The balancing act

As I race into Starbucks, wild-eyed and hair askew, I think to myself: Pond. Cabin. Book. Morning coffee. Loons, perhaps, at dusk. Someday.

But not today. Today, I am racing to make a conference call with a colleague because my internet provider has decided that a workday is a wonderful day to upgrade my neighborhood’s network. And texted me that decision roughly 10 minutes before my first conference call and a complete shutdown of my wi-fi, internet hotspots, and more.

I skip video on this call because—see above. But we get done what we need to get done and off I race to the next priority—walking Bailey, my furry third child, before she has to cross her legs. And then it’s feed all of us, dig into work, decide if landscaper’s price for weeding is truly insane and how much my time is worth instead—blah, blah, blah.

Yesterday, on my way to downtown Chicago on the train, we were delayed for well over an hour due to “police action” on the train. Then we were delayed again for a freight train. Then a third time for track repair.

Are you nodding your head, remembering your last crazy morning? I’m getting really good at zen breathing and I’m thinking of taking up tai chi. Can’t hurt, right?

I know, I know. It’s not cancer or bankruptcy or any of the myriad things that could happen—and I’m thankful for that. But it feels harder than it used to, for some reason.

I think I know why.

We’re all in the middle of a balancing act. And those of us who are most in tune with life feel it. I know people still myopically breezing through life in their gated communities with their elite mileage status. They’re somewhat insulated from not just worries about bills but—sadly—worries about what is happening in our world. If it’s not impacting them personally, they’ve tuned it out. If they had ever really tuned it in.

But for the rest of us, who at least occasionally consider the common good, it’s gotten hard. The war in the Ukraine brings horrific images of human beings wreaking cruel havoc on other human beings’ lives, minds, hearts. Gas prices mean folks like me are paying $80 to fill a tank. Buying just a dozen items at the grocery store can easily run into three figures. I know more people on antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds now than I ever have. And I’m sure there are many I’m unaware of.

Our email inboxes overfloweth. We’re bombarded constantly with texts, instant messages, telemarketer calls. And then there are the things to remember—family birthdays, paying bills, checking in with our kids and friends to be sure their heads are above water.

It’s a lot, folks. Maybe I’m feeling it more because I’m a divorced mom without a helpmate. But regardless, it’s a lot.

Now, for the flip side of the coin. To maintain my sanity, I’m very in the moment. I am focusing on the task at hand and tuning out worries about eventual retirement and what has happened in the markets. That means the little things matter. So here are a few of the things keeping me sane.

First, young little humans.

My sweet, shy neighbor, Claire, sat quietly at the end of her driveway the other day with a TV tray, a plastic pitcher full of lemonade, and a sign: LEMONADE, 25 CENTS. Unassuming and rather quiet around strangers, she simply sat with her wares, filling in her connect-the-dots book as she waited for people to stop by. Her parents told me later that she made $55 in two hours.

And here’s the best part—as I stopped by to see how she was doing and slip her a fiver, a woman was just jogging away saying, “Remember, I’m Kathy. So he needs to say he is Kathy’s husband, OK?”

Minutes later, a man the size of a Chicago Bear’s defensive lineman stopped his car and approached with money in hand. “My wife called,” he said. “I’m Kathy’s husband. She told me to stop by and get some lemonade.” Claire poured him a generous cup and away he went in his car, guzzling. People are still good. Large men that could crush you with one hand can still be good and have a heart of gold. This somehow makes me feel better as I see tiny men with big egos drop bombs, use guns on defenseless humans, and bully in the corporate and government realms.

Today, as I walked Bailey around the block, a group of young boys walking down the other side of the street yelled, “We love your dog!” I smiled and thanked them. Perhaps the future generation of men will have grown up being able to better express their feelings than mine did. And the world will be the better for it.

My great-niece, who just turned four, celebrated her birthday in a princess dress and crown. This is not unusual attire for her. My favorite photo from her party was her in a voluminous blue princess dress, crown firmly in place on her head, swinging a baseball bat at a piñata. She looks sweet and fierce at the same time. I’m channeling her this week. If you see me at the grocery in said attire, just smile and give me a queen wave.

Little humans rock.

Second, old dogs who learn new tricks.

Bailey, my 10-year-old rescue dog, has decided to join the social swim at doggie daycare. Meaning the dog who for 10 years has shied away from water of any type, stood calmly in the kiddie pool at doggie daycare, after a little peer pressure from her four-legged friends. I guess she saw all the cool kids doing it—those Labs, such show-offs—and decided to join in. She’s about 70 in human years. But she’s trying something new.

So is my neighbor, Wayne. I wrote about his foray into the world of cell phones. I am happy to say my help-desk sessions have ended and he is no longer shouting into his phone. Old dog, new trick.

And as for this old dog, I recently learned how to maintenance my treadmill. Not glamorous but useful. And if you knew how unhandy I am, you’d know this is a minor miracle. The other piece of that miracle is that my ex-husband is the one who helped me loosen the bolts. There was a time I thought we’d never be able to be in the same room again. Onward and upward.

Third, friends.

Tonight, I head to a friend’s for happy hour and a good gab session. In a world gone mad, it’s the people who make the effort—the ones who hold us close in their hearts—that keep us sane.

Let me know where you are, friends. Holding your own, I hope. So many good people in the world. So much good to do. We can’t all change the big things—world conflict vs. peace, prosperity vs. lack, kindness vs. hate, guns vs. non-violence—but we can continue to focus on our actions, the people around us, what we know to be good and true.

It’s a balancing act, for sure. Here’s to being the safety net for each other.

50 Comments Add yours

  1. Things have gotten harder. The last 2-3 years just kind of broke the world and we are still seeing it break further in different ways, and the helplessness of it all is maddening.

    I guess the way I am trying to manage is by finally trying to grow my own herbs? baby steps I guess.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think your assessment is spot on. And I love that you were trying to find a way to manage it. Growing your own herbs is a great start and I am sure you make a mean pesto or fill in your favorite sauce here😛. If all of us find creative ways to cope and help keep the general vibe up rather than letting at tank, I think it makes such a difference.

  2. I hear and feel you. For those who have the possibility (e.g. because working from home is always possible), #4: move to the countryside. QoL skyrockets, and cost of living is lower, too…

    1. candidkay says:

      Amen, Christian! And having seen photos of your bucolic lifestyle, I’m a fan. I think everyone’s blood pressure would lower given your view🌳🌳.

  3. Rough mornings are no fun at all! And thank goodness for the good things in the world. Nothing makes me smile faster than a happy young person who catches my eye. And yesterday I was lucky to get kisses from the sweetest dog. Here’s hoping the past few days have been better!

    1. candidkay says:

      Dog kisses are the best 🐾. They can turn a day right around!

  4. mydangblog says:

    It’s been tough lately, but I’m holding my own and finding joy in the little things, hoping for better times ahead😊

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad! Joy in the little things is where sanity lives right now, I think.

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    You seem to have achieved a balance Kristine, I don’t think everybody does. Until I retired from full-time work I never had the energy left to consider much else. Loved the story about Claire – she must have observed Lucy at work in Peanuts. And the old dog, learning to paddle. My daughter went with us on holiday once, terrified of water. She came back a water baby and so happy in her new fear-free environment.
    It’s easy to get cross about things we can’t control individually. In the UK right now it’s the question of privately-owned water companies rationing water having sold off reservoirs for development/profit in the past. Too late now for us all to aspire to sharing the Earth’s resources fairly and with respect.
    The little moments are the big moments – the kind gesture, the morning run, sharing a quiet beer with mates, sitting under an apple tree composing a bad poem. Long may they continue.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, there’s poetry in your comment, Roy. Not bad poetry composed under the apple tree either😉. I had no idea about the water issue in the UK. I keep trying to believe that at some point we will elect leaders—whether in government or in business or other arenas – that put the common good ahead of greed. There are some. But too many who are still stuck in a mindset that no longer works in a world where we all sink or swim together. Thank you, as always, for the thoughtful commentary. You always add something good to the discussion!

  6. Ally Bean says:

    Hear, hear. You’ve said what’s been fluttering around in my mind, but I haven’t had the focus to write. I agree we’re all doing a balancing act now, and like you “I’m very in the moment. I am focusing on the task at hand… That means the little things matter.” I love the lemonade stand, btw. That’s the kind of hope and innocence that keeps me grounded.

    1. candidkay says:

      Isn’t the lemonade stand just the best? And friends talk about moving somewhere other than a neighborhood, it always gives me pause. I do love the mix of ages. Children are just such a great way to start human beings.😀

  7. Dale says:

    Dang it… I knocked my mouse and closed all my windows… Now what intelligent comment did I write the 3/4 of?
    Your posts make me nod my head yes, shake my head with wtf, smile, fell all warm and fuzzy inside.
    How we deal with life really is a choice, isn’t it? Mixed up with all the crazy where you think, good grief, you have those moments that you can focus on and yes, bring balance. I love your stories of your ‘hood.

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah yes, middle-aged memory—isn’t it fun? 🧐 “ your post make me na my head yes, shake my head with WTF, smile, feel all warm and fuzzy inside. “ you just made this writer’s day☺️. But you knew that, didn’t you? and you put it well when you talk about the good mixed up with the crazy. Because that’s how it feels sometimes. Just crazy and really off-balance.

      1. Dale says:

        I think it would be dull like hell if there wasn’t some crazy mixed in! Glad to make your day. You always do with each of your posts 🙂

  8. I particularly like your last line in a post that’s so full of truths. It’s one of the powerful attributes of community, whether that be our neighbourhoods, or other forms.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Cynthia. So true, right? And something that here in the States at least, so many people seem to be forgetting. I try to focus on the ones that are remembering.

  9. Masha says:

    What a beautiful heartwarming piece Kay, you’re an amazing writer, you have a gift that is so special thank you for sharing this story, in the end it’s the kind hearted people we meet along our way, they are the ones that remind us that there is hope for us still. xo

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Masha! No nicer thing you can say to a writer. I truly appreciate it and I’m really glad that this one touched you!

  10. I hear you loud and clear, Kristine, on the state of our world right now. Wonderful piece.
    On another note, I finally got to meet my grand niece last month. She’s two and she’s smart, funny and sociable. Her parents just signed her up for dance class. 💕

    1. candidkay says:

      Ooh, maybe she should meet my Anna! She’s a dancer too 🩰. They could be little firecrackers together😀.

  11. markbialczak says:

    Here’s to you not only seeing, but feeling the good that’s still emerging, Kay. And for reminding us it’s out there, yes, it is!

    1. candidkay says:

      It certainly is, Mark. Thank goodness!

  12. Cindy says:

    The news is just horrific these days so it’s good to keep the positives front and center. But you do have to look hard for them and make a concerted effort. I always have to remind my teenage daughter this as they can’t get discouraged with everything going on in the world right now. Thanks for the article!

    1. candidkay says:

      I do have a lot of faith in Gen Z. We’ve left them a bit of a mess, though. Which isn’t fair.

  13. Karen Lang says:

    You share it so well Kristine . And no matter what is going on in our crazy world, like you, I see kind, open-hearted people and precious beautiful moments. It’s just a matter of looking for them.

    1. candidkay says:

      Here’s to finding them!

  14. You’ve put things in proper perspective. The world in part is nuts, depressing, violent, etc. But there also are lots of good people out there doing good things, and thank goodness for that.

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes—it’s an odd juxtaposition. Such a contrast of extremes. I think that’s what so many people struggle with right now.

  15. Brilliant post dear lady, a touching of hearts from your own. And your right, there is many beautiful people, as is there bad ones. And each and every one we will attract to challenge our balance and ask us to become that change that it produces. As for retirement…the bills don’t stop, our family doesn’t stop, and no, our balance never stops either. And don’t get me started on petrol prices, over here had reached $2.65 a litre…yes a litre, not a gallon. To duck around to the little nearby store for some milk would cost $10. I think a new wave of skateboards is about to start 🤣 A beautiful post, and thank you for sharing the love you have found in spades. Gratefully received 😀❤️🙏🏽
    Oh, and I think I have found what was blocking me. On some blogs I am automatically signed out, and no not blocked because those people have come looking for me. I can go from what says I’m signed out to another blog and it says I’m signed in and I can chat away merrily. Go figure 😀

    1. candidkay says:

      First, i’m so glad you figured out what was causing the commenting issue😀. Good to have you back, Marc. Second, thank you for the kind words. I know you are on the other side of the world but it’s somehow heartening to know that we are not the only ones worrying about gas prices. Misery loves company? And contemplating skateboards😉.

      1. Misery loves company is just a good way to express what is bothering us, to help us clear our ‘bits’ 🤣 And enjoy the exercise then dear lady, I expect accolades from regular skateboarding championships for the under 30’s 😀❤️🙏🏽

  16. Jane Fritz says:

    It’s a lot, all right, Kristine. Reaching out to those we feel close to, staying connected, and showing kindness to strangers are some of the most powerful actions we can take to keep us going, to keep us sane. You say it so well.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Jane! One foot in front of the other. Except when we have loved ones and good things to help us through, it feels less like plodding and more like happy progress.

  17. Thanks Kristine. Your post perfectly expresses the crazy mess of life with so many extra challenges now, balanced by the inherent goodness of people, especially kids. Maybe they’re the tide that will help cleanse and create a better world for all. To kids, pets, friends, and neighbors.

    1. candidkay says:

      Right? I think we just have to savor the moments of joy.

  18. Miriam says:

    What a wonderfully uplifting post full of those little things, people and moments that make us realise they’re really the big things. Loved this!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Miriam! I appreciate the kind words and hope you are well😀.

  19. srbottch says:

    Good points. Times are challenging. We fixed incomes need to be diligent. The COSTO ‘inflation rotisserie chicken’ is still $4.99. But, as you say there are some things that help, dogs, friends and @johnwhowell stories.

    1. candidkay says:

      John Howell is A good reminder that humans are still good, isn’t he? And are you kidding me? Costco rotisserie chicken is still 4.99? Now that’s a bargain😀.

      1. srbottch says:

        Yes, $4.99! Go for it! (Maybe it’s $10.99 in Chicago area🥴)

      2. srbottch says:

        By the way, speaking of saving money, I was filling my tank today (no, I don’t drink but with inflation here, I might start) and the guy opposite me asks, “do you use the Upside app? It’s saving me $0.19/g at this station as I fill”. Say what? He sent me the link and I’m going to look into it. Check it out in the App Store, Upside.

      3. candidkay says:

        Thanks, Steve!

  20. Sure is a lot to balance. My 15 month old Golden Retriever helps me remain sane. In the afternoon she likes to snuggle with me on my recliner. Lucky for me she is “fun” sized at 41 lbs. Just petting her puts me in a meditative space.
    We are retired and still kind of living in pandemic mode. Limiting our travel. But at 73 I’m starting to feel the clock ticking away. Been married 52 years, and I want a BIG fun adventurous trip we never took. Yet when I turn on the news my resolve dissolves. Then I sit with my Moxie and I’m ok.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Marlene, I can relate. I really want to travel but COVID hits me hard–I seem to be susceptible. I feel like I’ve lost a couple of years of adventures. And then Bailey lays at my feet and I feel lucky:). Here’s to both of us getting our adventures in sooner than later!

  21. Doing well here. The cost of living has to be something that concerns everyone (Except Joe it seems). When my wife reports costs going up dramatically I thank my stars I have the money to pay. I don’t know how others on fixed incomes are doing, but so far we are okay. I filled my tank today and it was ten bucks less than last time so there is that.

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes, John, gas prices headed down! If only the cost of an EV was also . . . I’m glad to hear you and your wife are hanging in there. So many hanging by a thread!

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