In our busy lives, art is often sacrificed in favor of work. Our Artist Fellowship program was created to give artists space and time to create, uninterrupted. Boston-based writer Becki Ledford recently stayed with us and wrote about the interruptions we face daily, and imbalance in the modern digital age.
As I was preparing to leave for my very first Getaway, I was excited and anxious. I had two nights to completely disconnect and try to figure out what balance — and therefore imbalance — really means.
Humans, like plants and flames, must be fed from both the bottom and the top. Flames are fed by the wood or another source of fuel along with the oxygen that allows the flame to grow. Plants, too, are fed by the sun above and the earth below — water carrying nutrients from the soil in through the plant’s roots.
In our modern world, we’re used to extremes. We see it in the enormous lengths our television shows aspire to as well as in our politicians, always swearing to take it one step further than the last.
Like a pendulum swings, life strives to reach equilibrium. When our lives swing too far in one direction, something inevitably happens to bump us back to center. Sometimes those bumps are positive and other times they seem to bring destruction in their wake. But each has the same purpose — to bring us back into balance.
In our modern world, we’re used to extremes. We see it in the enormous lengths our television shows aspire to as well as in our politicians, always swearing to take it one step further than the last. We speak in extremes as well; we describe experiences as the best or the worst — only with those closest to us do we dare to live somewhere in the middle, where experiences and purchases and partners and jobs are all just okay.
We’ve begun to live in these extremes to avoid any perceived sense of mediocrity. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we began to equate balance with that same mediocrity. But balance isn’t mediocre, that’s the hard-earned lesson that our ancestors before us learned and that somehow we’ve forgotten in our modern world.
The only place many of us strive for balance is in our social media feeds. In those cases, it’s #balance — a buzzword more than a way of life. Often, it’s used right alongside #selfcare or #sorrynotsorry. But shouldn’t we always be caring for ourselves? Shouldn’t we always be unapologetic about living our best lives?
These days, working for eight hours a day is underachieving — the expectation in many industries is closer to 10 or 12 hours at a stretch, and forget about quiet weekends with no work email.
The imbalance we experience in our current age often isn’t even perceived as an imbalance. These days, working for eight hours a day is underachieving — the expectation in many industries is closer to 10 or 12 hours at a stretch, and forget about quiet weekends with no work email. We’re always on. When it isn’t work, it’s social media. It’s the feeling that when a friend invites you out to dinner, you really should say yes, even if you’re exhausted and really want some time alone to decompress.
We get anxious if we don’t have wifi, positively frantic if we don’t have cell signal. Many people have cut the cord and moved away from cable television, but a large majority of those still rely on Netflix, Hulu, or some other streaming service. We are convinced that it’s our connection with the outside world, that constant sense of being on, that makes us functional in today’s world. But it’s the excess of those things that are keeping us from truly engaging.
When I returned from my Getaway, I found myself using social media just a bit less.
Unlike other vacations I’ve taken, where I’ve continued to upload photos to Instagram, answer emails, and text with friends, while on my Getaway, I just was. I could have easily turned airplane mode off and used my phone, but I realized that while work, socializing, and being “on” provide nourishment for some aspects of my life, they feed me only from the top. To get that balance, to be fed from both the top and from the bottom — from my core, my roots — I needed to be “off” instead.
But we’re talking about balance here, not extremes, and it wasn’t being on the Getaway itself that made me fully appreciate the forms that balance (and imbalance) take in our modern age. When I returned from my Getaway, I found myself using social media just a bit less. I posted photos to Instagram, but I didn’t obsess over catching up on Facebook birthdays or going through and liking the photos I’d missed (nor did I pay attention to the number of likes I was getting myself). I felt refreshed at work — able to focus and be more productive — but I left work to my established work hours and didn’t let it interfere with my personal life.
While this newfound balance was amazing, it didn’t last. Soon enough the modern world got its hold in me again and I found myself struggling with always being “on.” That’s when I learned the biggest lesson of all from my Getaway.
Imbalance today is something that must be combated regularly. We live in a world where the extremes are rewarded, and that makes it all too easy to fall into the habit of striving for those extremes. Working the longest hours, getting the most likes, and knowing the most people all seem like shiny aspirations, even though the unchecked pursuit of those goals leads to our own detriment in the form of high levels of stress, poor sleep, and unhealthy habits.
Balance is possible, but it’s a cup you have to keep refilling. You can’t take two days off from work once a year and expect to be able to maintain it. We all want a quick fix, but in this case there just isn’t one. Imbalance in the modern age is nefarious because the very things that can throw us off-kilter are the very things we need to survive in today’s world. Just remember: all things in moderation. And make sure you use your vacation days for actual vacation.
Becki is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Boston, MA. She is currently writing her debut novel and continually striving for balance in her own life. When she isn’t behind her laptop, you can find her hiking in the Fells, reading a book, or leading workshops on visualization, intuition, and Earth-based spirituality. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram.
You can follow Becki here on Instagram to follow her work or apply for our Artist Fellowship here.