How to create your balanced Life
How to Create Your Balanced Life
Copyright © 2017 by Kolleen Meyer-Krikac
Published by Kolleen Meyer-Krikac Publishing
ISBN 13: 978-0-9992849-0-2
ISBN 10: 0-9992849-0-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017912541
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods without prior written permission.
Author’s Note: The names and identifying characteristics of people in this book have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.
This book is dedicated to
Quinn, my best friend, my confidante, my counselor, listener, supporter, husband and life partner,
Thank you for your love, understanding, encouragement and support. Thank you for helping me to find balance. I love you!!
And to my son, Kennedy,
Being your mother has brought a new perspective to my life and to finding balance. Thank you for being my teacher in so many ways. You have shown me how to lose myself in fun, forget time, do a variety of things, not work all the time, and so much more!
You have truly been a blessing!
I love you more than you will ever know!
There are a number of people to whom I owe thanks or this book never would have come to fruition. The first one is Aaron Davis who suggested I write a book to share my knowledge, experience and expertise with the world. Although I had dreamed of being an author as a child, it was my conversation with Aaron that brought me back to the idea. When I told him that others had said it all, he scolded me and reminded me that as a life coach I should know better, that I have a unique message to offer in my own way. Thank you for coaching me to write this book.
Fellow coach Cameron Popp was my accountability partner for this last push to complete this book that I began writing in 2008. We were both writing books and partnered up to see them through to publication. Thank you for the tips and resources you shared with me, and especially for connecting me with Cindy Conger! I can hardly wait to see your book in print!
My friend and former director of the Southeast Community College Entrepreneurship Center, Lincoln, Nebraska, Tim Mittan, told me to put my book writing on hold when I moved into the entrepreneurship program. He was right. I learned things through that experience that helped shape this book. I didn’t think it would take me this long to get back to it, but you were right about the timing, Tim. I was too busy with other things back then and couldn’t give the book the focus that I have been able to lately.
A big thank you to my editors, Cindy Conger and Faith Colburn, whose expertise, help and feedback was invaluable throughout this process. Cindy offered me important and useful information that I was totally unaware of as a first-time author. Thank you for meeting with me at Barnes and Noble to discuss the editing process, the steps involved, and how to prepare for publication with a time line. It was motivating to look at other book covers in the self-help section to start getting ideas for mine. Thank you to Faith for the free copy edit you offered as a prize at the Nebraska Writers’ Guild Spring Conference! It was the prize I wanted to win!
My cover designer is Victorine Lieske. Thank you for your inspiration, encouragement, expertise and amazing design. I appreciate the time you took to respond to my emails and to answer my questions about self-publishing. You have been most generous with your time and knowledge and I appreciate it more than I can express.
Thank you to the Nebraska Writers’ Guild for information, resources, support and encouragement. I only recently heard of the Guild and have found this organization to be one of the greatest resources for writers! I have met so many wonderful and helpful people in this group and I want to thank all of you who took time to visit with me, told me your stories about writing and publishing, and answered my questions.
Thank you to my friends and family who read my rough draft and offered honest feedback. Theresa Koeneke and Deanna Long, thank you so much for taking the time to help me fine-tune this book that had been on my mind for so long. A special thank you to my friend, Jennifer McDaniel, for taking a final look at my galley proof before it went to print. I appreciate your loaning me your fresh eyes to see what I couldn’t and to be open and honest with me in your evaluation. You are truly good friends.
Thank you to my friend, Ali Schwanke for encouraging me to write this book.
Thank you to my mother, JoAnn and my brothers, Joe and Alex for allowing me to share some stories about our childhood and for your support in writing this book. I love you and am glad you are my family.
And finally, thank you to all of my clients for allowing me to be a part of your lives throughout the years. It has been a privilege to work with you. I hope you find this book to be helpful as you continue your life’s journey.
Why did I choose to write a book about finding balance in life? I wanted to help other people who struggle with finding and maintaining balance in a chronically busy world. I am passionate about balanced living and it is something I am always striving for in my own life. I have been pretty successful at achieving a balance that works for me. I acknowledge that there is no magic “one size fits all” formula and that I have tweaked and adapted what works for me at different stages in my life.
Balance has been a constant theme in my life as far back as I can remember. Looking back, I can identify specific times when my life was out of balance and see my desperate desire to tip the scale back toward balance. Throughout the book, you will find examples of my struggles with imbalance and insights I gained as I worked through them. You will also find success stories of my clients as they used the tools I gave them to create balance in their lives.
I am a former teacher and former school counselor so I know how to teach and explain concepts. Beware that I require homework in order to get the most out of this book, so look for the exercises at the end of each chapter. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, Licensed Mental Health Practitioner and Certified Life Coach and have been in private practice for nearly twenty years. I offer public speaking, workshops, and presentations on creating life balance, finding meaning and purpose, and other topics related to personal and professional growth. I have helped numerous clients and I believe I can help you.
I will offer webinars and online courses, based on this book. For more information, go to my Website: http://www.balanced-life.us
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Seeking Balance in My Own Life
“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”
My sister, Kathy, died of leukemia at the age of fourteen. This created an imbalance in our family as well as within me. Her death left a huge void. I desperately tried to restore balance to our family, but as a seven-year-old child, I didn’t know how. I tried anyway. I began sensing what my parents had wanted and expected from my sister, and I tried to provide that. I wanted to heal their pain in any way I could, even if it meant sacrificing parts of me.
Kathy was the oldest child and was outgoing, intelligent and interacted well with adults. She was a leader and was involved in as many activities as her illness allowed. My brother Joe, the second oldest, was an introvert and a follower. I was third and leaned toward introversion, but could switch to extroversion if necessary. Alex was a typical youngest child who used his antics to entertain, amuse, and to lighten the mood. He was bright, outgoing, athletic, and ornery, but he was the youngest, so he couldn’t step up. I realized this and knew that it was up to me to attempt to fill the void, so I became more like Kathy. I became more outgoing and less introverted. I loved to learn and was already at the top of my class, so it wasn’t a stretch to get good grades like she did. I related well to adults and always built relationships with my teachers. Kathy had kept newspaper clippings of the state and national spelling bees, so I followed in her footsteps by winning the local spelling contest and competing and placing in the top three at the county level nearly every year. I don’t remember how many years Kathy had competed or how she finished, but I knew it was important to her, and guessed it was important to my parents as well. I participated in lots of activities, probably to make up for all that my sister wasn’t able to do. I wanted my parents to be so involved with my activities that they wouldn’t feel so much of the void of having only one daughter.
This all caught up to me as I reached the ages of 13 and 14 when my dad kept calling me Kathy. I grew angry and resentful that he didn’t see me for who I was, but as a poor substitute for my sister. I’d worked so hard to be like her, but at that point I wanted to be loved and accepted for who I was. I had to set the record straight, to find a new balance within myself so I could be the person I was meant to be and help my family find its new balance.
My Childhood Health Scare
Two years after my sister’s death, I was having horrible issues with my physical balance. I would be walking along and fall for no apparent reason. My dad attributed it to clumsiness and teased me by calling me “Grace.” I also had chronic stomach aches. Mom said that they thought it was stress over the loss of my sister that progressed into an attempt to get attention. The pain increased and they could no longer write it off, so they took me to the doctor. Much to my parents’ horror, the doctor told them I had a tumor. They had just lost one daughter and were terrified they were going to lose the other one. They felt enormous guilt for having ignored my symptoms for so long. I understand now that they were grieving and were unable to see the seriousness of my condition.
I had a dermoid cyst the size of a large grapefruit in my left ovary. When they removed it, they found it had seven adult teeth, as well as lots of hair inside. They also discovered I had acute appendicitis. I was lucky they discovered the cyst and stumbled upon the problems with my appendix before it burst. I was hospitalized for thirteen days and missed my third grade teacher’s surprise birthday party. I was very disappointed.
After surgery, I had to find a new balance. I had to adjust to how my body felt without a giant tumor throwing me off balance. I had to adjust to the constant burning in my abdomen. My parents had to adjust to the shift in balance from having one child who had died and three healthy ones remaining, to having a child who had experienced a significant health scare that could have led to another tragedy. This fear of something bad happening to me affected my parents’ ability to let go as I got older. It was especially difficult for my dad to let me go as I moved away for college and then to my first teaching job across the country in California. That is a story for later.
The Tipping Point
My self-care really began from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I knew that I had to take care of myself in order to take care of my growing baby. Luckily I craved fruit, vegetables, and milk. I could no longer drink pop as I found the taste disgusting. Even the thought of fast food such as French fries made me feel sick. I began to carry a lunch bag with fruits and veggies in it when we traveled and at work. I ate when I was hungry and I used the restroom when nature called. I no longer ignored my body and its needs as I had grown accustomed to doing as a school counselor. Before pregnancy, I would sometimes go all day without eating or using the restroom as I was too busy taking care of everybody else’s needs and didn’t have time to take care of my own. This little person growing inside me reminded me of the importance of taking good care of myself because he would suffer if I didn’t.
Unfortunately, my self-care led to problems at work. I arrived in the mornings with a small box of cereal, went to the cafeteria and bought a small carton of milk, and went back to my desk to read my mail and eat a healthy breakfast during my planning period. The principal found the empty milk carton in my trash can and called me into her office to tell me that I couldn’t eat breakfast at my desk. She didn’t care that I was pregnant and needed to feed myself in order to feed my baby throughout the day. She didn’t care that it was my planning period and that I wasn’t eating in front of the students or my colleagues. She didn’t care that the majority of teachers had open pop cans and candy bars on their desks that they ate throughout the day. How was this logical? My principal wrote me up and I realized that my job of taking care of myself and feeding my baby was much more important than any other job I would ever have.
In October of that school year, I had my first experience with hospitalization and bed rest and had to stay home from work for a few days. The principal didn’t like it, but I decided that my job was to take care of myself and my unborn child. Shortly after this, I was hospitalized again and had to go on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. The principal was upset and insisted I prepare materials for a substitute. I did what I could within the limits of doctor’s orders then let it go so I could focus on taking care of my health and bringing my baby safely into this world. Once again, I learned that others can’t dictate what is important to me and that I was not placed here to please others.
We were relieved when our son arrived just two days before his due date. The fear of losing him before his birth was gone. Our lives had shifted and there was no going back. When you bring a child into this world, it is a scary and wonderful thing! I know many parents feel strange about going into the hospital to give birth and then leaving the hospital with a newborn human being—and nobody questions if you’re qualified to take this little person home with you. As everybody says, “They don’t come with an instruction manual!” It is a HUGE responsibility. New parents are filled with love, excitement, apprehension and fear as well as so many other emotions! I remember feeling so much relief that he was born alive and healthy after going through bed rest, hospital visits, home health care nurses and much stress and anxiety for the last trimester of pregnancy. I was also filled with more love than I can begin to describe! Every time I held my newborn baby, my heart swelled to the point I thought it would explode!
I was also exhausted like I have never been at any other time in my life. Newborns rely on parents for absolutely everything so there is no time to focus on yourself in those first few weeks. It is a feat to get hit and miss sleep, especially when you are nursing! This is the downside to being the mom– nobody can breast feed for you, so you must wake up every couple of hours to feed the baby. This taught me a valuable lesson; it isn’t all about you, anymore. When an infant needs you, it is difficult to find balance. I had to find a new balance. My new balance was focused on my baby as the center of my world and all my decision-making. I actually felt great joy in this and was glad to focus on this new person in my life.
Then I had to face the issue of going back to work. Although I had told my principal from the day she hired me that I wanted to work part time, she insisted I take the full-time position and that we would work out the details for part-time after the baby arrived. I continued to ask her for a statement in writing which she continued to postpone, telling me, “Oh, it won’t be a problem. You can work part-time after the birth.” After all I’d gone through and after missing half of the school year, she insisted that I return to work full time. I had no choice as I had a contract to fulfill. This caused me extreme stress as I didn’t want to leave this precious baby that I had devoted my life to bringing safely into this world. Thankfully, my mother and mother-in-law were willing to take turns coming to stay with us and care for him these last weeks of school. I was grateful to them as I didn’t have to worry about putting him in the care of a stranger. I was continuing to learn my lessons, especially that others won’t put my needs first and it is up to me to do it!
With this in mind, I told the school system that I wanted to work half-time the following year so I could spend time with my new baby. The administration sent me to another school with a different principal who gave me half-time in the middle of the day, with lunch duty as the focus of my job! Good luck finding a substitute if the baby gets sick. No substitute wants those hours when they could either take a full-time sub job or two half-day sub jobs. This also meant that my schedule was a nightmare! I had to get my baby to the sitter who lived several miles west of my home, then eat my packed lunch in the van while I drove to the school that was south and east of my home. My work hours were supposed to end thirty to forty minutes before the school day ended, but I rarely got to leave on time as there were teachers’ meetings that I was expected to attend after school. Translation? I was working full-time for part-time pay and missing out on the time I so desperately wanted with my baby!
I finally got so fed up with all of the nonsense. I actually quit my job one month before my contract ended at the end of the school year. I had planned to work in the school system until my son was ten, but decided that nobody was going to take away any more of my time with my son! I was tired of others dictating what they thought should be important to me. I was taking back control of my life and getting it back in balance – a balance that felt right to me! There was no going back. I left the school system and began working as a clinical counselor.
Parenting has taught me lessons that I never would have learned otherwise. My son gave me a reason to take better care of myself and to spend less time focusing on my work and career life.
Taking (Back) Control
After leaving the security of a steady paycheck in the school system, I worked for two employers to get my feet wet, but after I had to sue the first employer just to get paid, I learned that I wanted to have more control over my career and my income. I went into private practice and have no regrets!
Private practice has brought me a level of freedom and flexibility that I would never have had working for somebody else. It has allowed me to change my schedule around my son’s school schedule and activities. I was able to volunteer at his schools, attend all of his cross country and track meets, field trips, concerts, plays, speech meets, piano lessons, violin lessons, band contests, etc. It gave me the freedom to be the mom, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I will treasure! It gave me a new balance, but I learned that when you work for yourself, part-time is only on paper. It requires fitting in the work around the other priorities in your life. I found myself working at night and on weekends to keep up with the bookkeeping, phone calls, scheduling, report-writing, etc. so I could have the benefit of flexibility. In my life, it has all been worth it as I feel like I have been able to have the best of both worlds—career and parenthood.
As my son got older and busier with activities, my life balance shifted and I didn’t have much time for myself. I was running back and forth between my two full-time jobs—working and parenting—and had no time left for me. His high school years left me exhausted, especially his senior year. My husband and I are still recovering! I gained weight, was hit and miss at the gym, didn’t do any scrapbooking in my scrapbooking room for three years, and allowed the clutter to creep into our home. I didn’t read books that I bought, I neglected friendships, I postponed work projects (including finishing this book), and I neglected fun activities that I used to enjoy. So I went on a mission to take back my life and to find my new balance!
Since my son graduated, my husband, Quinn, and I have enjoyed not living at the school and not having to constantly rearrange our work schedules around his ever-changing activity schedule. I have made it to the gym more often instead of just donating our monthly membership fee. I have scheduled time with friends and have called them occasionally. I have cleaned out the clutter in the office, storage room and scrapbooking room so I can start working on my projects again. I have focused on getting more sleep, eating healthier and losing weight so I can feel more like myself again. I started a book club/coaching group at my office and bought audio books as well as other books at the local library book sale. I cook using home-grown veggies from our garden and we eat apples from our trees instead of eating out frequently as we did before—because we were constantly on the run. I bought a few scrapbooking supplies in preparation for actually using them! My husband and I began dating again. We occasionally eat at a restaurant, go to concerts, walk in the evenings, play pool downstairs, and we have even gone to a few movies in theatres! It had been so long since we had gone to a movie in a theatre that we had to figure out the whole new system—ordering tickets online, using a Kiosk at the theatre, and sitting in their new comfy reclining chairs. Wow! Who knew? I am excited to find this new balance!!
Finding balance at each new stage of life is an ongoing journey. When my son began college, I felt like I was taking back control of my schedule, my eating habits, my bedtime, my exercise, my work and my fun. Raising a child has been a wonderful and challenging experience, one that I am grateful to have had and that I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world. Our son is an amazing human being and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be his mom. That being said, I am excited about the prospect of getting back to doing the things I put on hold over the past twenty years and to focus on my life in a different way. Parenting is a full-time job with no vacation days!
I can see how the balance in my life has shifted repeatedly with job changes and my son’s fluctuating schedule. Balance is not stagnant and is not set in stone. It is flowing like a river. You must learn to navigate the sandbars, the trees, the twists and turns, the islands, the currents, the rapids and the rocks. You must work to stay balanced and not tip the canoe as you meet these obstacles. If you don’t look ahead, you may not see the obstacles coming your way and overcorrect. If you shift the balance too far, you’ll spill into the depths then have to work hard just to keep your head above water so you don’t drown. Or you’ll get so battered that you can’t upright your canoe and climb back in, regain your balance and get it back on course. You must learn how to use your paddles to steer, how to adjust for the obstacles, and how to regulate your speed as you navigate and find your balance.
There will be times in your life when you’ll run up against different obstacles, so be prepared to learn a new way to get back in balance. When you successfully navigate around an island, you learn some skills, but they aren’t necessarily the same skills you’ll need to navigate the rapids. Adjusting, keeping your eyes on the goal, recognizing obstacles and having a partner or two to help navigate will help you to maintain balance, even in difficult circumstances.
I hope you will climb aboard with confidence as I help you to navigate the journey of finding and maintaining your life balance. To get the most out of this book, get a pen or pencil, find a comfortable place to read and write, grab a notebook or a journal and let’s get started!
The book is laid out to cover ten areas of life with ideas for creating balance in each area. We will begin with a self-evaluation of values and prioritizing time to determine which areas need the most attention. I will ask you to make a commitment to yourself. Then we will begin covering Self-Care, Relationships, Your Environment, Work/Career, Finances, Education, Spiritual Well-Being, Community, Fun/Creativity, and Finding Meaning and Purpose. There are exercises in each chapter to help you focus on your life, the obstacles you may be experiencing, and the steps you may take to overcome those obstacles and create more balance. I am confident that if you read and do the exercises, you will find some strategies and tools that will help you to feel more balanced. It is time to stop spinning and begin living a more balanced life!