Keeping Balance. Advice From My Side Of The Impossible

It’s been a long time since I have been able to write anything. I am now in my second month of ‘Oh my god, my health isn’t entirely stuffed’, and wow. I can tell you one thing about being extremely impaired for over a year, it certainly teaches you to prioritise. Is that balance? I don’t know really. I hope so.

But when you spend a long time being unable to leave the house or even walk to the bottom of the driveway without supervision, you learn to prioritise what needs to be done pretty fast. (And no, I’m not talking Covid and lockdowns here. Even though boy have they changed things!)

I am not sure I can impart any wisdom, or anything about the experience. And it is not at all finished, as I have long term chronic illnesses that are never going away. But hopefully this won’t be entirely awful to read, and may help you on your own journey towards balance in your own life.

Pick Your Battles. Pick Fewer. Or Maybe Just One.

I am still homeschooling my kids. Not just zooming into school, but me. In charge. Figuring things out. Having read a little of the literature on homeschooling, I know one of the few risks for my kids not getting a good education is when the parent in charge is very ill. So, balance for me, has been ensuring that what energy I had was focused towards making sure they were learning, and had access to what they needed to learn, and thrive. Of course, in this game, you can never know if you are doing it right.

But that does mean other things might fall by the side: writing for instance; daily showers (At my worst, if I had a shower that was it for the whole day.); trying to look after the house. I outsourced nagging / executive functioning to our devices – the kids set their own alarms if they wanted to remember to do something. This mum here wasn’t going use her daily allotted energy on that.

And in case you are wondering, did it work? Yes, a little bit. Did I spend a lot of time talking through why I couldn’t be their reminder alarm? Yes. Do I have to do it individually for each task? Yes. Has it over time reduced what I need to do myself? Yes. But that’s what you have to do when you and your kids don’t quite have enough Executive Functioning skills to fill a thimble. Outsource it. I really love digital calendars. Just saying.

So, we have been a little stinky here, but happier. Balance, lol.

Me Time.

Should I just have this section as a just unending series of laughing emojis?

One of the things I have found harder to deal with, with everyone at home … is the noise. Now, thank goodness my husband has been able to work from home – this has been a massive boon for us. But it does mean that often there are multiple conversations going on at the same time. And we live in an apartment. Granted, it’s a pretty big apartment.

But finding a quiet space to think is a challenge. Particularly with kids who haven’t yet learned volume control, bless them. Add on top of that our noisy neighbour who loves to have conversations at shout volume, a nearby school that loves to blast out announcements, bell noises and songs at rock concert volume, and the need to have our dehumidifiers (yes plural) going to combat the winter damp, and it can get pretty noisy here.

Sometimes we can’t even hear the nearby cockatoos and rosellas!

One of the best presents I ever received for this was a set of noise cancelling headphones. Pop on these beauties, load up a track of, say, rainforest noises, and I am in a completely different place. Sanity saving. Particularly as I am very sound sensitive. Now, confession time, I didn’t think I was sound sensitive. I thought I was great with sounds, as I didn’t cover my ears and hide under tables at high pitch noises. I could go to concerts. But my poor hubbie did notice that by the end of the day, I would be sitting there staring at the wall. For a considerable length of time. The body was there, but the mind? Was in some foetal position deep inside my own skull.

Headphones. The anti-overwhelm magic tech of happiness.

Supporting Each Other – A Balancing Act

It’s hard when you can’t do the things that you used to. Only very recently have I been able to cook again. For those who have been following me for a while, you will know what a blow that is. I am the Gluten-Free Mum, after all. Baking was balance. Cooking a tray of biscuits was literally a fantasy I would run in my head. (And yes, I have managed it since, and they were delicious. Double Choc Chip Cookies).

So my hubbie took up the regular cooking. We had been doing 50/50 for years, balancing the load. And he is a wonderful cook. But it’s hard to feel so helpless. One way we turned this into a good thing is to turn his cooking time into adult time for us both. Cooking time is TV time for the kids, and they are – thankfully – old enough that I am fairly sure they won’t kill themselves if they are out of sight for half an hour anymore.

So we spend the time he is cooking chatting about adult things, or silly funny things. Or just venting about our days. Even though mine is mostly digital. It’s my way of seeing and valuing what he is doing, and it’s his way of connecting with me after a long, long day.

I Screw Up, A Lot

Now, I am not some balance guru. For a start, I have no real pain threshold. I used to, a long time ago. But I have lived in virtually constant pain now for 30 years.

To give you an idea: my worst pain days are easier than labouring to give birth to one of the kids. I have, with a deep irony, found it amusing to fill out forms about, say, symptoms of Covid, or indeed most forms. If I fill it out based on my actual symptoms, I am at ‘phone an ambulance, you are dying’. If I fill it out based on extra symptoms above baseline, I am perfectly healthy. Ah. Joyous days.

And then there was the time I didn’t notice I had serious gastro until I started vomiting. No one wants to hear that story, trust me.

It’s only in the last two months that I have felt it may be OK to go for a walk on my own – falling over is just something my body does now. My body is so used to pain now, that even when the original cause was treated, my poor system has been unable to turn it off. It’s a no holds barred, gourmet feast of pain, where I get to find out if I’ll wake up with the slight joyous tingling of standing a little too close to a fire, or the extra special premium experience of walking slowly through a campfire.

So, when I say somedays I push myself too far…yeah. Having no real feedback on what is too much sucks. If I say, ‘Today I’ll do some clothes washing!’ Half way through, I’m sitting on the bathroom floor going, ‘maybe this is not one of my more brilliant ideas‘.

Or I might decide I am going to prep dinner … as a person who is very, very independent and used to being competent, this adjustment is hard. And as I have learned, over and over again, because I am very stubborn, when the handshaking starts, it’s past time to stop.

Yes, I am pushing myself writing this. And the hand shaking has started. Me and my body are not always very happy with each other, lol.

Balance is Something That Changes

Is there any takeaway from all this? Maybe. The one true thing is that what balance looks like changes from day to day. Hour to hour. And it can trigger some deep reflection. Not just of what to do on any given day, but what is worth doing. Where should the focus be? And where will I go from there?

At a more fundamental level, I find myself thinking about who I am, why am I here? What do I really want to do with my life? What do I need to do? How can I get balance in my life when it keeps changing? When you have so few spoons, you find the decisions become both harder, and easier.

Harder because there are valuable things that need to be dropped, and that hurts. Easier because I have to face up to the fact that I literally can’t do things. Normal things. Not all at once. Maybe not even one at a time. And though it’s no picnic, it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. And yep, I might have to remind myself of that when I’m sitting on the bathroom floor, staring at the wall a time or two.

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