A Dish about Life and Balance

A Dish about Life and Balance


When do we first learn the ‘plate’ analogy to describe our busy lives? As in… ‘I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it. My plate is pretty full.’ Or ‘let me see if I can move things around so I can add that to my plate.’ Are we children when we are first introduced to this concept that dinnerware can step in metaphorically to represent the level of activity we pursue on a daily basis? Maybe it is a goofy stroke of symbolism we begin hurling about in conversations as a young, overbooked high school or college student or amid the workforce when we first begin to realize: there is no such thing as true life balance and we have spread ourselves waaaay too thin.


Dinnerware seems to be a big part of our communication to describe the state of things or our mental well-being (or lack thereof).  We see the glass half-empty (or full, depending on our outlook). If we cannot arrive at a decision, we might table the discussion for a while. Hollywood even taught us that all it takes is a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down yet I would venture to guess that most of us have figured out a work-around to avoid the medicine altogether and go straight to the sugar! And then there is this gem: if we have reached our limit, we proudly declare, ‘stick a fork in me, I’m done!’ (That last one always evokes some horrifying images and is…well, just creepy, if you ask me.)


What is it with our fascination with dinnerware to say what we’re really thinking, and what does that dinnerware look like? Is it formal and stately or casual and accessible? Are we talking fine china or Melmac? Remember those? Completely useless in the age of microwaves and dishwashers, and if you tried really really hard, you could break them. I know because I did. On a few occasions.


I recently spent a long commute to work thinking about this. Well, more specifically, about MY plate.  I have never gotten a handle on life balance. When I worked a traditional job or when I worked for myself full-time, I have always managed to take on more than I could complete with a moderate degree of sanity remaining afterward . The result is multi-layered — frazzled people, sometimes shoddy results and almost always completely unnecessary stress.  Over the past few years as I went back to work part-time in addition to my part-time freelance writing work, balance became a bigger issue. When I was “off” from one job, I was “on” for the other it seemed. I couldn’t figure out where I fit into the equation if I was always working for them 1 or them 2. Hmm. When do I get some time for me?!


So I thought a lot about my plate. Mine would be a gorgeous auburn red (because you know they always say you eat less on a darker plate and I have always appreciated a lovely fall hue.)  But how big is it?  Lunch or standard dinner size?  And that’s when the whole point of this blog smacked me in the head. What if I’m making dinner size plate commitments and I’m equipped with a lunch plate? I mean, maybe I used to have a dinner size plate and could accommodate all of this “stuff” from all directions with no problem at all…but things have changed — I have other aspects of my life that have slowed me down or distracted me. Isn’t it possible that I’m still accepting dinner-size when in fact my plate has gotten smaller? Maybe I need to re-assess, I thought — and start seeing my plate for the size it really is.  And that didn’t mean suddenly all of the portions would get smaller. I mean, it could. But not necessarily. What if there were some things I wanted to spend more time on and others, that just didn’t fit on any size plate anymore?


Thus began my dinnerware renovation. When the year started, I was a dinner plate. By the end of this year, I am a lunch plate. And that is totally fine. Being able to see that if I want to enjoy what it is that I’m experiencing or taking on as work projects or challenges, I need to make certain I will have the appropriate resources (time, energy, interest) to take part. So I’ve taken my fork and pushed some things off of the plate completely, not just because the space on the plate is smaller but because sometimes what made sense on the plate at one time is not the best use of space now.


What does your plate look like and are you filling it with the things that make you want to wake up and get out of bed in the morning? Are you leaving some space empty for those activities that may come up and could potentially give you unexpected bursts of joy? Without space on your plate, you will never be able to say ‘yes’ to those inquiries that you want to say ‘yes’ to most of all.


I urge you to think about it the next time you are about to plop another big dollop of “have-to” on your plate. This is your dish. Do not just go through the motions and have a meal. Let it nourish you and leave you satisfied. xo

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