Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Life Balance: The Art of Bonsai

As a partner, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a new mom, an AmeriCorps VISTA and occasional creative freelancer, sometimes my plate feels, not just like it’s full, but like it’s about to implode from the shear weight of its contents. Thankfully, Wilde is there to help with clean-up. (Did I mention I am also a dog-mom to a 2-year-old Pitbull-Labrador named Wilde?) Even in these moments, before the shards of my plate crash to the floor, I have the opportunity to make a choice that could prevent disaster. I have found I can initiate a system response, previously downloaded in my times of calm.

  1. Breathe deep. Throughout your day, make time to breathe and put things in perspective. Being busy can sometimes skew our worldview. We are not all in the medical field, but sometimes we approach our tasks like our success and failure have the consequences of a brain surgeon performing a novel and nuanced operation; generally, this is not the case.
  2. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule. Think of every role you fill and set aside time for every aspect of your life that you give value. That includes you, especially you. If you don’t put on your oxygen mask, you won’t be around for any of the saving of lives and/or completion of tedious tasks.
  3. Respect. Give your scheduled timeframes the respect they deserve. Start on time and end when planned, so you can start your next task on time. If you are like me, for each task, set an end time and the real end time for when you disregard the original end time.
  4. Forget the forest; focus on the trees. Big picture is important, but when you have a lot going on, the deadlines and pressures can be paralyzing. Just take it one project at a time, one step at a time. Every so often, perhaps weekly or biweekly, you can look at the big picture and gauge your progress.
  5. Ask for assistance. Seek support from your friends and/or co-workers. As an eternal optimist, I sometimes get the impression that I can do everything and anything; this can be good and bad. Good because I’m ready for any challenge, bad because no one can do everything and anything, so I’ve set myself up for a few failures. Identify tasks that are too much for any one person and act accordingly.
  6. Go out and work out. Science has shown that being outside positively affect your mind and what better time to positively affect your mind than when it is at maximum capacity. Also, just as you’ve scheduled “me” time, you should probably schedule some time to give your body some exercise. I’m not saying go buy a gym membership, because such memberships are wasted on me; I’m saying maybe take a walk. A walk around your neighborhood will knock out two proverbial birds with one similarly-proverbial stone. (I like birds and do not support or encourage throwing things at them, unless these things are bread or bird seed.)
  7. Re-evaluate: Sometimes we take on responsibilities that have nothing to do with what we value or what we’ve set as goals in our lives. Trimming the unnecessary aspects from our lives is like trimming a Bonsai tree; it’s an art. People practice bonsai not to gain something, but to cultivate life and create something worth viewing with deep contemplation. What if people viewed your life and projects as a trim bonsai tree? That is, a clear result of someone choosing which branches to emphasize and which to leave bare.
  8. Pat yourself on the back. As long as your giving it all you’ve got, you’re doing life right; as long as you’re truly trying to be better, you will get better; and as long as you value yourself, you will make it super difficult for those around you not to do the same.

Of course, I just ate Chinese food leftovers for breakfast, because I haven’t had time for grocery; I am running on little sleep, because I took on too much freelance work; and lately, my only exercise is walking to Creole Creamery. Balance is an art and, clearly, I still need practice.

*Photo: Bonsai, William Neuheisel via Creative Commons License

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This entry was posted on June 15, 2016 by in VISTA Field Reports and tagged , , , .

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