Finding balance

Growing up I was always fascinated by Balancing Bird toys.  Those little plastic birds seem to defy gravity and balance on the tip of your finger (or nose) despite your every effort to make them wobble and fall off.

I wish finding balance in life was quite so simple and effortless.  I’ve had the chance to do some extra work recently and my wife and I decided I should do it.  Our plan is to use the extra money to build up our savings a bit.  The problem is that I’ve working a lot, probably too much.

Given that it’s a temporary thing, I’m not too worried.  But it’s caused me to really think about how to balance everything in my life – family, work, church responsibilities, and everything else that’s going on in life.  I’m obligated to provide for my family, but at what point does “providing for my family” become “seeking after riches”?  If all of our current temporal needs are met, does anything above that mean that I’m working too much?  If my goal is to save for a rainy day, is there a limit to how much “rain insurance” I really need?

I don’t think there’s a hard and fast answer to these questions.  There are times in our lives when we simply need to work more and there are times when we need to cut back and focus on other aspects of our lives.  My rule of thumb is that if my own spirituality seems to be suffering or if I’m not there when my family needs me to be, then I’m working too much.  My balance is a bit more precarious than that of a Balancing Bird and I do tend to wobble now and then, but I’m grateful for the influence of the Holy Ghost that warns me when I’m leaning too far to one side or the other.

Columbo

The Columbo inhaler is a nice example of quack medicine from the 1920’s.  It’s named for Christopher Columbus (rather than everyone’s favorite trenchcoat-wearing detective).  I’m not sure what Columbus has to do with medicine, but there you have it.  The inhaler gives specific directions on how to use it – one end is for inhaling through the mouth while the other is for nasal use.  It mentions that the inhaler protects against coughs, asthma, colds, and a host of other respiratory problems.  One thing is rather conspicuously absent from the instructions – the actual contents of the inhaler.

When I first received this bit of historical quackery, the first thing my kids said was “Try it out!”  I explained that I had no idea what it contained and so there was no way I was taking that into my lungs because there’s no easy way to get it out again.

This got me thinking about the various environments we place ourselves in and what we decide to admit into our minds.  In an average week I visit a bunch of places – work, home, church, the karate dojo, my kids’ schools, the grocery store – the list goes on and on.  Everywhere I go I hear conversations, some of which are uplifting and wholesome and some of which contain mostly four-letter words.

Those conversations have an impact.  The brain is remarkable at remembering all kinds of information and this can be a double-edged sword.  Sometimes during quiet moments I recall funny things my kids said, a bit of science trivia I heard in a podcast, or a scripture someone quoted during a Sunday school lesson.  On the other hand, sometimes my brain brings up an off-color joke I heard from a coworker or the provocative lyrics from a song on the radio.

We naturally protect our lungs from questionable substances, but we should also guard our minds from that which is unwholesome and demeaning.  Once it’s in there it is generally there to stay.