I see so many posts on social media and hear so many people say they are burned out, they are done adulting, they are tired of life. How often do we feel that way? We are so busy, but what are we busy doing? Coming and going, school, work, cleaning, exercising, responsibilities, friends, there is so much that pulls us in so many different directions. How do we do it all, how do we accomplish everything we think we need to do? How do we find balance in our lives and joy?
What is balance and can it be achieved? Balance is making things equal, making things sit just right, so that everything is suspended all at the same time, same level. I think of the old fashioned scales that had a vertical point and a horizontal bar sitting atop. Whatever was placed on one side had to be placed on the other so that it would not tip off or over. I think so often we look at life and want that balance. But that is the wrong focus. I recently listened to some wonderful advice from Elder David A. Bednar about balance. You can listen to the his full thoughts here. It’s not quite 3 minutes long and worth the listen.
As I listened, I started to understand. I think that often we get so bogged down in our minds over all the things we’re not doing, that we can’t really focus on the things we are doing. We are fixing dinner, remembering the laundry laying on the floor in the other room, or going to work, trying to figure out how to spend more time with our families. We try to relax spending an evening out with friends, and worry about the activities of the next day the whole time we could be enjoying friends. We need to look to the future, plan for the future, but we need to live in the present. This all got me thinking about how we might get out of the ruts of our own thoughts, and I had a specific experience come to mind.
This one had to do with service. I know, that adds extra time, extra responsibility, extra running and effort, but it is so worth it. I have seen in my own life, as well as the lives of countless people around me the effects of service, not because they were served (I’ve seen those affects too), but because they were willing to serve. One story I will share. I received a call one afternoon, from a friend in my Church, that there was an older couple in the area that needed help getting some wood stacked. My kids were all at school, and I knew that they were going to be tired, hungry, and not really excited about helping. I also knew the things I needed to get done that afternoon, but I decided we could figure that out later and we were going to be willing to help. When the kids got home I told them what we were doing. They grumbled and complained. We stack a lot of wood for service in our area, and they were not thrilled to be doing it again! I told them to deal with it, we were leaving. We got there and discovered we weren’t the only ones there, that made my kids a little less grumpy about it. But as we got going, as the pile started to diminish where the wood had been, and started stacking nicely where it needed to be, attitudes started to change. The kids started having fun, they had several competitions, they worked together as teams, and the whole pile got moved in a fairly short space of time. When we left, they were laughing and happy. They had helped someone they knew couldn’t help themselves and they were all the better for it. I forgot about all the lists of things that needed to be done and enjoyed the laughter, the fun, and especially the work, and a job well done. Did everything that needed to be done that afternoon get done? No, but the really important things did.
In this life we will never achieve true balance. As Elder Bednar says in his message, when we are doing one thing, we are neglecting another, that is just how life is. We need to pick the best things, even when there are good and better things to do. Life is full of lots of good things, and most of our time will be spent doing the good, all be it often mundane, things in life, but doing the best things, as often as possible, helps us see and understand others better, as well as ourselves. We helped haul wood, and the house didn’t get clean that afternoon, maybe the reading wasn’t as productive, or the homework done perfectly. But the spirit of helpfulness, of gratitude for what we have and our abilities to do what we need to do, and help someone else who couldn’t were far more important than the reading log, far more important than a perfect living room that day. There was no true balance that day, there never will be in life. But the benefits of deciding to do what was best far outweighed the “balance.”