When I was a kid, my mother used on occasion to sigh over the folding table in the laundry room, “It’s just never done.”
At eight and nine, I took this as a reproach for getting my clothes dirty too quickly, and I viewed it as my bound duty to avoid spills, tumbles, and stains–and to put the fear of God in my siblings, too, against their own wardrobe malfunctions. (Yes, this is oldest child syndrome: Mom isn’t happy, and it’s definitely my fault.)
Now, facing my own miles-long “to do” list and the chores that seem to be set on “repeat” from here until eternity, I think I get what she actually meant. Keeping up with the scattered ends and pieces of day-to-day living can get a little daunting at times. I left home this morning with a sigh, determined not to think about the laundry I have to do, the pile of shirts waiting to be ironed, the notes I need to write in congratulations for birthdays that passed weeks ago, the vacuuming I haven’t done in weeks, the salt caked on my car (thanks for nothing, Snowquester), the trash and gunk piling up IN my car, the bills to pay, house repair requests to send to the landlord, oh yeah, and the groceries I have yet to buy. No, no — I’m not thinking about any of these things, because I have a daily life to attend to. So the search for balance continues.
The search never ends. I don’t mean that to sound exasperated, harsh, or even dismal. It remains a simple fact of life that the mere act of living it involves a certain level of struggle. We’re walking a daily tightrope, and when we lose our focus or things go crazy, we get thrown off-balance. Sometimes we get thrown off the rope. The only thing to do: pick yourself up, climb back on, and keep on walking.
Sometimes we have to let the extra things slip a little, so we can focus on keeping hold of the rope. Sometimes it’s okay to let the laundry pile up and the dishes sit an extra day in the sink — just so long as the sloppiness doesn’t become a habit.
That’s where I struggle most in finding balance. On the one hand, we’re supposed to be disciplined. On the other, we need to be flexible. Where’s the balance between creating good (i.e., virtuous) habits and remembering that life sometimes gets in the way of our views of perfection? I guess the key point is always to look to the end. Will this action in this moment be a step forward on my road to salvation, or will it be a roadblock?
Funny how we lose sight of the balancing factor when we’re focused on keeping everything running the way we think it should. It’s looking to heaven that keeps us standing upright. But when we’re drowning in the nitty-gritty-details of daily life, it can be almost impossible to retrain our gaze. We miss the forest for the trees–the joy that should be found in being God’s child today for the little things we allow to stress us out. Who cares if my car doesn’t get washed for another week?
The laundry, dishes, and grimy cars you will always have with you. Sometimes it’s okay to relax. Take a step back, take a day off, and just be. (Now I have to get back to work.)