My intentions for 2019 were Trust the Path and Do Scary Shit. I am proud to say that I fully committed to those statements and, as a result, 2019 was a year of adventures, bravery, accomplishments, failures (learning experiences), and a lot of self-awareness. After spending several days thinking about my intentions for 2020, the phrases I have settled on are:
Find Your Balance and Be Present.
I don’t particularly believe in balance (weird choice then, right?). I don’t believe in it as an actual attainable daily goal. When I hear the word balance, in my mind I see a balanced scale; I see a bar graph where each bar is exactly the same height; I see a server carrying a tray that has all of the plates evenly distributed so as not to topple over (I was a server all through college…balancing a tray is a skill that is not to be under appreciated).
For argument’s sake, let’s assign each of the plates on the tray an area of my life (way more interesting than the bar graph analogy, right?). On one plate is my immediate family: my husband, three children, and dog. I am writing this at the ER with my dog, so he deserves a shout out because he requires time, attention, and love (also, I am pretty certain I get my dog to the ER faster than I have ever gotten my children to the ER); another plate is my family/friends, local and out-of-town…who I am now picturing as very tiny people standing on the plate and waving…you, too? No? Weird; the third plate is my performance career, with rehearsal schedules, performance schedules, auditions, and classes; the last plate is health/wellness/self-care. That plate is holding my workouts, training schedules (I committed to another half-marathon this year), food, and mediumship/intuition work. There could be several more plates, but I haven’t served at a restaurant in 17 years, so let’s not get crazy with how many plates we are putting on the tray.
Why don’t I believe in balance? Your life may look completely different than mine, but I cannot think of any situation in which a day would have each of those plates equally weighted and situated on my fingertips. Much like whack-a-mole (shameless self-promotion of a previous blog post…check it out if you haven’t already read about my profound theory of life), one plate – or maybe two – ALWAYS outweighs another. If one of my kids is home sick from school, I’m not going to the gym. If I have a tight rehearsal schedule, it is increasingly difficult to see my friends and I miss lots of bedtimes at home. Family weddings or events on the calendar impact my ability to audition for certain shows. The plates are NEVER balanced. The whole tray is constantly wobbling, threating to smash to the floor.
I can vividly remember the time I spilled a tray of drinks down a customer’s back and the time I dropped a just-out-of-the-oven bloomin’ onion in a man’s lap…in a wheelchair…at another server’s table. When the tray tips, it crashes, makes a mess, and is very difficult to clean up. If my life tray comes tumbling down, it is equally as difficult to clean up.
I will clarify: I do not believe in balance on a day-to-day basis, so my intention for this year is to find my balance in a bigger picture. In coming weeks, I will begin rehearsal for my next play (see Appearances on aimeekleiman.com for info!). The schedule is demanding and I will be away from home every evening, Monday through Friday for nearly eight weeks. I am nervous about the time away and the imbalance will be significant. The immediate family plate will be light and my performance plate will be overflowing with deliciousness. I have a training schedule to prepare for the half marathon, which can be done while the kids are at school, so that will help fill the Health/Wellness/Self-Care plate. Meal planning and snack planning during such a busy time, will also keep that plate full of fueling and healthy foods (which, honestly, affects ALL the plates). Weekends will be devoted to spending time with my family, so I anticipate a bit of a social black hole in coming months. I humbly ask my friends for grace and understanding and know I am just a text, phone call, or morning coffee date away. Being an extremely social person, that is admittedly difficult for me, but I want my attention to be on my family to make sure the plate is not empty when I open the show.
Then what? I shift my focus. After the play opens, my family and friends plates will be filled and abundant. My performance plate may be on the light side, but I can keep it on the tray with classes, training, and perhaps performances that do not require the same kind of time commitment until later in the year. I have come to learn, for myself, that it is the quality of work – not the quantity of work – that is important to me. I want to make art that feels important and helps me grow as an actor.
For me, Find Your Balance means maintaining a sense of balance over the course of the year, which will require constant shifting of focus. The plates will never be perfectly matched, but I can be sure that none of them are empty. Also, for those who tend to be a little Judgy McJudgerson, please remember that my balance may not look like your balance. The plates on your tray may be entirely different than mine and that is okay!
The way I plan to do that is with my second intention for the year: Be Present. Blame it on the ADHD or blame it on being a mom trying to manage five schedules. Either way, my brain is always moving a million miles a minute and thinking about everything else I need to be doing. The result is that I end up feeling guilty for not paying attention to the other plates while not even giving my full time and attention to the current plate! That is just a silly waste of time and does not serve anyone.
My biggest goal in being present (I am writing this so I have to admit it is an issue for me and also you can all help me be accountable) is to put my phone away. I am embarrassed to admit that it is very difficult for me to disconnect. I do not know if it is a major fear of missing out on something important, a habit, or a need for constant stimulation. Whatever the reason, it creates distance and makes it virtually impossible to focus on the present. More specifically, that looks like putting my phone upstairs if I am home with the kids and/or my husband, not having it out if I am with friends, and only checking it during breaks if I am at rehearsal. I would like to say that sounds easy, but the truth is, it does not. I am confident I can do it and I am a hundred percent certain that it will help with both of my intentions.
The other way I plan to be present is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as: the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.
In this short definition, there are a few things that stand out to me as being giant statements: First, the idea of consciously being aware of the present. This does not mean simply existing in a space, but taking the time to be aware of the space. How do I feel in the space? What are my thoughts about being in the space? Who am I with? What are we doing? How do I feel about it? The second point that stands out is the idea of being present without judgment of my thoughts. I think this could be interpreted in a few different ways, but for me it means not feeling guilty for being present in a moment, even if there are other things I could or should be doing. It means leaving the guilt about not being home at the door when I get to rehearsal. It means forgetting the fear of not being prepared when I leave my script in the car to be with my family. It means listening and sharing with friends when we have a ten minute phone call or a thirty minute coffee. Last, the idea of developing mindfulness through meditation and other training will allow me to also take time to focus some attention on my spiritual work that has become so important to me and keeps me grounded and connected. Keeping my chakras balanced will be an important part of my work in overall balance. You know, the Health/Wellness/Self-Care plate…see what I did there? Full circle.
I have no disillusions of how difficult it will be maintain focus on my goals for this year. I will practice and make steps every day to do better. Some days I will fail and that is okay…I will learn the most on those days. Also, I do not intend on abandoning my intentions from last year, as now they are a firm part of my story. They are who I am and how I live my life. We grow and learn and our intentions reflect that personal growth and introspection. What are your intentions for 2020? I know you can do it…because you are amazing. You are enough.