Balance is an essential quality of living sustainably: prioritising activities and accepting limitations to reach your goals and avoid the pitfalls of over-commitment, burn-out and apathy. Balance is critical in managing our time, resources and health, maintaining momentum and juggling competing demands. It’s so damn important, and I’ve been so bad at it.
I may have the best of intentions, but I over-promise and under-deliver. I take on too many commitments, throwing myself into activities without allocating time to rest, relax and nourish myself. I lose sight of the big picture, expending too much energy on small stuff or prioritising things that really could wait. Depressingly, I still get sucked into the time-wasting void of the internet. I say yes too readily and I never, ever get enough sleep.
It’s a familiar pattern: procrastinate and fall behind then go into manic over-drive, or over-estimate what I can do in a given amount of time and run around like a mad thing trying to keep my promises until eventually the mind or body cracks under the pressure and I succumb to sickness or anxiety. It’s the habit of a lifetime but it has become a problem: it’s clearly unsustainable.
Experience and expert advice has taught me that I need structure and routine to help me find balance, though routine doesn’t come easily to me. The last six months have seen the routine I worked so hard to establish disintegrate completely due to housemate dramas, injuries, illness and a period of rapid change and uncertainty. It hasn’t been good for me!
Now I’m living on my own and starting to settle into the Cottage it’s time to work on establishing new routines and seeking that elusive balance.
I’ve been pushing so hard to get this place set up and the House of the Gumtrees ready for final inspection (not helped by my housework-shy and occasionally stupid ex-housemate) I haven’t been setting aside time for me, winding up tired, cranky and no fun to be around. After having a minor meltdown last week over a dodgy oven I realised I was long over-due for a break to re-charge and relax. Despite my seemingly endless to-do list I took some time out last weekend to look after myself, heading out to Mt. Field National Park with a good friend for some quality time in the forest.
It was just what I needed, helping me to clear my head and re-evaluate my priorities. I still have just as much to get done, but now I have a much better idea of how to do it. And the best part? We were lucky enough to find a protected pocket of fagus up there, still blazing with colour. *happy face*
Of course I’m going to keep struggling with balance. It’s going to take me a long time and a lot of conscious effort to learn to walk that fine line between effectiveness and burn-out, but establishing a basic routine and prioritising sleep and forest time is a positive first step. I have no doubt I’ll mess it up many more times, but the important thing is to keep learning and working towards finding that blissful state of equilibrium.
If I’m to build the life I want to live I need to find balance.
How do you maintain balance in your life?
Slowly but surely the house move is happening. I have the keys to the Cottage, half of my possessions are boxed up, I’ve eaten my way through everything perishable in the kitchen and I’ve sold, donated or made gifts of a raft of unnecessary possessions (though in the process of packing I keep finding yet more things I’m happy to live without and will be re-homing once moved). I’m excited about the Cottage and looking forward to turning it into my cozy, sustainable home and finally getting started on that garden. Yet I find myself procrastinating, time and again, drifting off in day-dreams of where I’d rather be…
You see, it’s Fagus season here in Tassie: that special time of year when the only deciduous plant on our ancient island – the Tanglefoot Beech (Nothofagus gunnii) – turns the slopes of Mt. Field and Cradle Mountain golden with its firey foliage.
The Nothofagus genus is a relic of Australia’s Gondwanan past: an ancient plant family once common across Australia, Antarctica and South America. Of the three species left in Australia, two are found in Tasmania: the majestic evergreen myrtle beech (N. cunninghamii) and the incredible endemic tanglefoot. While myrtle beech forests are still quite widespread, both in Tasmania and on the south-eastern Australian mainland, the tanglefoot is not only found on two rugged Tasmanian mountaintops: Mt. Field, near Hobart, and Cradle Mountain in the island’s north-eastern highlands.
It’s an incredibly slow-growing plant, highly sensitive to fire and other disturbances and notoriously difficult to propagate: not exactly a prime candidate for survival in our rapidly changing modern world! There’s no arguing, however, that our Tassie Fagus is really rather special.
Both the Cradle Mountain and Mt. Field Fagus forests are protected national parks, and around this time each year hundreds of keen bushwalkers and nature photographers like me trek around these mountains, lugging heavy lenses and tripods, to witness and document the beauty of this fascinating plant. Except this year I’m not joining them: I’m moving house instead.
Thus I dawdle in my labours, lost in wistful longings for misty mountainsides, painfully early mornings and the unforgettable sight of Cradle Mountain – one of my favourite places in the world – draped in that golden autumn coat of fagus.
Next year, I promise!