One of Max’s favourite musicians that he brought to our family (Mic Conway) sings a great song: “Juggling Time”. Mic is one of the writers and still singing: " I try to keep a balance with work & love & play, constant juggling time...trying to keep it all together..." (Used with Mic’s permission. Click here to see a younger Mic singing with the Matchbox.)
I’ll digress- Mic Conway has sung at many events organised by us including our sons’ 18th birthdays, a fundraiser for mayCARE Community Centre and just before the pandemic at Max’s 60th birthday party. So if you enjoy a vaudeville sound look Mic up, he’s back performing.
Back to life’s balancing act and juggling time.
In the second half of our lives we can see how much of life is about trying to get things in balance.
I started 2023 with a 90-day plan to finish my PhD, but needed to alter that after Max's altercation with the chainsaw. Waiting for Max to be independent again I moved to a second 90-day plan, and I’m glad to say, got there fairly smoothly. I have been encouraged by Greg McKeown who wrote “Effortless” and “Essentialism” (I recommend starting with this great visual summary of the book “Esentialism” ).
Greg, like Max and I, has been influenced by Viktor Frankls’ work “Man’s Search for Meaning”. (Again there are a number of summary videos, we looked at this one ) Frankl, McKeown and us all believe a meaning outside our own selves helps us live well. We know life is not simple, having experienced important decisions that have to be made, some of which are life and death.
How many times when our four kids were younger did we have to choose our family time over other demands? Or take the hard step and put a boy in hospital, (they both have Cystic Fibrosis) because while there were many other more fun and easier things to do, we knew the long term consequences were life and death.
How do we make decisions, especially when some of the things we are juggling are not simple? Our underlying beliefs about what matters will have a huge impact.
We decided when we began Fosterton Retreat that we would only offer to others things we practiced ourselves, things we saw and believed were helpful, especially if there was evidence to show their value apart from our experience. Of course, what we offer at our retreats fits this criteria.
We also decided that we would make opportunities to serve people with these things without people always having to pay. Thus, we have our Open Day every year, sharing the property, the swimming pool and offering a guided labyrinth walk, a bush walk (if it’s not 44 degrees) and a reflective exercise.
Sometimes it is easy to get stuck going round and round in our heads over something so below is one of the reflective, slightly creative, ways that we use, especially when making decisions. This can be done anywhere, although Fosterton Retreat is a great place to do it!
If you'd like to look into what some of the research into reflecting and decision making is saying, here's a few links to help. Look in the Harvard Business Review, Journal of Business and Psychology, Philosophical Explorations, Cambridge University Press.
A reflective exercise when juggling a decision:
· Take a piece of blank paper (best without lines).
· Gather a few coloured pencils or pens. If you don’t have coloured pencils or pens a ‘lead’ pencil will do.
· Put a timer on for 25 minutes – on a phone, alarm clock or stove.
· Sit somewhere quiet- no TV etc - with pencil and paper breathing slowly and quietly, a few times in a few times out.
· If there is something you want to make a decision about let that come to mind and settle there.
· For those that find yourself ‘worrying’ at it (like a little dog chewing a slipper) take a few more slow breaths and ask yourself: “If this issue was an animal what sort would it be?”
·On the paper draw this issue - now before you scream ‘I can’t draw!!’, you could draw before you could write, even one letter or your name. No-one else has to see this, so tell your inner critic to go have a rest for a bit. It’s probably overworked anyway.
Just give this issue some shapes, lines or symbols. Mess and scribbling is fine BUT no words please.
Keep playing with it on the paper for a bit and when you think this issue is thoroughly represented here, stop.
Sit just looking at the page, turn it around and look at it from different sides.
Write a couple of words, or circle some of the drawing/symbols, to represent anything you’re grateful for about this issue. There will be something.
·Now write a couple of words that come to you about what you want out of this issue: resolved, fixed, a peaceful decision, wisdom, patience, ……. Be patient with yourself as for some people this can take a little while, but you get the idea.
Look at all that is on the paper and ask: Is this issue actually in my control? Eg: other people’s behaviour is not within our control.
·If yes: what have you already tried regarding this issue?
What else could you try (it’s surprising how if we stop ‘worrying’ at something new ideas can come to us).
If this issue is not within your control, (sometimes only parts are), look at what you have drawn and any parts that are in your control, follow the above two dot points with those and go from there.
If it is totally outside your control, fold the paper and pop it away noticing how that feels now.
Everyone ask: Do I need help with this? If so who might I ask for help?
Decide on a next step and a time frame (this week, today, now).
We hope you found it as helpful as we do. I've set it out as a flowchart and popped into our resources for those who like me love to follow those shapes!