Rocks, Pebbles and Sand

How ironic that I wrote a post in January stating my intention for the year was to find better balance for myself, and then for the first 120 days of the year this blog has sat dormant and untouched, like a half-typed, discarded novel. Meant to tell the story of my life but incomplete. I never intended to stop blogging following my climactic declutter triumph last year. More that my job has escalated in terms of time demands, combining with the usual daily grind to command every last spot of free time I have in a week. The only additional thing I could possibly do to gain back time is to stay up in the wee hours after midnight and write, like I am doing right now.

I miss writing, I really do. There is this narrator inside me that collects stories every day, that tries hard in the fast pace of each day to clutch onto every interesting moment or thought in a bid to remember and recall them that minute I allow myself the time to open my laptop or phone for personal time.

The truth is, balance is hard. I think it’s difficult for everyone, that I’m not in anyway more special than the next person. Every day people face decisions about how to spend the given moments in their week. Family. Work. Friends. Exercise. Eating. Religion. Leisure. Bills. Shopping. Driving or commuting. Social media, news reading, tv… all those mindless, extra activities that fill our week.

It makes me think of the classic life lesson about the pebbles and the sand.

“There was a philosophy professor who was giving a lecture. In front of him he had a big glass jar. He started off by filling up the jar with the big rocks and when they reached the rim of the jar he held it up to the students and asked them if the jar was full. They all agreed, there was no more room to put the rocks in, it was full.

He then picked up a tub of small pebbles and poured these in jar so that they filled the space around the big rocks. “Is the jar full now?” he asked. The group of students all looked at each other and agreed that the jar was now completely full.

The professor then picked up another container, this time it had sand in it. He poured the sand in between the pebbles and the rocks and once again he held up the jar to his class and asked if it was full. Once again the students agreed that the jar was full.

“Are you sure it’s full?” he asked. He finally picked up a bottle of water and tipped the water into the jar.

The jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things that have real value – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. jar-of-rocks

The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, house, car, clothes and so forth.

The sand is everything else – the small stuff.

If you fill the jar up first with the sand, you won’t have space for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Spend time with your family. Take your partner out dancing. Go for a good meal. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

It is such a great analogy, and so relevant to me this year.

Every day I strive to remember balance, to give myself my own time, a few minutes for me and my own needs. My health. My contact with family, with close friends. Even just a quiet moment for myself.  Every day I struggle. Sometimes I choose a tv episode on my phone over sleep. Sometimes I choose sleep. Sometimes, often, I question my choices. Or I ask myself how I can make things better, more efficient.

Given I average 15+hour working days, free time and how I spend it becomes critical. On my one day off per week, I ponder over choices including catching up on sleep, cleaning my flat, washing my clothes, writing, visiting friends or seeing something new, going to the gym, wandering to the mall to pick up something I need, calling home, calling friends abroad, organising my upcoming vacation time, the list goes on. When I don’t have the traditional 6-10pm evening leisure each day, choices must be made for those precious free hours that are mine.

I don’t mind admitting that I’m failing. There are reasons why, a journey to learn from, self-reflection and improvement necessary. A personal story to be told, even. I think it all sums up why minimalism is so important to me. It’s a much needed value, a foundation on which I can shape my daily life, a goal to strive for once my financial goals are met and I’ve moved on from here, which is why I think it’s helpful to share. An audience keeps me accountable. Other people share the struggle. In telling my story, I become relatable. I need that as much as you do.

So please, watch this space.

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