about the mother of three that writes a bestselling novel, gets a doctorate, runs three marathons, and has time for romance with her husband—all at the same time! The rest of us must be doing something wrong.
“Get organized!” says this smart, but not hard working, novelist. “Make lists,” “Schedule time with your spouse,” “Shop at night,” “Wake at 5”—the list of how-to’s goes on and on. It all sounds so simple. It all seems so impossible.
Let’s face it. We are not super men and women. We are ordinary people trying to forge a balanced life through a complex, high-speed world of instant gratification. We are the original we-want-it-all-and-we-want-it-now generation.
It isn’t possible to have it all at the same time. Life presents changing challenges. Now it is time for family. Later a period for examining friendships. The need for new creative work lies around the corner. There is an underlying wisdom to life’s flow that expressed our deepest sensibilities and yearnings.
There is no simple prescription for slowing and balancing modern life—despite all of the “how-to’s” we read in magazines. Creating a balanced life is a trial-and-error procedure. Often the way is blurred. It requires patience, trust, and self confidence—traits that we could all use more of.
Share your successes and challenges in creating a more balanced life!