On Life Balance

The year pulls into its last couple of stops with a screech and a scream of brakes. I’ve felt a build up of pressure, beginning somewhere around March and building building building non-stop till now. It’s been a frantic year of juggling a million commitments and a billion other things that I’ve wanted to do instead. The balance has been totally off, I’ve neglected most of the important things in favour of whatever has wandered into my vision and I’m excited to now finally have the space and time and energy to put towards the things that need it.

I’ve been dwelling on the idea of ‘holding space’. The term has been popping up a lot recently, first in a therapy context where one person commits their full attention/energy/consciousness to another’s needs. It has also popped up around various hippie festivals and, more recently, jazz gigs. I’ve been examining the idea of holding space for yourself and wondering what that looks like to me on a daily basis.

An interesting aspect of growing older is slowly getting more in touch with myself, recognising both aspects of my own psyche that I’ve probably always known but never physically acknowledged and things that I haven’t realised about myself that are slowly bubbling to the surface. I recognise that I’m highly driven, very self-motivated and excited about being included in other people’s projects, and that this means I often over commit. So to hold space for myself I need to first create space in my life and then attempt to inhabit it.

This is good in theory but so so hard in practice as the loudest parts of my personality are firing “go go go, got to be involved, got to be acknowledged”, whilst somewhere in the background the introvert me is whispering “hey, why don’t you take a year off and disappear into a book”. The healthiest option is obviously to combine these two aspects and live a fulfilling life of moderation but instead I veer wildly between the two. Every year around this time I disappear into a ‘book coma’, where I pull about twenty books off the bookshelf and lie in bed for a week, refusing to engage with the world. Notable book comas in my life include my teenage years where I read all seven Harry Potter books in seven days and last year where I read three notoriously dark books (Eggshell Skull, Normal People and No Friend But The Mountain) in a yurt on the South Island of New Zealand and then collapsed in a heap of despair. This all ties back into my childhood where I used to practice a form of escapism by reading and re-reading three of Enid Blyton’s kids mystery thrillers and imagine rolling green hills and doorsteps of bread covered in lashings of butter while peering out the window at the warm dusty streets of Yemen. Suffice it to say, once I start reading a book I find it very hard to stop until the book is complete and I compensate by speed reading and neglecting the outside world. If I allow myself to read when something important is occurring in life, the important thing gets ignored. But if I don’t let myself read I get sucked into an introvert’s nightmare of constant outward attention and no introspection.

Turns out the human existence is complex hey?

My most recent idea is to replace social media with book reading, so every time I think about checking Facebook or Instagram I instead read a page of Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands (which I got to via Eric Hansen’s Motoring with Mohammed, the next book I’m interested in is Lawrence of Arabia’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I’m slowly making my way back through a particular examination of the world’s largest expanse of sand, Rub’ Al Khali from the white European point of view). The idea is good in practice but I tend to check social media first thing in the morning and this week I skipped both breakfast and my morning shower and was almost late to the last day of school because I was attempting to finish David Byrne’s brilliant book ‘How Music Works’. Not sure if the balance is right yet.

Luckily, after tonight’s gig I have zero commitments until the end of Jan (other than a couple of thousand emails), so I can feel a book coma coming on, and it’s going to be a big one! I’ll tackle the life balance thing later.

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