I started The Balance Point(e) to talk about the little things and the bigger things that helped me balance out my days and share my passion for nutrition and holistic health. I wanted to write about riding the wave of this often tempestuous career as well as living with the literal ups and downs, flares and crashes of an autoimmune disease. I wanted to create a space to answer the questions that so many people ask of ballet dancers but also to give a very real account of what it takes to stay in some kind of balance in this career and life.
The past 19 months has been coloured with stories of a different kind, life caring for a little baby and now busy toddler. But this just isn’t the space to write solely about the joys and challenges of motherhood, even though I truly appreciate a great honest Mummy blog. Here though, I feel like it would be only telling half the story or showing just one side of the coin even though my son doesn’t inspire almost everything in my life these days.
Back to balance basics
“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create. As a professional ballerina, I aim to balance my life both on and off the stage, in performance and everyday life, between the highs and lows, between looking outwards and turning inwards. It’s a balance between strength and subtlety, excitement and calm, the exquisite and the ugly, the effort and surrender, true grit and true grace, the movement and the rest. My own journey has led me to embrace a holistic approach to life. For me, balance is alive, fluid and flexible and it’s deeply personal. Here you will find my very own balance points, the daily adjustments I make to move with sincerity and acceptance towards some kind of hazy balance.“
The reality is, combining motherhood with a ballerina’s life truly is quite a dance and I’ve never been quite able to put it down in so few words. I do feel like I have two distinct parts of my life that are both independent from each other and co-dependent to each other depending on the moment. One part of me is nappy changes, food all over the floor, packing daycare bags and negotiating toddler emotions and the other part of me is becoming another person, another character, sometimes wafting through the air as another worldly spirit or screaming at the top of my lungs in Nijinsky. It’s a strange existence some days, surreal but also crazy wonderful.
Other than the very real factor of lack of time, my main hesitancy coming back to writing for The Balance Point(e) was that I had changed and I didn’t know where that fit in here. I actually felt like too much of a phoney to write honestly here, because I really didn’t have anything ‘together’ for a long stretch of time. I couldn’t honestly write about he importance of Omega 3’s and quality sleep when really the bar was sitting way below that. It felt genuinely pretentious to talk about such thing.
I found it really difficult to reconcile the fact that all those little balancing points I had garnered over the best part of a decade (e.g my prized little stash of helpful tips to settle moments, calm me down, the foods that worked for me) were so blown out the window in my new life as a mum and even more so when I returned to the stage on top of that. I’m an open book and the book was not reading anything about balance.
I don’t meditate consistently anymore even though I know it’s the one of the best and most simple of things I can do for myself and everyone around me. I could go so far as saying not much happens consistently anymore except waking up each morning but to be fair, that right there is a privilege in itself.
I’m always eating on the go, three coffees is standard practice and I’m often considering a fourth at the half hour call at 6.55pm, I don’t get enough sleep and me time exists on the train to and from work most of the time.
I barely eat enough vegetable each day, I eat too many convenience foods from a packet, far too much sugar and I rush around for the most part of my day. In a flap. I osscilate daily between high functioning mania and crash and burn landing. I get things done, that I can be sure. I mostly maintain a good sense of humour but it the rushing truly wears me down like nothing else.
Dawdling is a luxury these days, sitting down to eat is a luxury, having a coffee in a real cup is a luxury, sleeping past 6.30am is a luxury, even breathing fully and deeply some days seems like a luxury.
So you can see why it felt entirely hypocritical to even begin to pretend that my life had any sort of balance.
The reality is the balance shifts a whole lot once you have another little person in the mix and it’s true, it will never be the same again. We have such a perceived sense of control and order as we create our own adult lives that kind of explodes when you humbly realise through your child that having any kind of control is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s actually not all about you anymore which is kind of a relief in the end.
I wouldn’t change anything in a heartbeat, I hold my family life at the pinnacle of my world’s greatest wonders and treasures. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to keep dancing professionally. But I certainly don’t feel in a position to preach meditation, mindfulness and eating your greens at every meal when I’m inhaling another muesli bar for lunch with a side of indigestion, washed down with a healthy dose of anxiety.
Life has never been more full, wholesome, more wonderful, more frightening, more challenging, more awesome. Life has never been more real with that little face looking up at me, but it has certainly never felt more real. I love that every day truly feels new and full of opportunity and that now is the only moment that really counts. Kids are the real teachers and through Jasper, he has taught me some of the greatest lessons.
But what about the balance now though? Are any of those balance points still worthwhile or useful or even feasible in the semi-organised chaos? Yes, yes and yes.
I’m much more modest in my approach to balance now – much less infra red sauna and much more 10 deep breaths whenever you think of it. As fabulous as saunas are, it requires going somewhere for a length of time and paying money for the experience on top of a babysitter whereas breathing properly is both timeless and priceless and not bound by space. If I happen to have some baby free time, I catapult myself into Dana Health and Wellness time and I really enjoy special occasion.
Underpinning my day and my choices is the concept that doing your best in that moment is precisely enough. Trying to make good choices in the present moment is often a key little balance trick for me, not getting too far ahead of myself. I rarely know the schedule for the week beyond my general hours as it serves me no purpose for this particular moment in time. I can’t do much about later in the week while I’m sitting here right now. But right now, well I can definitely make some choices about that.
Beyond this basic but effective concept, I’m really just winging it.
For my own health’s sake and onwards for my family’s sake, I must take as best care of myself that I possibly can. General things like good nutrition, enough water, exercise, some recovery time, the supplements that help, these are all still really important. I try my best to not slip up in all the areas all of the time.
More specifically though, it looks different each day and each week. I respond in real time to what I need especially if it’s just me to worry about. It balances out all the time that I’m the last one in the picture to be thinking of. I also often get it quite wrong and continue to buzz in anxiety/excitement and secretly enjoy the ride. I will try again tomorrow.
So below, a listicle of some of the very basic balance points I’m trying to implement at the moment. I’ve been feeling especially tired and wired at the moment, waking up with a ball of anxiety in my stomach and too many thoughts rattling through my head. Busy Sydney seasons tend to get me into this place and I come back to Melbourne and slowly unravel these feelings over a couple of months as we settle in to winter. Autumn is often a struggle for me, the change in mood and temperature unsettled me
I suggest starting out with small points, lowering your expectations but upping your discipline and commitment to a certain few measures. The simpler the better. The simpler things are, the more consistent you will be with them and I know implicitly that it’s the consistency that counts, the every day part, not the grand gesture once in a while.
A list of starting small to balance it all out
- Take 5 deep slow belly breaths when you first wake up. Before anything else. Even if you’re late, slept through your alarm (especially then!) or you wake to a crying baby. Feel your belly rise and fall without force, just breath.
- Lie down for 5 minutes before a show even when you think you don’t have time – it’s ALWAYS worth it, even and especially at the 15 minute call.
- A 5 min session with a meditation app like Calm is a bonus. Or just play with some colours and how they can promote a certain energy that you’re looking for. I find purple or silver really calming and red fires me up.
- Try (the operative word is try!) not to drink too much coffee and if I do always after a meal. Coffee on an empty stomach is a pain, literally.
- Sit down to eat even for 5 minutes. Jasper most often can wait, and will help you out with your meal. The train also counts if you have taken time to stop for a second and check in before you inhale that muesli bar.
- Drink more water preferably room temperature or warm, it’s less of a strain and kinder to your insides especially in the cooler months.
- Morning times, try to down a few big glasses of warm water in the morning before you have your double shot latte. Even if you feel bleary eyed, your digestion, muscles and skin will thank you. Have some lemon, throw it in as a bonus but don’t worry otherwise. Low expectations.
- Reminding myself that no matter how rushed I am, that chewing your food properly really does make your digestion so much happier. Even if (and especially if) it’s a rushed muesli bar on the train. See, too many muesli bars on the train!
- Read great books – it’s excellent escapism and you usually can’t help but relax when you do.
- Put your phone down and just be. Put it on a high shelf where little hands and consequently big hands can’t reach it and forget about it. Nothing is happening on Instagram that needs 24/7 surveillance. It’s a relief honestly to switch off.
Coming soon to The Balance Point(e)
I’ve been busy writing lots of new posts with the small amounts of time I have had recently and it’s been really wonderful to be writing again. I have been taking quite a lot of time recently to write down my story of returning to the stage after Jasper and just some of what it has meant for me and to me, what I think I have learned from the experience, the highlights and the challenges, how I am different and how I think I dance differently now.
It’s fair to say though, it’s a pretty BIG story and I’m still in the midst of curating it in to some kind of legible and hopefully interesting fashion. It has taken me this long in time to be able to sit back and articulate just some of the story. But, for certain I am really looking forward to sharing it soon and hoping that it might show a little insight into the last 19 months but also going beyond. I have a few other ideas to add to the site too so let’s see if I can make it happen consistently!