If time were unlimited, I would like to train for ultra-marathons, as well as spend lots of quality time with my family, maintain an awesome garden, maybe even complete the master gardener program at OSU, have friends for dinner frequently, try new recipes, read lots of books, reawaken my fluency in Spanish that was shoved into the inaccessible areas of my brain in favor of science and medicine studies. I would like to travel - both long trips abroad and weekend jaunts to local places of interest. I think I would enjoy painting or pottery classes, a few cultural events throughout the year, and even some of the local festivals. It would be nice to expand my horizons athletically, things like more yoga and weightlifting, but also maybe rock climbing and scuba diving. To top it off, it'd be nice to add in a little charity work or volunteerism.
I have read several blog posts and running magazine articles about finding the time to train and most of them mention the word "Balance," as in: you just need to find the right Balance for you. It is a nice word - Balance. It is warm and fuzzy term that connotes some sort of Zen harmony and that all is right in the world: A balanced diet, a balanced budget, a balanced ecosystem.
My first thoughts on Balance conjure up images of Libra's scales, aka a balance, with running on one side and the rest of life on the other. If one piles on more running, there would have to be MORE on the other side to keep things from getting lopsided. But this doesn't work in our time-crunched world.
So, I imagine the waitress's tray, perched above her head, with Life piled on the top. You can pile on a lot more running, but you'll have to unload a lot of other stuff to keep the tray from spilling. Still there is a precarious instability in this balance. Balance is a fragile state on the verge of tipping.
Not to mention the very nature of ultra running defies balance. It is right there in the name: ULTRA-running. The thesaurus gives the following synonyms for ULTRA: "all out, drastic, excessive,extremist, fanatical, far-out, gone, immoderate, out of bounds, outlandish, outré, rabid, radical, revolutionary, too much." By the very definition, ULTRA-runners are UNbalanced. But unbalanced is an ugly word, laced with negativity and connotations of mental derrangement; it takes away from our Nirvana and our runner's high.
So instead of Balance and Imbalance, I like to think of life more like a 6'x6' quilt. You can piece your quilt together anyway you want, but eventually you will have to pick and choose to get the pattern and colors exactly the way you want them. A few skilled quilters may be able to increase the surface area with a couple of ruffles or multi-tasking folds, but in the end, the space is limited. There are an infinite number of beautiful designs that you could use for your quilt. None of them are wrong; you just have to choose the one you like best.
Family will always be at the center of my quilt. Sleep and my job are also well represented on my quilt by necessity. Currently, the background patchwork of my quilt is pretty much all running. Let's not call it an unbalanced pattern, let's just say it is a little "monochromatic." But that it the way I want it right now and I am happy with my quilt.
Time is limited. You can't do everything, but you can do the things you want most. When somebody says they don't have time to do something, what they really mean is that they don't want to MAKE the time to do something. But if you know what you really want and what matters the most, you can find the time for those things.
We all have full quilts, but that doesn't mean the quilt can't change. You can make small adjustments to your quilt from year to year or even season to season. For a life changing event, or just a change of heart, maybe you need to rip your quilt apart completely and piece it back together in a totally different fashion.
Don't try to find the time for what you want first; you won't be able to see it. Instead, figure out what it is that you really want, what is most important to you. You can fit those things on your quilt, but you have to put them on first.