Thursday, February 17

Finding Balance

Lots of people may not realize that when you sustain a spinal cord injury, you lose all sense of physical balance. In rehabilitation therapy, we're taught to find a sort of "false balance" point when sitting, and then we train ourselves to maintain that balance, even when outside forces try to throw us off.
One of the first exercises I was taught was to throw a ball back and forth with my therapist, throwing and catching with both hands at the same time to strengthen my trunk and improve my sitting balance. But I was slick, (or at least I thought I was) and realized I was darn good at throwing and catching a pretty big ball with one hand, while holding onto my chair with the other. Sure it worked, but it wasn't helping me build my much needed core strength. I was looking at the "right now" and not the future. I just wanted to get through the ball game without falling over, possibly injuring my body, but most assuredly injuring my pride. Thankfully my therapist didn't put up with it for long, and she whipped me into shape...and before long I was catching the ball with my hands out in front of me, and even over my head, which was no easy feat for a newly injured high level paraplegic. But the most important thing here was that working for this center of balance helped me prepare for those times I might be caught off guard...AND, I was proud of myself and had a new sense of confidence to try more challenging feats.
(((For those who know (or don't know) anything about the spinal column, I am a T-5 paraplegic which means my spinal cord was injured at the 5th vertebrae in the thoracic region.))) Here's a picture:
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Anyway, lately I've been looking at the balance in my own life, and how when I plan ahead, balancing things based on priorities, I end up more at ease and life is easier. Alternately, I can look at when I've failed to plan ahead, and done no weighing and prioritizing, I inevitably end up taking on more than I'm comfortable with, and my stress level shoots up...then a whole lot of nothing gets accomplished. Been there?

You know how it is being a woman in this day and age...we're supposed to be a great housekeeper, but bring in some money to help run the household, take care of the kids, make sure everyone is eating healthy meals, do the shopping, make sure your friends and family never feel slighted, and look at least halfway decent at all times. That's a lot to juggle and that's not even all of it. It only takes one foible to make it all come crashing down...leaving us trying to scramble to pick up everything and get it all back in place.
Balance is about making careful choices. If you have a set of scales in front of you, you're going to carefully choose which items to place on either side in order to keep them from tipping. So it is in our lives.
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One way I've found to streamline is to combine things when I can.

•For instance, instead of having to schedule in time for my husband and I to be together outside of work, and my regular workouts, I got my husband to join the gym. Now we spend that time together, and the extra perk is that he's lost weight and has a healthier cholesterol and blood pressure!

•Back in 08 when my son was in high school, our local Humane Society shelter really needed help with office work and adoptions, so I was spending a lot of time there. Instead of taking that time away from my son, I encouraged him to get his required community service hours (for his senior project) by volunteering at the shelter with me.

•Occasionally my friends who also knit and crochet (like me) will get together for a gab session while we do our yarn work. So we're all getting something finished, but spending time together as well. These times with friends also seems to renew my spirit.

Good planning can help us have a more balanced and fulfilling life. Please share with me how you work to stay in balance, both in your day to day life, and emotionally/spiritually, etc...


Yenta Mary said...

Michele, you have no idea how perfect your timing is! Both my best friend Wendy and Tom and been telling me -- even just yesterday, at dinner -- that I need to be more selfish, that I need to take care of myself and set priorities instead of being everything to everyone.

But there was nothing to do -- not be there when my friends are sick or hurting? Not spend time with my son or my boyfriend? Just say "Nope, sorry if you thought you could count on me but I'm being selfish now"??? But combining activities could help. And taking an evening just for myself or for something fun and frivolous (Wendy and I went line dancing last Tuesday and I loved it, so I'll do it again!) would give me the core strength that I need to carry on among my tornado of stressors.

So thank you, as always, for your smile and for your wisdom ... :)

Karen Mortensen said...

Good post. Something I needed to hear. I am so out of balance it isn't funny. Thanks for the words of wisdom here.

Kat's Out o'the Bag said...

Love ya... I think I need a scale with more plates. I combined mt love to be creative and the need for income by sewing. I nurse the baby and read for my homework assignments, and I also encourage the kids to study with me. We all take turns making dinner. This allows for my kids to learn a life lesson and be more responsible.

My new mantra is: have you done anything put positive for the family. When the kids gets out of line, I ask them if what they have chosen to do is good for the family. Its makes the little gears in their head rolling. :)

Michele Chastain said...

Kat, you are such a great mom...and I'm not just saying that because you're one of my very best friends, but because I see your kids, and interact with them, and I can see that the core of who they are is amazing and beautiful. Each of them are "good people." I ♥ your kids! --oh yeah, and you! LOL ;)

Michele Chastain said...

Mary, I'm so glad that something from my scatterbrain has been helpful to you! Yay! :)
I know you like to make people happy...just always remember that you are worth making happy, too. You deserve the best.

Michele Chastain said...

Karen, I hope that the renewal of springtime renews your balance. I'll be praying for you, my dear friend. :)

Clara said...

What a fantastic post. You have a lot on your plate yet you seem to live with such grace about it all. I am finally listening to my inner self these days. It's about time too. I'm reaching 53. First it's at school you are told how you should be and act then it's your church, parents, family, friends, husband boss, co-workers. Enough already. So, I've had to retreat a bit, have become a bit of a hermit to really get back to being the true me and everyone will just have to take me as I am and not as they would like me to be. Now that sounds like I'm strange, and I'm not. This is in response to those who say oh you should remarry or have a boyfriend or go out or socialize more. Truth be known, I'm so happy in my solitude to do what I want(have my 23rd yr. old daughter with me) but that is not strange. I talk with people when I go to my choir night or go out to the local stores and markets and when I socialize with friends online. I'm much happier than I have been in so many years. This is my new balance. Thanks for asking!