Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Beans: Cheap, Healthy, and Yummy? My Greatest Struggle

Some years back I was talking to my brother about home improvement projects.  He said, "You have to choose two."  What?  "Cost.  Speed.  Quality.  You can only have two."  After a little poking around on the internet, I've discovered that this is a widely referenced concept that some refer to as the "triple constraint."

I found a website (which I have tried to find again and now can't...sigh) where a guy made a list of about ten more similarly constrained  triples.  The comments were amusing on that one because people began to argue about his list.  The one I remember was food: cheap, healthy, yummy.  Choose two.  To which someone said, "Beans.  Cheap, healthy and yummy."  I thought, "That's only two, you dork." and then realized they had simply forgotten their oxford comma.

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Who's a dork now?!
I've heard people talk about work/life balance, but I think that's not quite right.  In my own experience, I've found at the broadest level I have to balance three things: work, family, and self. Lately I've been thinking maybe this is a triple constraint.  When I consider my years of full time ministry, it occurs to me that at most points in time, two of three of those were in pretty good shape.  Most of the time I'm not paying enough attention to one of them.  It doesn't take too long to figure that out either!  Sometimes I start to get behind at work.  Maybe I don't get the worship content to Amy on time or I'm not as prepared as I should be for rehearsal.  Or I don't pay enough attention to my family, which becomes obvious as the kids become more demanding or when it gets really bad, Lisa calls me out on my lack of attention.  Or I don't pay enough attention to myself, which I see in the mirror every day or on the scale if I summon the courage to step onto it.

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"Don't peel the onion.  It will just make you cry."
-Aunt Janice
It's hard, too, because these things are hopelessly intertwined.  I want to provide a good living for my family, so I try to do a really good job at work.  How many parents (seems like dads most of the time, but I'm sure it applies to moms too) have been so busy providing "bread" for their families that they wound up not providing for their families?  I've been guilty of that before.  It seems selfless at the time...and it kindof is, I guess.  Or how many people pour everything into work and family until they collapse in a heap of their own goo, ultimately losing the handle on work and family because they neglected to care for themselves?  Doing a good job at work and taking care of the family does not in and of itself constitute adequate self-care.

Even scarier!  Sometimes we use one of the three to escape a challenge in another.  So often work can become a means of taking shelter from a difficult home life.

Back on the "beans: cheap, healthy and yummy" debate, one angry comment-er said (and I feel certain he was flexing while he was typing) that you absolutely can get all three, and if someone told him he had to choose two he'd show them the door and find someone who could.

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Probably it was this guy.
You know what, that's kindof true every now and then.  I can, for brief spurts, manage work, family, and self all three successfully.  Last May.  Last May I think I had everything pretty well in hand.  But it never lasts long, because one of those three will need extra attention, and when it does, I'll have to take it from one of the others.  June was waiting for me!  In June I basically abandoned my family because of the demands of work.  And then in July I basically abandoned my work because I wasn't willing to let another summer go by where I didn't get to the pool with my kids.  But then in August, the school started, and the church year started...and I quit exercising and eating well.

I told Amy and Joya down in the office I was thinking about this blog post yesterday morning (and indeed some of the content to this point comes from them...so thanks, guys!).  I lamented that while I had a pretty good grasp of the problem, I was coming up short on a solution.  I still don't have one because it's messy.  But I have some insights:

1. It's not static.  It's a moving target.  The needs of work, family, and self change over time.  There is no ideal balance to strike.  There is only maintaining proper tension among the three.

2. It's important to be sensitive and attentive to all three.  Even when you're focusing mostly on one, be aware of the others (and whatever you do DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES dismiss the others too quickly when they ask for your attention).  This is really really hard for me because when I focus on something I really focus on it.

2a. DO NOT use one of the three to escape the others.  It may seem easier at the time, but it will only make things worse.

3. Don't be bullied.  Work in particular will take everything you will give it and then some.  If you allow 56 hours per week for work, it will fill those 56 and want another.  Be willing to draw a line when you have to, which leads to...

4...forgive yourself.  Sometimes you have to say no.  This is also a huge struggle for me because I'm mostly a people pleaser.  When you say no, and a ball drops, there will be consequences.  You just have to accept that you did your best and move forward.  Failing doesn't make you a failure.  ( ? )

This is my greatest struggle.  It's the thing in my life I'm the worst at.  Most of the time I feel bad about the thing I'm not doing a good job of...and I feel extra bad when someone has to tell me what I've been missing.  But I'm hoping that spending some time thinking on it and mulling it over will help keep me aware of it...and maybe awareness is a good first step.

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