As a general rule, we Real Women are carrying far more on our plates at any one time than we should. I imagine all of us walking around like some kind of octopus waitress, balancing dozens of plates heaped with food along each of our eight arms. We must rush from place to place without dropping any food off of those plates, or breaking one of the dishes. Oh, and we have a full glass of water on our heads too. We know it is crazy, we know it is dangerous, yet rather than let go of any of those platters, we just keep going. If one starts to get empty, we fill it up again. If we take a break and set them down it is only temporary until we get up and start balancing again.
Now, keep in mind, some of those plates are full of things we love. For me, I imagine one plate full of chocolate – that’s my family and friends, and I keep that plate the closest and safest, and never empty it. Another one is full of bread and fruit – those are activities I enjoy, and as soon as I run out, I add more. Our arms are full with things we want to hold tightly to… and we try to balance them with the responsibilities and must-do’s that are a bit more ugly. And, of course, there are the extra plates we take on because we think we have the room, the capacity, the strength, and we rarely say no. Instead, it is more like “sure, hand it to me, I’ll take it.”
So we all have our arms full. But we don’t all handle those dishes the same way. Some of us have the ability to lighten our load at random moments. Those are the folks who are spontaneous, and have the knack of living in the moment. Those women will drop everything (carefully) and just let it all be, while they focus their energies someplace else. They know those piles will be there when they come back, and they will simply pick up where they left off – until the next worthy distraction comes by.
Others put off picking those dishes up in the first place. These are the procrastinators. They have far more fun or important things to do, and will avoid balancing any of the plates until they can no longer ignore them. At that point they run on adrenaline and stay up all night to get those dishes emptied and put away.
Then there are the dishes-before-fun girls. These are the folks who work hard from the onset to take on as much as they need to, and keep going until every plate has been cleared off, and all is right in the world. Then, and only then, will they put everything down and enjoy some rest and relaxation.
I’m not sure why we are all wired differently. Perhaps it is based on how our mother’s handled their armfuls of stuff. Maybe it is simply what fits best into our lifestyles. Each style works. But for one group, watching the other group can be maddening.
I have run into this more often now, as my son has begun high school. Suddenly, with school work, activities, social life and general teen angst, his arms are getting full. And he’s struggling to figure out how to balance it all.
I am one of those work-before-fun gals. I’ve always been that way. In school, I would get projects done early because I couldn’t stand to have anything hanging over my head. Now, in my adult life, I still operate the same way – the difference, of course, is I’m carrying a lot more than when I was a student. But my natural tendency is still to get chores done first so I can “reward” myself with relaxation or fun afterwards. For example, today I got the house cleaned and laundry done before I would “allow” myself time in my pink room. (Otherwise known as my home office/writing room). I see this as the Cinderella Complex. Get those floors mopped before putting on the pretty gown and shoes and going to a party. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I no longer always have the stamina to get all the work done first, nor enough hours in the day. And I may be missing out on some fun. I’m envious of others who can confidently put all those armloads down and go play. So I’m trying to be more like that. I’m trying to live more in the moment.
As for my son…. Well, he’s all about procrastination. Why do it now, when you can have fun now and pick up those armloads of dishes sometime in the future? Why do homework now when there’s time to relax and play – “I’ll get it done later” is his motto. And, so far, bless him, much to my anxiety, it seems to work for him, for the most part. Granted, he’s had a few late nights due to bad planning, and he’s had a couple of music lessons for which he was not quite appropriately prepared. I try to tell myself that is all part of growing and learning. And, being the mom that I am, I try in vain to drag him over to the Cinderella side. He’s a guy. He could care less about my girlie princess metaphors. So I tell him how great it will feel to be able to put his feet up and play video games knowing that all of his work is done. I know darn well he is looking at me and thinking “it will feel pretty great to play those games when I don’t have my work done, too.”
So the balancing game continues. Somehow we all manage, we all get from one destination to another, only occasionally dropping anything and having to deal with the consequences. And hopefully we remember that the most important times, the moments that we will most cherish no matter when they happen, are when we put our loads down, strap on the sparkly shoes, and go play.