Thursday, February 19, 2015

Finding balance/ an update of one of my top ten favorite posts

Time is funny. It seems like just days ago my first born Lauren was in her crib having long discussions with her Winnie the Pooh crib bumpers (yes she survived having bumpers in her crib). Suddenly she was in kindergarten, then Lowell and then off to UCSB.

I looked up from typing and said to my husband, “ I need help finding a word.” Without missing a beat he responded, “ Opossum.” Hmmph; never mind. The word was bittersweet. I continue writing…

Having your first child successfully fly out of  the nest leaves most parents (I was no exception) with a bittersweet mix of emotions, but pride and love rise to the top. Once Lauren left for college, our first visit with her wasn’t until mid October when the family did what would become a familiar trek down 101. Her campus was exactly 350 miles away. This two months was the longest we had ever been apart. As we got close to Santa Barbara I realized that I had a visceral longing to grab hold of her and take in big sniffs. I felt like a mother lion on the Serengeti. I imagine a lot of moms reading this can relate. I called Lauren and warned her what to expect. She was very tolerant “It’s okay mom, you can smell me as much as you like.”

Time raced forward and soon both babies were out of the nest. Both my daughters now know to expect a giant hug, some tears and some surreptitious sniffing when I haven’t seen them in a while.  Lauren is spending the year overseas and this current separation is  the longest ever for me. I haven’t seen her since August. My younger daughter Alana, who is in grad school back east, is able to join us as well. Having the family together for a little stretch of time is something that I plan to cherish. I am getting ready for a really big sniff!

This week I am reposting one of my favorite topics
~ Nurse Judy

The "pie theory" got its inception many years ago. For a number of years I was the Parent Association President at my daughters' elementary school. It took an inordinate amount of my spare time, including meetings several times a week. On many levels it was rewarding being so involved but I assure you, I was delighted to pass the reins when my stint was over. Though I was really genuinely relieved to have my time back, I felt off balance by all the sudden free time in my schedule, and at first I couldn't figure out why I was so unsettled. I finally realized that although the new empty hours were welcome, they had created a bit of a vacuum. I filled it quickly (started taking up karate a few evenings a week), but it was right around that transition period that the "pie theory" helped me make sense of things.

Imagine your identity is a circle (or whole pie). Who you are is divided into many pieces; some pieces are large, some small, some temporary. Some are constants that are with you life long, some are optional, some are good for your soul, while still others are energy sappers that give you little in return.

Are you:
Ex spouse?
Pet owner?
In a job/occupation or seeking one?
Doing a hobby that takes time and energy?
Member of a book club or any club for that matter?
House cleaner?
Carpool driver?
Event planner?
Adventure seeker?
and of course last but not least....

The list goes on and on. What activities make up your day, your week, your month, your year? What pieces make up your pie? Take a few moments to figure it out.

It's interesting to think how you can be identified in different ways by the various pieces of pie. Many folks recognize me as Nurse Judy. More than once I have actually looked at a rash, or given advice from a restaurant table (as my patient husband rolls his eyes.) There was a time years ago when I came to work one day and saw a construction worker on the roof of a neighboring building. He looked awfully familiar and I was struggling to place him; was he a parent from the practice? Someone from school? I could see that he recognized me as well; we kept looking at each other and a moment passed. I could see that he had figured it out first. He gave a big grin and called out " Ahoy there Java's mom!" Of course! I ran into him several times a week with his pack of dogs when I walked my dog Java. Not only did being a dog owner dictate my daily schedule and get me out walking rain or shine, it also included me as a member of a distinct social network in the neighborhood for many years. All the dog owners knew each other by sight and all the dogs by name. Being "Java's mom" was a wonderful piece of my "pie" for 12 years. If you are a pet owner, that piece has a very special place allotted to it.

Your pie is finite. You can only do and be so much, as there are only so many hours in the day. Some folks have too many things competing for time and attention, and figuring out which pieces can be compressed can be quite stressful. Sometimes we make poor choices

For busy working parents this might be a foreign concept, but some folks don't actually have enough pieces to begin to fill the shell. A big empty pie can be just as unsettling as a full one.

Have you ever noticed that when you are super busy you can manage to get through an entire to-do list very efficiently? On the other hand, on a quiet day you may have only one or two things on the list but somehow nothing gets done.

A healthy pie has plenty of interesting pieces that can grow and shrink according to your needs. The more forgiving and elastic the pieces, the easier time you will have finding a good balance.

Your pie will naturally change from year to year, but some changes are enormous. Some people are quite comfortable having a very crowded pie, while others are quite fine and happy doing nothing at all. Part of this is figuring out what your ideal is, and work towards that.

Any large sudden changes to your pie will make you feel unsettled, way less so if you have a glimmer of what is going on; hence this theory. Both of my daughters have taken this to heart. In fact Alana has permitted me to share her own blog post on the Pie Theory that she wrote several years ago:

(Blogging runs in the family I guess)

When there is a large shift in your pieces my girls and I refer to this as "pie disequilibrium"

Common culprits might include:

Event planner:
Folks planning a wedding or large event can spend months dealing with all the fun details. When the event is over, that planner piece is gone, your pie has a gap.

Sports Fan:
My daughter Alana has a twinge of "Pie Disequilibrium" every October when baseball season is over

My daughter Lauren had to learn how to deal with the extra time that appears after a show run is over.

Folks that spend much of their time and energy tending to someone else’s needs might find themselves suddenly with a large vacuum when that person is gone or no longer needs them.

As your children grow up and don't need you in quite the same capacity it can be a tough adjustment (don't worry, they still love you.) Luckily this happens in stages. Kindergarten...a full day of Parents who have the "parent piece" taking up the entire pie may suffer.  

Huge life changes will create seismic shifts. Nothing will ever match the huge transitions that take place when you add the parent piece to your pie. My best advice to you as you shuffle all your pie pieces and see how things fit comfortably is to identify pieces that need to be protected so that they don't get too small.

Protect that piece. Get creative and make sure that you have time for the two of you  have some moments being a couple

Being the best parent that you can be includes living by example. Let your kids have parents that are multifaceted and not consumed by any one thing (be that parenting or a job.)

Best of luck finding a balanced, interesting, and fulfilling pie!

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