Balance Can’t Happen But Boundaries Can

Photo by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash

Balance Can’t Happen But Boundaries Can

For the longest time—too long, honestly—I clung to the belief that if I created and maintained better balance in my life, I would feel better: I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed. The busyness that seemed to plague me would die down (at least a bit). I wouldn’t feel so emotionally drained. In short, all would be—and feel—better.

That was a lie.

In fact, it was worse than a lie. It was an empty promise that left me even more exhausted than before. That’s because balance in my personal life is an impossibility that can never be reached no matter how hard I strive for it. And that has left me with another fun little souvenir: shame. Failing doesn’t feel good. And it feels even worse when your own sanity depends on it.

So, how exactly did I figure this insidious little lie out? I locked myself in a closet (no, literally, I did this!) and put pen to paper. I couldn’t argue with the facts that were staring me back in the face. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, here’s the thought process and journaling practice I went through…

First, I let myself breath. Turns out it was nice to be holed up in a closet. It was really nice. It was quiet, dark, and even a bit cool. I was alone. And that doesn’t happen very often.

Then—and I honestly, don’t know why—I started thinking about hats. (It’s amazing where your mind can wander off to when you let it! But then again, I *was* in the closet. So, maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising my thoughts landed there.) I considered the fact that I really do like hats even though I only where them in the summer to shield me from the sun and in the winter to keep warm. Then, my thoughts took another turn: I may not wear many physical hats, but I sure do wear a lot of metaphorical ones. And boy, can those get heavy!

That’s when I started writing. I literally just made a list of all the metaphorical hats I wear on a daily basis:

  • Wife
  • Mother
  • Special needs parent
  • Curriculum writer
  • Caregiver

The list went on, but you get the idea. And the more I wrote—the longer this list grew—the greater my appreciation for exactly why I was feeling so overwhelmed and overextended all the time. Duh. I felt this way because I was living this way. It was (and still is) my daily reality.

Then, I put my pen down and took a more critical look at it. Where could I create—and realistically enforce—some boundaries?

Nope, nope, and… nope.

To be completely transparent, right now the bulk of my time, physical, and mental drains revolve around managing and caring for our son’s special needs. I can’t draw an almighty line in the sand when it comes to his care. Feeling a bit helpless once again, I dropped my pen to the floor and let my head drop into my hands. Was there still no hope? Was this continual feeling of exhaustion my fate for the foreseeable future? Oy.

A few moments later, with my cheek pressed up against the carpet, I had another thought: Balance may be impossible. But boundaries aren’t. I could still create—and enforce—effective barriers between me and utter exhaustion. We all can.

Boundaries can have negative connotations. They can box us in. They confine. They build walls, not bridges. Yada, yada, yada. But they can be healthy, too. They help us define what we will and won’t allow. They provide us with clear direction when we may be feeling a bit flustered with our feelings or emotions. They even communicate to others—and ourselves—what’s personally important.

And guess what? I’m important. And so are you.

The next time I picked up the pen, I flipped the paper over and drew a bunch of boxes. Inside each box, I listed a few things that I felt were currently lacking, things that I would like but wasn’t currently experiencing on any kind of regular basis…

  • Quiet
  • Time for a hobby (or even just reading a magazine)
  • Bubble baths!
  • Time to work on personal goals (like getting this blog up!)
  • More time with my other son

After I had the boxes filled, I jotted down specific ways I could create and enforce boundaries to allow for more of what I wanted, more of what was written inside the boxes. This was just a quick brainstorming session, but I did come up with a few good ideas…

  • Create a set weekly appointment with myself for a bubble bath
    I do this now on Thursday nights, the same day I clean the bathrooms so I can be certain to enjoy a clean tub—and everyone knows that I’m “off limits” during this day/time.
  • Carve out a “happy hour” each day
    Okay, so it’s not technically a full hour. But it is a block of time each and every day that I get to do a little of what makes me happy. Admittedly, some days this only equates to a “happy 15 minutes before bedtime,” but it’s daily and I can look forward to it. So, it’s a great start!
    (If you’d like a fun printable to help you plan out your own personal “happy hour,” you can find one at my Etsy shop.)
  • Find and create ways for Mark to be more independent where he’s able
    This area continues to be “work-in-progress,” but we’ve both made great gains as a result.

I’ve discovered that boundaries don’t always have to mean “no,” either. They can mean “not yet,” “just for a little while,” or “with a little help I can.” In fact, now that I’ve thrown away the inane goal of trying to balance everything, I’ve thrown myself wholeheartedly into the pragmatic art of boundary setting and keeping. I’ve become so much better for it and so can you.

How many hats do YOU wear?
How can you find ways to create and enforce healthy boundaries?
Print out the FREE printable I’ve created (available over on the FREE STUFF page) to help you walk through this thought exercise, too.

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