Balancing Act

comments: 47

Bobbie12All last week I'd been having conversations with my girlfriends, most of whom have regular jobs, about how stressed out everyone has been lately. Too much to do, too little time. I've been feeling it again, too. It reminded me of how I felt at the end of last summer, when I was having a really hard time balancing everything. I know I've talked about it before, but I wanted to remind myself of how I felt and what I did so that maybe it would help me not let it happen again.

Last summer, I felt like every aspect of my life was taking every ounce of energy I had. An article about my sister and me had come out in a magazine a couple of weeks earlier than we'd thought, and I was in the middle of redesigning the Posie web site -- and I do mean middle. It wasn't done. It wasn't even on-line at all, and it was all I had. When publicity like that happens, there is a small window of opportunity to take advantage of it (before the next issue comes out) and you really need to be ready. I knew this, because I'd been in the magazine before; the volume of orders/phone calls/emails/letters and other stuff that comes with it can be overwhelming even if you are ready. If you aren't ready, it can be a nightmare, not in the least because it should be such a good thing -- and when it turns into kind of a stressful, extremely challenging thing that you are just trying to get through, not enjoying at all, psychologically that's kind of a bummer. You feel like you've let yourself down, if not other people. I was sure, every day, that I would crash and burn. I felt, as well, that no one could really help me; what could they have done? Only I knew anything about everything that I was doing. The best that anyone else could offer was maybe a P.O. run, returning with a Big Gulp. I'd heard horror stories of this happening to other designers, and I remembered listening to their stories with a kind of  skeptical naivete -- how hard could it be?

Bobbie4And it wasn't that I'd slacked. I'd been working every day for months. But it wasn't enough, and when the schedule got moved up, my carefully budgeted timeline hit me with full force at warp speed. I buzzed everywhere I went, and my voice took on this panicked, wavery, high-pitched quality that made even the dog whimper with pain. Eventually, after a week at the beach in September, and as the phone stopped ringing so much, I collected myself with an earthquake-force shudder, chagrined by the blatant and rather embarrassing evidence that I truly hadn't been balancing my life with my work very well .

Bobbie1As the weather cooled down and the rain started, I felt relief. I began taking Sundays off, completely -- and I mean, in every way. I wouldn't do anything related to Posie unless I felt like it. I wouldn't work on the computer or do anthing that had to do with white paper. Even if someone called me and wanted me to do something, I would say no unless I really, really felt like I wanted to do that. Somehow work, social obligations, family stuff, errands, chores, and sleep had filled up every single minute, as they do so often and for so many people, until the days were bursting -- it was like there wasn't a single empty drawer in my life.

So I started with Sundays. And I decided that no matter what, I would do exactly what I wanted, even if it meant doing absolutely nothing. Andy usually works on Sundays, and I actually came to cherish those long, quiet empty days. If I wanted to hand-sew an entire sock dog -- this literally takes about six hours (at least, it takes me that long) -- I would. The therapeutic benefits of handwork had gotten superceded by the "work" aspect of the handwork, and I didn't know what else would bring back that sense of peace and calm that I'd had when I first started doing it years ago.

Bobbie3 I think I was truly regretful that I'd turned my "love" into my "work," and I couldn't admit that. I mean, I didn't really understand that that's what had happened. I started looking for something else to do, something that definitely couldn't be confused as "work" -- but it turns out that doing handwork is, at the end of the day, still my love. So I tried to separate Sunday, and things that got done on Sunday, from everything else. Doing handwork that was just for myself gave me my love back, somehow, and it didn't take all that many Sundays for me to start feeling better. Just knowing that I had given myself a pocket of space to play in again was a huge relief.

Bobbie5These are bobby pins. They happen on the sofa, on Sunday. They take a long time. I make them take a long time, rather. I'm choosy about which colors to pick. I put my feet up and stitch slowly. It makes me happy to look at them when they're done. Yesterday I made these and apple muffins (Ina's Cranberry Harvest, except with apples), remembering with cinnamon how it felt last fall to breathe deeply, and rediscover that feeling of getting things right, at least for a day. It was really nice. I want to start this summer with balance, instead of ending it, sobbing, with a renewed and adamant vow to install it (with a shoehorn if I have to dammit!), again. Is it possible for Balance to be a constant, low-simmering ever-present member of the family instead of something that needs its own melodramatic, chest-thumping commitment ceremony every six months, and only after the Nervous Breakdown whacks you in the shins, and you're begging for mercy, and a solution?


They are very cute!
I don't work Sundays either.

I'm not very good at taking it easy, but I've realised that I have to start. Yesterday I did nothing, I'm visiting my Mum, so we talked, went for a long walks with the dog. It was lovely weather so we sat in the swing seat & did nothing, it was a good day.

Other Alicia,

You really have the gift of words. You can express what so many of us feel in a fluid, unexpected and beautiful way. Thank you.

Here's to Balance in all our lives...

Your bobby pins are wonderful.

I can relate, even though my work is not my love... between work, my 4 (almost 5...whew) year old who will start soccer in the fall, the house,the chores and school... I usually feel completely overwhelmed at times. This is why when my mom wonders why I am just sitting on my tush crocheting/knitting/sewing/scrapbooking.. I have to remind her this is my unwind time. These things actually decrease my stress level and balance me out. Yesterday, Emma and I did absolutely nothing.. oh what bliss, other than hang out around the house, me **try** to show her how to crochet (BTW I am modifying your Cecily Sweater for my amazon tall child and trying to write it down for the changes). We did make it to the grocery store and I fixed Thai chicken skewers and made cauliflower.. okay not my fav veggie in the world... but mix it with olive oil, salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper.. put in the oven for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.. it is yummy.
Glad you are making every effort to not have your shins whacked this summer : )

Chris Howard says: June 05, 2006 at 10:23 AM

I know exactly what you are talking about. It is just so easy to get overwhelmed by all the little things. It's not even the big things, it's the little things that get you. I hope you have a summer full of curling up on the couch, crafting what you want to craft, lazing in the hammock reading a good book, and most of all, balance.

That pink one has me drooling!!! YUM!

I'm experiencing the same great problem (?). A recent feature of my tags in Child magazine this month has me swamped beyond imagination. It's a good thing Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck wear my tags and everyone wants them, but explaining the fact that they are all handcrafted and not casted in China is getting old. Everyone wants them NOW! I understand their excitement, but Americans are so used to getting what they want yesterday that the stress of trying to make that happen is overwhelming.

I just look at the stack of orders and laugh! I'm hoping one day to run into a stranger and see them wearing my creation. That alone would make it all worth it!

I force myself to take some time to read other's blogs and do what I want so I won't go crazy!

i for one think you should take as much time as you need if this is what YOU END UP WITH. so sweet. when i take the time it comes in the form of a nap. or the basic cable. the latter of which i should give up all together.

Balance is such a fine line to tread isn't it?I hate the days when I feel torn in several directions, when you feel that what ever you do won't be enough.Thankfully I always have a little one to put things in perspective to make me stop and 'smell the roses'.I love these bobbies pins even more now I know what they mean:)

The bobby pins are so simple and pretty! Enjoyed reading the post today.

Bless you, once again A, for making me stop and take a look around and remember the things that are important.

Happy Sunday and every day to you, my friend.

I am lovin' the bobbies...
Good post..we can all relate to needing to reach that balance. Here's to you...doing what you must to maintain the big B!

Here it isn't i'm afraid.. !Or maybe I can this roommate moving it this year..

I think spring/early-summer is like that for a lot of people. The world picks up pace, and our bodies just aren't built to keep up (esp. since we don't get a seasonal hibernation/down-time like animals & plants do), so we feel left behind and stressed, and overly busy. At least, that's my take on it.

Congrats on forcing yourself (and everybody in your life) to respect your need for 1 day a week to just be. I blogged on similar, yesterday. DH has been pushing me to be busier, the past couple of weekends, than I feel I can be. And it's not good. It makes me stressed and resentful. We all need a down-time. It's important to our health & wellbeing.

There's even a book on making a "sabbath" for oneself, to give oneself (or one's family) that periodic downtime. It's called "Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest" by Wayne Muller. I've only gotten about half-way through it, and while it does tout the good things about a religious sabbath, it certainly makes clear that a "sabbath" isn't ONLY for religious folks. That everybody needs the downtime that a "sabbath" allows.

Oh, and those bobbie pins are adorable!!!!


I'm not running a business on the side in the same way that you are, but I am in the business of running a family--I find that similar issues occur for me--trying desperately to maintain some balance, always finding myself at the breaking point--whether after a day, a week, a month...I don't have answers, I know what some of my trigger points are--like messy house, dirty dishes in the sink, getting my kids down for late naps (today), and I try my best to deal with the things that make me feel out of balance...and find ways to make everything feel 'right' again--time for me, getting down on the (dirty) floor and playing with my children, getting up before them, going outside in those early morning hours, even if it's just for a big inhale on the front porch....
so, all that to say--I'm all for it--let's work to find that ever present balance, the things that keep us there and help us maintain it, and the ability to step away from it all and rest.

you have no idea how much this resonates with me at this very moment. You have beautifully crystallized everything that is going on in my head tht i'm too swamped to sort out for myself, except I'm a feelance illustrator and can't sew a stitch. But I think of the hand crafted loveliness you and others do as art in every way that counts, and I operate from my home studio too, so it is much the same. So thank you for this, for framing it and also for reminding me that I will get through this frantic period and make it out the other side, wiser and smarter, for being a srong, reasoned voice in the chaos that is my brain (at least until the next time everything in my world collides and I find mysef teetering wildly again.) I'm so thankful I made time today to read this!

I so feel you sister. In my former professional life, I did what I loved, but all at this fast, frenetic, crazy pace that I wouldn't wish on anyone. I don't like that sick-weight-filling-my- belly kind of pressure, it sucks any fun I have in my right out. So, strive for balance, doing what you love. The love you feel for the things you create is so apparent. That's what makes it special. That and the idea that you're not frantically spending all day Sunday finishing it up. xo

Love the bobby pins! They are so cute!

I am reading and nodding my head. After I finished designing my MIL's business cards and tags this weekend I felt that I didn't really have time for me this week. I feel it today at work. Completely unsatisfied of "free time". Kind of jittery and restless is the best way to explain it. My motto this Summer is to 'have more fun'. Whatever defines 'fun' for me at the moment. I find that my body (as well as my mind) require a bit more relaxation from my work (full-time and freelance) as well as all of the other stuff.

I am glad I am not the only one thinking about it because I truly thought when I was just sitting (crocheting, watching a movie, reading blogs, etc. etc.) I was being "lazy" and nonproductive. So not true as I find myself more productive when I am not so stressed and things are more organized.

I'm happy for you.

Oh, this post could not have come at a better time. We closed on the house today, and as we walked out the door at the title agency, my mind started to run down the list of the jillion things that I have to do in the next months, and the panic rose until I felt like I was gasping for breath.

I think instead of freaking out, I'm just going to sit down with my list and cross a few things off ahead of time. The list is too long anyway.


Thank you for this wonderful post. How did you get inside my head and all that is going on in there? Your post is a blessing and reminder forme to find the fun again in what I love.

Well, after going through a year of law school, and subsequently breaking out in hives and all other manner of scary things, I realized I had to force myself to find that balance. It was very similar to what you went through last fall. I ultimately decided that with my perfectionist personality, there was no way I could be an attorney and maintain any sort of balance in my life, so I walked away. What I have learned about myself from that experience is that #1 I don't have to be the very best at everything, and it's okay if I don't want to be an attorney. Just because I CAN be an attorney doesn't mean I WANT to be an attorney. #2 - Balance takes a little bit of effort everyday. I actually have to work at it. I never want to be one dimensional and put all my effort in one place, no matter what it is. For me, only by making that effort everyday, can I keep from having a friggin nervous breakdown. I would say that having a blog has been the best thing I could have done for myself to force myself to maintain that balance.

geesh - sorry I wrote so much. I guess I should have just written on my blog, huh?

a sunday well spent for sure. those pins are wonderful. im glad you have found balance and time for yourself.

Thankyou for sharing this, i soo understand how you feel. Monday's are my only day off and i've started to make them my day to relax.

thanks for the reminder...getting crazy...even after just coming back from vacation!

Lesley S says: June 05, 2006 at 03:47 PM

I think it is possible for balance to be present in your life on an ongoing just have be cognizant of it as well as being the gate-keeper/guardian. It is also training yourself to say no (which you are doing so beautifully already) and drawing those boundary lines around your sense of sanity. It becomes much more natural and intuitive after a while. I am sure you have experienced that already.

ps..Pamela Anderson is cute...I am so glad I am not the only female out there that likes her. I think she is a terribly savvy business woman!

this is definitely the prettiest of the Balance posts around! I love reading these kinds of posts because it's an issue I struggle with every single day, & it's both reassuring to know others are too & inspiring to hear ideas for coping (ah, for a lazy Sunday! I fall into the frantic scrambling trap way too often!).

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.