Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Balancing Act

The last few weeks, and in all truth months, have been filled with transition. That has left me out of whack and steered my writing much more toward the personal than the public.  A sort of haze settled in over my mind, clouding my writing process and leaving me to deal in the story of my life much more in person than in writing.  

What I have written for public consumption has been much more strained. Withstanding rounds of revision and slowly, laboriously being brought out of me, these pieces have been helpful in jump starting my writing if only through the necessity of deadlines.  Despite this block or in light of it, life has gone on.  I am transitioning into living in a local community with four Sisters of St. Joseph, women who are at least double my age but still companions and compatriots to me on this journey.  As I sit in the haze of transition, it is these women who sit with me, knowing all too well what it feels like to be in a new place, with new people, in a way of life that no matter how much you try to wrap your mind around is still very foreign.

A dear friend recently asked me what it was like to live with these women.  At first I looked back at her quizzically, how is this any different than the transition I made into community last year?  Then her question hit me. I knew what she was asking- what is it like to live with these women? These women are sisters... but even more, these women are old ladies. Truthfully, I didn't quite know how to answer. If I think about it, they are old. The thing is though that I haven't thought about it. Sure there are moments when it is striking clear that the women I live with have been alive much longer than I have, when stories predate my birth, and I realize the woman I am having a heart to heart with is my mother's age.  These are facts. And this is a fact of this life especially.

My preoccupation over the last few weeks though has been with my own life and not the sum of the years in anyone else's.  Moving into a new community, returning to an intense work setting, making my way along in my application to the SSJs, and dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life has shown me that life is a balancing act.  In the midst of transition, it is easy to get off balance.  Lots of things throw you for curves and everything seems to have a different degree of impact on you than it might otherwise. 

In times less hectic, balance is something that comes with greater ease. You have it and you must simply maintain it.  When life is jumbled, it takes the tension of honesty with yourself, others, and God to pull things together.  I catch glimpses of balance every now and then, but know it will be a while until it is a more permanent feature.  For now, I must simply recognize and be at peace with this fact. If I feel like life is balanced and the uneasiness of all this transition has passed for good, I am most likely lying to myself. Remember that whole honesty thing?! Truly though I am coming more and more to understand the balancing act.

This means balancing time with community and time of prayer and contemplation. It means straightening out tasks in my ministry so I can serve those most in need, while also giving myself enough space and time, to care for myself, so that I have enough energy to serve to the best of my ability.  It means being attentive to myself, being gentle, so that I do not lose the balance within myself that is so critical. Without such balance, I lose my adequacy in many things. I can't write. I falter in prayer. I find myself exhausted. I can't be present to others the way I'd like to be. I find myself unable to fully minister to those who come to the Center for help.

Yet, each day brings with it a new chance to take steps towards balance.  I find myself becoming more comfortable with my new community; comfortable enough to take time away from them- to walk out on a television show we're watching to go pray, to fond time to write or nap when I need it.  I'm not perfect. Sometimes the Spirit hits me and I choose to stay, bargaining for a few more minutes in community, only to find I'm tuckered out once I move out of the room. Still, even in not heeding the call, simply recognizing the call to balance is a step in and of itself.  

The same can be said in ministry.  Remembering why I do what I do in the midst of frantic demands on my time and energy is a blessing.  I do not do this for me. This is for God and neighbor.  I need balance so that I can be united with both.  Dependence on both will lead me to a well balanced life, one full of love, grace, joy, and gratitude.

Slowly but surely I will move toward balance.  Slower than I would like at times, but more surely than I could ever imagine. The work of such a balancing act is the act of living. It is takes a lifetime to achieve but ultimately, such balance will allow me to live this life... my life.


  1. " It means being attentive to myself, being gentle, so that I do not lose the balance within myself that is so critical. " This is such a vital truth in ministry, and hard to prioritize even in non transitional phases- but so much more in transition... I'm in a similar place these days, for different reasons. Sometimes I feel ready to break, and those of course are the extremely unbalanced spaces... I wonder if you've read Timothy Gallagher's Discerning the Will of God? It's a beautiful reflection (Ignatian) and we're reading it in our women's small faith group... In any case, thank you for the labor of love that your writing may be, and for sharing life.

  2. Welcome to the journey!!! If you ever want to process community living off blog, my email box is open!

    Blessings of Peace & Joy