Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finding Balance

By M Ryan Taylor

Eat, Pray, Love is a book about finding balance. Liz goes to Italy in the first part of the book to focus solely on things she enjoys: to eat and learn Italian. This tactic is a perhaps necessary overcompensation for her—her exclusive pursuit of pleasure becoming a step toward eventually finding balance in her life.

I can relate to this. When I started hiking with Dixie three days a week last summer, it was because my life was completely out of balance. I felt I had to focus exclusively on the weak area of my life in order to strengthen it enough so that when I added the rest of life back in, it wouldn't be overwhelmed by those other forces.

When our little hiker's paradise came to an abrupt end this fall and I switched to biking and Pilates for my exercise (at least an hour a day, six days a week . . . I'm peddling as I type this), I find I can keep going with the health goals. Health has taken root and is growing in me.

Was then “finding balance” easy? When I started to add back in the other aspects of my life, did it all fall into place? I wish.

In short, finding balance is hard. I've tried a number of things in the past months to juggle all the aspects of my life: family, composition, performing, volunteering at church and with my composer collective, taking on the directorship of a local children's choir, corresponding, art/design/multimedia/webwork, etc.

For a while I was trying to spend an hour on each of these aspects of my life every day and I set up an account on to track my progress. I would just get started on a project when time came for me to work on something else. All right, so that didn't work, it just left me feeling frazzled.

Then, a loved one suggested that I go on the “Creation” program of planning. You know how in Genesis it is accounted that God created the world in seven days? Well, each day had its own focus: light, the waters, the land and plants, the sun and moon, the fish, animals . . . not everything at once.

There are a few things I do need and want to do every day. Exercise, eating well, and performance/practice are three of them. Beyond those things though, I've decided to give each day a focus.

  • Sunday: Playing organ at church
  • Monday: Song and choral music composition and recording
  • Tuesday and Thursday: Opera composition (currently a little over half-composed on The Giant's Heart, an adaptation of the story by George MacDonald)
  • Wednesday: Writing
  • Friday: Art/Multimedia
  • Saturday: Spend time with Dixie

So far, one week in, this feels good. As long as I get something substantial done on each of these themes I can tackle other projects in the day, but giving each day a focus really helps me leave that frazzled feeling behind.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Every Aspect of Your Life will Benefit

By M Ryan Taylor

I left my last post a little open-ended, by saying, "Make your health your first priority and it will benefit every other aspect of your life. It has for me." Then I neglected to give any concrete examples. So here they are, from mundane financial matters to the spiritual.

Financial: I eat less, so my grocery budget doesn't need to be so huge. Yes, I've been trying to buy organic produce which is more expensive generally, but cutting out most pre-packaged food and junk food more than balances it out. Also, we're trying to use our bikes or walk whenever we can, so we negotiated a lower insurance rate on our car and use far less gas than we were.

Relationships: I haven't nearly reached my goal, but my progress (and not keeping it a secret) has allowed me to make new connections with people and strengthen existing connections with others. I think many people don't know what to say about my singing or composition accomplishments (other than "that was beautiful"), but everyone can relate personally to the struggle to maintain a balance in health.

Family: All those hours on the trail with my wife gave us a lot of time to talk on the way down. I feel closer to her than I ever have. Even after her going back to teaching in the fall (and I knuckling down on performance and composition), we find ways to spend more quality time together in our "off" hours. We've been bike riding together on dates. We read to each other. I encourage her in her hobbies, guitar playing, and drawing.

I want to talk more extensively about balance, spirituality, and work, but I'll save that for next time.