There was a small victory in my house last week. You may think it very small in the fabric of family life. But it caused me to stand up and cheer. And to feel that life balance is achievable, like adding the right seasoning in a main dish, or leaning just so, on one leg, then winding up for the perfect pitch.
For me, balance is standing upright in all my major roles as wife, mom, daughter, and caregiver for my dad and mom with Alzheimer's Disease. I am not saying it is easy, but it is becoming more routine, like staying on the balance beam a little longer each practice.
Steadiness is critical because I weave back and forth within two generations.
I parent my teens while parenting my parents. Quite often I stumble and do too much. And try very hard to please all.
And that is where the broccoli comes in. And where it stays.
Cooking vegetables for boys hasn't been that fun. I have been promoting, bribing, pushing, demanding, and preparing them throughout my boys' early years with varying results. Raw baby carrots? Win. Romaine? Eventual win. Green beans? Forget it.
Surprising enough, crisp steamed broccoli is a win for the boys, but a huge loss for my husband. Mushy steamed broccoli, is a win for him, but a huge loss for the boys. And so it went... for 18 years. Either overcooked or undercooked cruciferous florets, endless complaints, but no desire to cook it both ways, plus make all other sides and main dish. It was rough (or roughage--if you like.)
Then I checked out a blog by Shauna Niequist and clicked on "Sara's Broccoli Game-Changer." I tried the recipe and ate the roasted bite-size pieces right out of the oven. As good as potato chips! First son wanted more. Second son ate more. Then Jim's turn. Thumbs up! "You can cook it like this from now on," he said. Equal likes for broccoli. Inside I screamed, "win!"
Sometimes the smallest of things make me think hard about big things.
Big things like feeling well-balanced. Where there is happiness and order in most all one's responsibilities and activities, joie de vivre, and love. Where energy is in great supply for each loved one and even for oneself. Where there are chunks of time for me--some mom-only moments to self-actualize and enjoy many interests. A balanced life.
Equilibrium instead of chaos.
When I feel great, relationships with family members are pretty good. When I'm giving enough care to my parents and have lots of energy, I enjoy their company so much. But if I spend too much time caring for them each week, the responsibility gets heavy. Nurturing my teens and staying on top of their schedules takes a lot of energy, effort and organization. They need me at my best. I want to model a careful balance, not guilt and discouragement. If I don't give out more than I reasonably should, I sense "an even distribution of weight enabling me to remain upright and steady," which is my favorite dictionary definition of balance.
In case you're wondering, here's Sara's broccoli recipe: Arrange fresh bite-size broccoli pieces on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.
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