Wednesday, November 19, 2008


When I was in England last year I was fascinated by this road sign I came across. I wrote a post about the concept of priorities, as they related to travel plans and, a little bit, life in general.*

Evaluating and balancing priorities in life is an ongoing challenge. I don't have children, so that particular non-negotiable priority is not an issue for me. That means that pretty much everything else in my life is up for grabs as to order, and weight, of priorities.

The major priorities in my life these days are work, family, my personal life,** my friends, my home life (e.g. cooking, cleaning, gardening, bills, etc.), and of course, running, exercise, and diet. I try to balance my priorities so that I give sufficient time and energy to each area, without devoting so much of my attention to any one particular area that I neglect the others.

I think that for many people—me included at many times in my life—the diet and exercise piece often falls victim to the others, which can seem more demanding, more crucial, and have live people attached to them drawing on your attention and time. Of course, neglecting a healthy diet and exercise doesn't make your life better; in fact it can make your life worse on many levels.

The first few years when I was losing weight and really starting to exercise and run, I probably put the diet and exercise priority at the top of my list, because in many ways it was the most important part of my life at that time. I was still able to devote sufficient attention to work, family and friends so as not to damage those relationships, but they definitely came second to my healthy lifestyle agenda.***

This was actually a good thing to do for a while, because it helped me to develop the discipline (and habit) not to let family and work demands detract from working out and eating well. Skip the Y to go out for drinks with friends? No thanks. A birthday party on a Saturday afternoon? After working out, and choose the grilled chicken over hot dogs, and accept only a small piece of cake. Ballet tickets on a Sunday? Get up extra early to run first. Hanging out at work late into the evening? No, just get my work done quickly and head to the Y.

As time has passed, I have let myself become more flexible, and hopefully have allowed the diet and exercise to form a more balanced relationship with my other priorities. I still decline to skip a workout for a casual meet-up with friends, but I will if a friend needs to meet for dinner to work through a difficult issue. Sometimes I do have to skip the Y and stay late at work, to do taxes and reports, or prepare for a big trial, but I do this as needed, not routinely. And I admit, while 90% of the time I adhere to the eating plan which has worked well over the last four years, I am a little (lot) more likely to succumb to a cookie or treat on occasion.**** But while I know I'll eat pie on Thanksgiving, I also know that the rest of my dinner will be turkey, salad, and roasted sweet potatoes (and maybe just a bite of dressing).

As far as the personal life part of it all, I admit it's really tempting to skip going to the Y or running in order to spend more time with the object of said personal life, but so far I have managed to keep those priorities in balance as well. It helps that he really admires my dedication to running and yoga and so forth, and I know he wouldn't ask me to give them up. In exchange, I might on occasion move a run to another day or make some other kind of accommodation to make the schedule work for both of us. And so far, it does. Work.

The one thing that I am still not good at, but am really working towards these days, is putting the home and garden part of my life back in the full priority department. Between working and the time I spend running or at the Y, and spending time with my friends, family, and object of my personal life, there's not a lot of time left for housekeeping, prompt bill paying (oops), or garden work. I'm afraid I was much better at those things when I was overweight and sedentary!

However, I have made some big strides in this area. My downstairs is picture perfect, and ready for Christmas decoration.***** My upstairs is still a work in progress. (Stacks of books, shoes, and way too many clothes—it's a challenge!) This last summer in the garden I planted a lot of patio containers, and I had some helpers with yard upkeep and maintenance. Next year I plan to work more on landscaping and borders.

So, have my priorities changed over the last few years? The things that are important to me remain the same. The weight of my priorities, however, continues to fluctuate. Some needs are more urgent at times, requiring other interests to take a back seat. Then, I hope, the balance will shift back and I can put more energy into the things I've neglected. My goal, always, is to balance out my priorities so that I never end up abandoning the things that are important to me. That way I can maintain the happy, balanced life that I seem to have been blessed with.

*You should read it, I'm a really good travel writer. And modest too.

**And considering that I now have a personal life for the first time in a while, I'm not about to be neglecting it!

***I admit freely that I seriously neglected the home care aspect of my life.

****And full disclosure, my sister just stopped by with a huckleberry pie—apparently it was the last day of the season that they would be available at Metropolitan Market—and I accepted a big piece, which I will eat a bit later with a big blob of light ice cream. A couple of years ago, the "diet priority" me would have probably sent her away. Now, I said "thank you" and "yum!" It's all about balance. No wait, priorities. Okay, balancing priorities.

*****In fact, thanks to my laxness last year, the Christmas decorating is already halfway done! But not the tree. Thank God. That might have been the final straw.


Nitmos said...

Any post with so many footnotes is thumbs up in my book! Interesting read.

Laura said...

I'm really frustrated lately because I've been gaining weight... and I KNOW it's because I keep allowing friends and family to distract me from a healthy eating/workout routine. I'm trying to get back into it... it's definitely a really tough balance to strike.