As I ponder this month’s topic on Balanced Lifestyle, I recall something important from my time learning how to drive on the roads of Dublin. Whenever I came to a STOP sign on the road, I put my foot on the brakes and repeated to myself: “S…T…O…P.” Then I continued driving on my merry way. In the same vein, this is what I need to do when I come to the STOP signs of my life. I need to respect myself enough to pause at junctures and to move forward with energy and vitality.
These past few weeks have been challenging on my lifestyle as requests for more work have steadily increased. In fact, I was in demand for the first time in my life: to write a booklet on mental health for parishes and to write an article for the British Jesuits. I tried to make the most of a series of reflections on Ireland’s national radio which I had the privilege to present, and I kept to a rigorous 6-day schedule. Eventually, I found myself becoming fatigued and a slave to life – surely not a good sign. I came to a point where I felt like giving everything up.
Thankfully, I recalled Saint Ignatius Loyola’s rules for discernment of spirits. He talked about how the enemy of human nature prowls around a good person studying his strengths and most importantly identifying his weaknesses. “Then at the point where he finds us weakest and most in need in regard to our eternal salvation, there he attacks and tries to take us.” My weakest point was a desire to please everybody with regards my career. At one point, I said an immediate ‘yes’ to extra work, but clearly this wasn’t a good thing to do as I began to burn the candle at both ends.
I lost interest in the psycho-spiritual work that I usually enjoyed, and this is exactly what the enemy of human nature wanted. Luckily, I spoke with a spiritual companion who kindly prompted me to get some awareness over my situation. I tried to fortify myself against any further plundering by STOPPING, and I stepped back from all the yesses. A meeting with a supervisor encouraged me not to react out of impulsiveness but to respond out of groundedness. It turned out I could say a delayed ‘yes’ to the extra work and I could be more mindful of other requests in future.
I look to the Healthy Lifestyle Wheel in order to find some balance. The image contains an inner wheel of things that have a direct effect on our health and well-being: sunshine, fresh air, sleep, movement, food, and water. And an outer wheel of things that have an indirect effect on our health and well-being: relationships, career, spirituality, finances, and mindset. Sleeping well, going for runs, and enjoying the fresh air of autumn brought me energy and vitality, while spending quality time with my girlfriend, getting distance from my reactive thoughts, and turning more to prayer centred my being. The two wheels are equally important to each other.
At 34 years old, I am so lucky to still have a grandmother who is alive and well. In terms of balance, spending time with her is one of the most important things I can do. During the hectic lifestyle period, I tried to at least pop my head in to see her at the end of my day. Saying hello to her put things into perspective. I could be the busiest and most ‘productive’ person in the world, but if I don’t have time for my granny, then I am simply not living a balanced life. I was delighted to hear that she values me because I take the time to listen to her. It is people, not projects that count in this world.
As I returned home on Monday, I noticed a car fly by a STOP sign that I learned to obey. No pausing whatsoever. I quite admire people who stick to the rules of the road because often drivers will not respect them for it. They need to fortify themselves against any abuse. I for one commit to embracing that original lesson on the road and for the many opportunities to respect the STOP signs of my life. So, please excuse me folks as I pop in to see my granny!