Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Long Game

Last week I had dinner and went to yoga with a busy friend.  When I say busy, I mean four children, full-time job and wake up before 5 a.m. busy.  So I was flattered that she made time for me and impressed that she made time for herself.  We talked about busy women, balancing family with work, and looking at life as "the long game" (not a reference to the British TV show).  

Here is what I took away from the long game discussion: in a lifetime, a woman can experience and accomplish a dizzying number of things, but when we try to hit all of our targets at once, that's when we really get dizzy.  I know, I know...when we were little they told us we could have it all: a spouse, children, a rich education, a meaningful and/or lucrative career, developed interests and passions and a travel map full of colored thumb tacks. Our generation of women was to be liberated and gifted. Some of us had the idea we'd have all of this at once. And some women do, and if we feel like it, we can be inspired by their examples. We can also be inspired just looking at our own lives. 

Wherever we are, we can be pleased with ourselves. Why? Because some of us never really thought we'd do it all at once.  Others may have changed their outlook once the reality of a rewarding yet all-consuming career set in--maybe the single life was a better fit after all.  Motherhood may have caused us to adjust course, balancing priorities and re-evaluating short and long term goals, based on a family's particular needs. Or perhaps an ailing parent or sibling needed help and reduced hours were required. It could be that a divorce inspired an international move, a couple of years off for travel, or a prioritization of self-growth over the drive to reproduce. The scenarios are endless, but it's clear that most people, not just women, aren't hitting every aspect of the idealized life at one time.  

If you are like me and the busy mom I was talking to, you have your passions, your interests, your goals and your precious relationships. You have trips you want to take and skills you want to refine. In spite of everyday pressures, you enjoy each day for what it has to offer, but you can't help thinking about next steps and new ways to grow.  This doesn't make us restless.  In fact, it's an auspicious sign--it means you have hope, you are optimistic, you can still look at life as if you were 18, but instead of saying, "my whole life is in front of me," you say, "the rest of my life awaits me." I'm 41. If I look at what I have done since I was 18, it is such a long view.  It opens up more space for me to realize that I have hit many, many points on my short list AND my long list. Had I boiled all that down to five years... well, that would be impossible! Make that calculation for your own life, and watch the time pressure disappear. 

Maybe you're not seeing your kids as much as you thought you should when you went back to work. Or, maybe you plunged head first into parenting and community, but your career is on a hiatus. Maybe you haven't gone on a honeymoon yet or you never got around to learning ballet or running the New York marathon. That doesn't mean that those things won't happen--it just means they didn't all happen at the same time.  For most of us it's impossible to live out all our dreams in the short term. And many people who seem to be doing it are mostly unable to savor anything; they are under-slept, overstimulated, over-medicated and possibly overrated. 

We live in a culture of extremes, but we intuit that moderation is better for us.  However we choose to do it, we learn to prioritize, balance, and find the combination that works best.  We can do it all and have it all, if we expand our perspective and view our life as from above, rather than down low, crowded in among the blades of grass. We can look out over the horizon.  We can see our way ever expanding before us, with plenty of space to evolve. There is no rush, no urgency, unless we impose it. We can give ourselves permission to love what we have right now, believing that the well-rounded life of childhood dreams is possible, when we play the long game. 

No comments:

Post a Comment