Life Balance = Self Balance: Find & Use Your Outlets!

Did y'all have a good weekend? I definitely did...and still technically am, since I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon :) A full review is to come, but I spent the weekend getting back in touch with my love of the arts. On Friday, Homieloverfriend and I went to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre's show at the Sony Centre for Performing Arts. Amazing. On Saturday, I rolled solo to the Caribbean Tales/TIFF Gala and Screening of Better Mus Come. In-damn-credible. Add my special somebody's birthday dinner at Big Daddy's Bourbon Street Bistro & Oyster Bar, and I've been a happy camper thus far. This morning the sunshine woke me up and I found myself going for a run to train for my upcoming 10K, and shortly I'll be heading out to an annual Super Bowl extravaganza with some close friends. I'm already looking into the future and predicting that by the time y'all are reading this, I'll be in my office at my 9-5, smiling as I reminisce on the weekend's events.

This is not a weekend review post. What this is, is a reminder post - something that I became reacquainted with this weekend, that I think I need to remind you of in case you've forgotten. This past weekend reminded me of the importance of outlets, and how much we need to be aware of the other things that make us US. Far too often, we get accustomed to being defined by our job titles and our family roles. However, I'm sure if you look inside yourself, you'll find other things that make you more than a "nurse and mother of 3" or a "financial analyst and husband".

Am I saying that our job titles and family roles are not important? Not at all! What I am saying is that it is all too common for us to get crunched into sometimes-restricting boxes. Problems start when the stress of these responsibilities get too high, and we don't know how to cope because we haven't focused on the other parts of ourselves. Having an outlet (or 2 or 3) gives you a way to blow off steam while getting in touch with other interests, skills, and passions that you may have put on the back burner.

For me, my outlets are the arts, fitness, and friendship - but I find that I utilize them in different ways.

When I'm burnt-out - stressed, annoyed, and THISCLOSE to snapping my last good nerve - I look towards fitness and friends to help me. Going for a run, doing some yoga, or even just banging out a 15 minute workout on my Nike Training Club app gets the bad vibes out. Calling up a girlfriend or getting together with a good group of homies always helps me to release the stress and remind myself of the good things in life.

I find that engaging in the arts, whether it's writing, attending a dance show, going to an art exhibit, or watching a short film fills me with something extremely rejuvenating and inspiring. I could be in a great mood already - but let me step into a dance studio or take a trip to the ROM, and my happiness is expanded exponentially. I'm sure it's tied to my childhood, since I went to an arts elementary school from grades 4-8. During those formative years, I danced, sang, played the violin and piano, acted (my star role was as Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream in grade 5), painted, sculpted, and learned art history. I TOTALLY took my experiences for granted during those years, but now see just how enriched my life was with the arts. After the shows I went to this weekend, I almost feel like I have a reserve of good vibes inside of me to bolster me against the stresses of "getting back to reality" this week in the office. On top of that, I've been reminded that I am a good dancer, I could probably pick up a violin today and still play, and I was a damn good Nick Bottom! Indulging in the arts reminds me that there is more to me than just what's on my resume.

A special note to you parents: I'm not yet a parent, but I was a child. I remember my Mother constantly saying some variation of "You guys are my life" and "Everything I do is for you". She was always a happier, more balanced, and more interesting Mom when she was doing things for herself, that she enjoyed - and once she got over the irrational guilt of thinking that doing something for herself = neglecting us, we were a more fulfilled family unit. Parenting is a huge, vital societal role...but if you lose yourself in it, your children will sense that. Don't forget about YOU!

So, what about you? Have you ever seriously considered the other things you're good at that add to your identity? Is there something that indulges and fulfills you - your life's own slice of red velvet cake? What can you do to help blow off steam at the end of the day? Life has stressors at every turn - arm yourself with the best possible outlets to help you live a more balanced life!

Happy Birthday, Bob!

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