On Teeter-Totters

Since being let go I’ve started volunteering at a breakfast program for community members in need and taken up singing in a choir. In doing so, I’m trying to balance The Struggle, and I teeter-totter between knowing if I’m living up to my potential or not.

E.B. White says, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” I sing because I need to do something that makes me happy, but to really feel like I’m contributing to the world I awkwardly hand out bananas at a drop-in breakfast. Maybe an oversimplification, but its the most recent in a string of examples of what a challenge navigating this tension between so-called “improving” the world and “enjoying” is.

When I was working, and working at something I thought was more aligned with improving the world, I told myself that it was just as important to enjoy the day to day. In this framing, working justified enjoying, and I would never give up working, but I certainly could (and did) give up enjoying.

Maybe the time I have now is meant for me to dedicate my more creative side — Cook and bake to my hearts content; Write and blog and tweet with intentionality; Paint and create to shame the best of pinterest boards; Read all of the things. I have so called free time, and I am lucky enough to live in a city with thriving arts communities, so why not dedicate it to artistic pleasures?

And yet I can’t but help to feel guilty when I do nothing with my day other than read interesting articles and make homemade chicken pot pie. Working is fulfilling and busy, and because its something of a necessity (EI only lasts for so long) it addresses White’s described tension for me – you must strive to improve the world, that struggle is most important, and then sometimes there are things to enjoy.

Of course balance would be the ideal, where I would do something I love and live a life where I can push for change and feel just as good about that as singing in a choir. I want it all – I want to embrace this tension in the fullest and then clasp my hands in triumph when I can stand in the middle of the teeter-totter without falling. Aren’t we all working toward that moment? Is it so hard to do?

I don’t know how I’m going to get there, though I have a feeling this is a life long pursuit and my first step might be in getting off my couch, and back on that teeter-totter.

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3 thoughts on “On Teeter-Totters

  1. Jon says:

    I’ve thought a lot about the idea of balance over the past few years. The biggest problem I’ve come up against is the time over which I expect balance; essentially, how long is the teeter totter. Do I want to have a little bit of everything I love or need in one day; do I expect to fit it all in to a week, a month, a year; or do I want to think back from my death bed contentedly knowing that I sampled fully from the banquet of life’s experiences. I’m at the point now where I’m trying to be okay with taking one course at a time, filling the metaphorical plate full of metaphorical salad without feeling guilty that I didn’t get any metaphorical roast beef as well. We don’t live every aspect of life in every moment and I think pulling the lens back and defining different measurement periods takes some of the pressure off. Maybe right now is your prolonged weekend to make up for the intensity of your previous work life?

    But this is just where my thinking is at right now.

  2. Olga says:

    “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” — John Burroughs
    Add to that, all the change I want to make..
    Lovely blog post Mica, I think you’ve captured a feeling that many people know all too well.
    P.S. our pastimes are strikingly similar 😛

  3. Here ye, here ye. I definitely felt the same when I was unemployed. But then, beautiful things started happening and I figured out ways to align my work and enjoyment. This is a time for reflection. Make your joy happen.

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