There are thousands of books on it at Barnes & Noble, millions of articles online and in print, and it’s a subject in every magazine geared to women and Moms especially. Balance. How to find it, where to get it, touting the benefits of it and reporting the disastrous effects of not having it. As if we aren’t pulled in enough different direction at once, as if we aren’t firing on all cylinders enough to make life happen, now we have to find balance. Ok well, where do I get it? What store do I go to? Can I just hit Add to Cart and be done with it? No, of course not, it’s never that easy. Balance is an internal dynamic and as individual as all of us, balance is never a static thing. It ebbs and flows and your requirements of it change daily. It’s not a take two daily type of thing. I wish I could pass on a life hack for balance, but that not how any of this works.
So often we put everyone else ahead of us. I, myself, have a very hard time saying no. It’s true, my name is Kimberly and I’m a yesaholic. Like in AA, the first step is admitting you have a problem. I still have to check myself and reign myself in. I’m the type that gets really excited about an idea and I just go and go, I’m also someone who gets really upset about things and just goes off. The latter of the two was happening too frequently for my liking, so I had to stop and realize that like Spinal Tap’s amps – I was always at 11.
Always. I woke up at 11 and was at 11 until the melatonin kicked in late at night. I didn’t realize that I was always amped up because I never was able to get calm or centered before the next challenge was ready to be tackled. It’s exhausting. Life will always throw obstacles and challenging moments that are minutes long, days long or even weeks long. It’s all in how you prepare yourself for those moments. Balance will not make things go your way, balance will not make your life easier. It makes how you handle your life easier. It helps you get to 6, instead of always being at 11.
I know what you’re thinking “sounds good, but how the heck am I going to fit in balance when there’s so much to do?” It’s difficult and I know it feels absolutely and totally impossible, but here’s the secret. Do it anyway. Just do it. I think you’ll find that nothing will blow up, no one will starve, and hey, you might find that people will step up around you if you just – make it so.
In 2012 I had to fill out a questionnaire. It asked all the normal demographic stuff and then it has a stumper. A real conundrum, I question I found impossible to answer. I just stared at it.
What are your hobbies, what do you enjoy doing during your free time?
Whhaatt? I couldn’t even comprehend the words. What was a hobby? I wasn’t 7 years old. What was free time? Did you not understand that a full time working mother of two was filling this out? I had no answers and lied. Yep, I lied. I said I enjoyed hiking and volunteering in the largest letters I could, so it would take up the whole line. Now, I’ve never hiked in my life. If I was ever hiking, it could only mean that something terrible had happened and I was probably going the wrong and the vultures would be circles soon. And volunteering? Please, the only volunteering I ever did was volunteer to eat the last piece of cake. That moment made me sad. I was 36 years old and couldn’t think of one thing I did to enjoy any free time? How did that happen? You how it happened? Because I let it happen. Somewhere along the line, I put myself on the back burner. I did this.
I decided to do something startling, groundbreaking and very scary. I started to take care of myself and look for something I liked to do. I started to be conscious of how I treated myself, how I valued me. Not easy to do. I started to realize that I wanted to be the best version of me now. “If not now, when?” I said that to someone when they asked me why I was using the gym at lunch, why I was eating more greens. I was asked if I was dieting, I was always dieting, hell, I was born on a diet. This was different, this was just doing it. Making it so. I was so done with being so done.
I started to carve out time to myself without asking or making sure its ok. I started simply saying “I have a yoga class at 7pm on Thursday” Sounds easy, but it was hard and it took a little while to say it without starting with “if it’s alright… or I’d really like to…” I made sure it wasn’t a conflict on the calendar of course, but I didn’t ask, I simply, just said it. And then I grabbed my mat, got in my car and felt guilty the entire way to the studio. It took about a quarter of the way through the class before I felt myself calm down and let go. I loved it. And you what? No one died. No one starved. No one was any different when I came home, no one, except for me. I was happy and proud. I had 75 minutes to myself to stretch and feel, to reflect and thank myself for going. Sometimes I get up early on weekend morning and just walk. I’ll be gone an hour and when I come back, no one is even up yet or the three of them are all cuddled in our bed watching tv. No one cares, they’re happy I’m home, but they’re fine and ready to start our day.
Now I’m not saying that balance is about exercise or yoga or anything. I have friends who crochet and that is brilliant because you get to zone out and create beautiful blankets and wraps and all sort of keepsakes and personal presents. One girlfriend reads. She loves getting lost in books the way I love getting lost in yoga or a good martini with my girlfriends. I have another friend who paints, she used to do it when she was young and started up again, for herself, and she loves it. It’s all about what you love and what makes you stop and just reset yourself. Here’s a good example of “whatever works for you”. I’ve been known to go HomeGoods and fill up my cart decorating a room in my head, only to put it all back, my girlfriends laugh at me, and it may be odd, but it works for me and I love the escape of it.
I do things on my own and I do things with my husband and with friends. I have always had active social life. I live in the same town where I grew up and married a classmate. I have established a core group of friends both from school and some prized ones I’ve tagged as mine in the 20+ years since graduation. I can depend on them, they can depend on me. Period. We plan things together, sometimes months in advance so everyone has it down and set in the calendar. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to time with them. I have parents, in-laws and sitters who adore my kids and my kids know its okay when Mom and Dad go out. They’re secure in that we will be back and they look forward to being spoiled when we leave.
All too often days drift by and you do nothing for you. Before you have nothing left to give, please make a conscious decision to make time for you. You are just as important as everyone else. You have one life. Say it again, You have one life, this is it and you need to make it yours. I don’t ever want to be asked what my hobbies are or what I do with my free time and have nothing to say. I want to write in the smallest letters possible and have to leave stuff out cause there’s not enough room.
Now… I ask you…What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Kimberly Sennes is a mother of two happy, energetic, knucklehead kids. Mackenzie, 8, who happens to be non-verbal autistic and Jackson, 5, a sweet and quirky kid with ADHD. She’s been with one of the neighborhood boys, Andrew, since 1995 and lives on Long Island where at the very least, she tries her best.