Legal Careers and “The Subtle Tyranny of the Word BALANCE”

A few months ago, I participated in a legal professions class for first-year law students as they begin to explore the career paths in this very difficult legal market.  Near the end of the period, one brave soul asked the panel how we find balance given all that we do in our legal careers.  I laughed out loud.  In my opinion, too often we are sending these young students the message that their lives have to be a divided pie with each wedge carefully sized and devoted to important parts in their overall lives.  I told them that I do not understand the message that 14% of my life must be devoted to skiing or whatever to find true happiness and “balance.”  There are times when my life is nothing but the law, with a little tiny wedge for sleep and basic grooming.  There are other times, when the proportions shift to include more time for family, friends, adventures, and artistic endeavors.  I think the point is to be fluid and make time when the opportunities arise for other, non-legal wedges.  Obviously, as I have posted on many times, if you are struggling and overwhelmed, reach out to the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (JLAP).

The following message posted on the Facebook page of the author Elizabeth Gilbert resonated about “balance:”

Against BALANCE…

Dear Ones –

The other night at my event in St Paul, a young woman asked me about how I achieve balance in my life.

First of all, I love that she thinks I have achieved balance in my life!

Secondly, I felt the need to speak out once more against the subtle tyranny of the word BALANCE, which I think haunts and punishes modern women more and more every day.

We are constantly being told that we should be achieving balance — that we should somehow exquisitely be negotiating the relationships between our work lives, our home lives, our romantic lives, our health and well-being, our spiritual selves. You can’t read an interview with a famous woman these days that the journalist does not applaud her for having achieved BALANCE….and then if you turn the pages of that magazine, you will find ten more articles showing how you can achieve balance. too!

Be careful.

The word BALANCE has tilted dangerously close, I fear, to the word PERFECT — another word that women use as weapons against themselves and each other.

To say that someone has found the secret to a balanced life is to suggest that they have solved life, and that they now float through their days in a constant state of grace and ease, never suffering stress, ambivalence, confusion, exhaustion, anger, fear, or regret. Which is a wonderful description of nobody, ever.

Balance, when we do find it, is a breathtakingly temporary condition. We stand upon a world that spins at 2000 miles an hour. Our minds, meanwhile, spin at 200,000 miles an hour. We collide every day with other humans who are also sliding and spinning wildly. The landscape of our lives, therefore, changes by the minute. You find your balance one day and think, “Hooray! I have solved it” and then five minutes later the world utterly transforms again, and you’re knocked on your ass one more time.

That’s just how life is on this planet — messy, fast, out of control, unpredictable. It’s all terribly interesting, but also terribly unstable.

That being the case, I dropped the myth of BALANCE a long time ago. (I buried it right next to PERFECT.) My life seems happiest — as I tried to explain to this young woman the other night — when I just surrender to the madness, and embrace the glorious mess that I am…and also when I embrace the glorious mess that everyone else is, and the glorious mess of the world itself. My life gets the most painful when I try to set the entire mess (myself other people, life itself) into order.

The world is like a dropped pie most of the time. Don’t kill yourself trying to put it back together. Just grab a fork and eat some of it off the floor. Then carry on.

If you can get some stuff done in the chaos sometimes, god bless you. If you can basically hold it together, propping yourself up with duct tape and glue, rock on. If you can manage stay upright even one hour a day, you’re doing pretty great, as far as I’m concerned. And if you can be kind to the other stumbling fools around you half the time — well, that’s just heroic.

Basically, I think we are all just sloppy stupendous champions.

Onward!

Heart,
LG

(Thanks so my cousin, JuLee, for this idea.)  The post Legal Careers and “The Subtle Tyranny of the Word BALANCE” first appeared on the Indiana Juvenile Justice Blog.

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