Balance? What Balance?

We’re writing about balance this week, and, gosh, I sure hope no one clicked through today hoping for an advice column. 

The unfortunate truth is, I have very little sense of balance. I go-go-go, basically until I have some kind of health problem or mini breakdown. This has been a life-long pattern, and though it’s occurred to me many times to try to be different than how I am, I haven’t made much progress in terms of changing. 

That is, I haven’t made progress until very recently. (I’ll get to that in a second.)

I’ve thought about why I persist in my bigger-better-faster-more mentality despite the obvious downsides, and the main reason is that it helps me accomplish my goals. I wrote MINOR DRAMAS & OTHER CATASTROPHES between 4:45 and 6:15am over three years. At 6:15, I’d get dressed and head to my middle-school teaching job. After that, I zipped home to do dinner and sports and homework with my husband and two kids.

People used to ask me how I managed this schedule, but I didn’t think of it as an actual choice. If I wanted to write a book, I had to do it in the time I had–in the dark before anyone else woke up.

To-do lists. I don’t even bother putting, “WRITE,” which is always the top priority.

Before I decided to write a book, I worked toward other goals and pursued them with what I’m sure looked like compulsion from the outside. School projects, graduate school, distance running–whatever I’m interested in, I sort of go in whole-hog.

A colleague once asked me, her disdain obvious, “Why do you always have so many GOALS?” I’m sure the answer is complex. My favorite rationale is that I love life-long learning and become incredibly energized by new ideas, skills, and inspiration. This is true. 

Another true, but less flattering, answer is that my sense of self-worth is tied up in what I achieve. So, I’m always chasing another trophy. 

I can’t tell you that I’m completely reformed, but I do feel I deserve a gold star (insert eye-roll here) for stepping away from teaching this year. When I signed a two-book deal from Penguin Random House, I knew I couldn’t both write a second novel in twelve months AND do a great job as a classroom teacher. So, for the moment I’m writing full-time. I’ve chosen balance! It feels different and less frenetic. I’m getting a little more sleep! 

No one should be surprised, however, that I’ve committed to being an excellent sports mom, procuring treats and driving carpool like an absolute pro. And also I’m running a fall marathon. And, I’m determined to clean our basement before the end of the year. And our dinners are pretty healthy, and our pantry is stocked. And, I’m writing for this blog.

And, and, and.

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Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

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