FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: Balancing Act

Hey there bumblebees and welcome to this week’s Friday Open Thread! Pull up a chair, put away your phones, except don’t actually put away your phones if that’s how you’re reading this because that defeats the purpose utterly and will make it very hard to participate, have your favorite hot or cold or room temperature drink on me.

This week I’m thinking a lot about balance. Personally I’m really good at totally immersing myself in exactly one area of life — one job or a different job or friendships or relationships or working out or eating well or heading toward sustainable mental health or sleeping the exact right amount or building a rich inner life or being very, very tidy — and really bad at doing a sustainable amount of those things all at the same time. Work AND leave my house? Eat well AND go to bed on time? Hang out with other people AND also myself? How do you even do that?

No really, I’m actually asking you. I lit a rainbow candle that has the word “balance” printed on the side (I know, I’m rolling my eyes at me, too) but so far it has not been forthcoming. How do you prioritize yourself and your job and your work (not usually the same thing) and other people and staying alive as a person and feeling good? How do you think of balance in your own life? I don’t know the answers but I do have this candle and this comment box and I want to hear yours.

Also! Traveling for Thanksgiving? Indignant because real, i.e., Canadian, Thanksgiving was back in October? Not super into holidays that celebrate colonialism? Excited about or dreading related days that celebrate late-stage capitalism? Let’s talk about that! And about anything else up with your week! See you in the comments!


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Carolyn Yates was formerly the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com. Her writing has appeared in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles by way of Montreal and Toronto. Find her on twitter or instagram.

Carolyn has written 1018 articles for us.

78 Comments

  1. I have not been good at balance this week- I’ve been stressed about work and triggered AF with all the news and it’s lead to me eating and drinking too much and sitting around not getting my goals met. I tried yesterday to just start with small things (cleaned my shower! Prepared a healthy lunch!) so let’s see how I do today. Gonna take the weekend to regroup before facing the fam for Thanksgiving.

  2. lighting a candle that says “balance” is such a lovely idea! I will believe in it for you!!

    I have been trying to strike this balance myself in certain areas of life and I truly wonder if this is even possible? (I mean, it is possible, it is possible, I believe in you and us and the candle, I do!). But I wonder if this notion of balancing it all is a feat weighed down by the constraints of capitalism and the illusion of time?

    I like to think we create that balance for ourselves by allowing ourselves to not fully invest in some of the things (some weeks all the energy goes to work, other weeks one can be on the creative flow. some weeks the home space is shiny and bright and other weeks it is heap of blankets and bills and dirty dishes). my copes have been about walking away from some things in life–I take breaks from social media, I say no to more social events and revel in alone time–I say no to people or activities that put me in a bad headspace and get my ass outside to walk a lot more. I finally started reading again and that is such a joy! and I accept that honestly, everything won’t get done in the time that is set forth and I make space to peacefully accept that.

    my balancing act has ended up in me choosing not to attend thanksgiving for a second year and I honestly feel incredible about it. last year I was really torn and I did get ridiculously drunk and watched as much supergirl as possible and I am just grateful to be in a better headspace this year, with a new moon party tomorrow, a bike that I want to ride again, fears be damned!, and a moviepass card waiting to be taken out!

    my hope for us all is that whatever balance or inbalance we create in our lives–we at least hold ourselves dearest–and find the ways to build space for ourselves to be our brightest.

  3. I too am not happy about a day that is pro colonialism. It’s also weird to see how many get a hard-on for roasting a turkey. I have no qualms really about people eating turkey, but more about how some people just get really obsessed about it, if that make sense. Like I had a customer come in this week ask me if I pumped about stuffing the turkey and glazing it. His eyes looked like they were about to pop he was that intense. Not for me. Thankfully, my family isn’t as obsessed about it, being an immigrant is affecting that a bit, but still celebrate it to fit in. My friend is doing the right thing and taking a vacation to Hawaii where I feel like they probably aren’t as obsessed about it as the rest of the country is.

    How’s everyone’s week going? I had my 4th event over the weekend. The weather was a little grey and only two people showed up, one of them a dear friend of mine(who is an awesome queer lady). It ended early, so I just took a nice and calm walk by the beach. I had a dude look at me like I’m the weird one, I guess he’s never seen a visibly trans queer? I also went to trans pride night at a local bar, bear/leather bar. There was nothing it indicate it was trans pride night or differentiate it from the monthly lesbian and queer night. I felt a bit uncomfortable there solo as I didn’t see many if any trans women(& amab trans people) and my friend couldn’t make it.

    On the positive side of things, I am hopefully making more lbtq friends via the app Hey Vina. I think I have plans to meet up a person Saturday night for a hang with a cool gal, and next week or two to meet up another person(who btw is very gay/queer, smart & good looking), so there is that. It’s seriously way pressure on this app to make friends, and sometimes a simple, “Hey, how is it going,” works. Unlike Tinder, where some people specifically have in their profile, “say something original,” or “I don’t respond to hello/hey/how are you.” Plus, it has a section specifically to meet lgbtqia people, some of whom are straight allies.

    From my Sunday walk.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my thread. Have a positive weekend!

  4. Balance?

    I just had an ice cream sundae and chocolate chip cookies for lunch before my work’s Thanksgiving feast later tonight. I did bring apples and peanut butter, though. :)

    In all seriousness, I’ve been working on creating balance in my life a lot lately. I’m grateful to have bosses/a workplace that prioritizes work-life balance and mental health days. Also, after working in local news for four years, I now try to stay off of Twitter and other social media as much as I can when I’m not at work. I feel better about it…and that gives me time to play games on my phone. I’m into Two Dots, Threes, and Snoopy Pop lately. What about y’all?

  5. I’m at that point in my post-undergraduate job search where I’m so fustrated with the expectations put on entry level candidates I’m starting to think of other ways to work with children’s books that dont involve applying to traditional publishing houses. There’s a new publisher that opened literally 3 weeks ago, so I sent my CV to them and they have me down for freelance editorial work. So I guess I do that now?

    I want to avoid becoming obssesed with the job search/feeling my worth is defined by whether I have a full time job so I guess that’s where my need for balance comes in. I finally got a library card 3 years after moving into my new borough! The first thing I did was borrow the ‘Girls Who Code’ book, and Im teaching myslef how to code! Im meeting friends for dessert tomorrow! I’m writing articles again! Im working on my manuscript!

    • Ermygerd, I *so* empathize with your experience re: trying to work in publishing and post-undergrad jobs in general!

      I majored in art, and when I got out into the wide world and tried to aim for publishing, my lack of on-paper experience got my resume ignored even though I was totally capable. It was very demoralizing.

      It took a while and quite a few side paths, but now I’m an editor at an independent publisher and so thrilled about it. It’s a hard industry to break into, so I super feel you. Please message me if you want to talk publishing! ? #booknerd

    • What type of publishing job do you (ultimately) want – editorial? I am also trying to move into children’s publishing but sounds like you are on the right track if you get some freelance work with this publisher – that’s essentially how I got started in journalism right after graduating years ago with a degree only barely relevant to the freelance work

      • I guess senior or commissioning editor. Honestly I don’t feel a *burning desire* to reach a super senior position; maybe my writing career will take off my then (that probably sounds suuuper flaky :P). How about you? where do you see yourself in the big world of children’s publishing?

        • Freelance editorial work is a great way to build your portfolio! I was always kind of apprehensive to start my own freelance business, but it’s actually not hard at all. There are so many people in the world who want help with their manuscripts, etc etc.

          I don’t know if it’s the same in the U.K., but in the US, publishing is very “who you know.” Maybe check if there are networking groups in your area? Either publishing-specific or for recent graduates or whatever. I’ve gotten a lot of business that way.

          You got this! ?

          • In the UK publishing industry there’s a heavy focus on using networking to get jobs. So while it is about who you know, it doesnt necessarily have to be someone you’ve known for a long time. Twitter is super useful for this, and I can say I’ve defo gotten more out of networking online than in real life. #IntrovertLife

            *gains life boost from encouragment*

    • Hi Louisa! I am a girl who codes (some Matlab and I’m a certified LabView developer) ’cause I had to learn to write the software I needed to get my dissertation data. They’re both fun but I like LabView better except for linear-algebra-heavy stuff. Anyone else in the Autostraddle Readers Who Code club? It’s pretty awesome in here. We need at least one web-coder type person so we can have cookies. (Nyuk nyuk.)

  6. Balance…hahaha….nope! I try but it’s been crazy recently. I have got nice bath stuff from lush for a self care day tomorrow…maybe that’ll balance 3 weeks of stress.

    I finally took the plunge and bought a half tank binder from gc2b and oh my god it’s life changing. I had scars and a lot of back and neck pain from my sports bras, I have never felt so comfortable and so secure…and as flat as I’m getting without a scalpel! The folks over there have been super helpful and I highly highly recommend for anyone who’s thinking about it. I wish I’d done it sooner. I was really sceptical because I’d read so many horror stories about binding in general, but honestly I am in so much less pain, and the weight is distributed so much better that my posture has improved. Magic!

    Oh oh oh also I bought a pride rainbow mini Christmas tree today for our kitschmas nativity. Photos in December for sure!

    Have great weekends folks ?

  7. I wrote a to-do list of four things to focus on in the next two months and the first is “develop better working habits.” So far I’m getting more work done but not doing that well with the habits? I’m not sleeping too well where I’m staying right now, and there are very few hours of daylight, and those things don’t help. I wish I could delete Facebook but there are a lot of people I need to reach for various things while I’m away and I’ve been catching up with friends a lot so it’s not really a great option at the moment. But maybe I can later. I’m trying to go for walks or bike rides when it’s light out and cook good meals and I get to go to a sauna every day right now which helps with everything (but I also want to develop good working habits for the future when I don’t have daily sauna access). Next I should probably try to develop realistic expectations for myself?

    • Have you tried one of those extensions that like times how long you’re on certain sites? In theory, I think it could begreat but I hate being told what to do so I could also see me smashing my computer because of it, but idk it might help? I’m glad youre getting some things done though, I hope everything else gets better

    • Is there a different, more personal way you could catch up with friends? Would it be possible to try using facebook only to facilitate interacting with someone elsewhere? i.e. to limit yourself to a message like “oh hey casual acquaintance whose party you’re going to / best friend of eight years / cute stranger who added you inexplicably / mom / co-worker / whoever, I really want to talk to you about x, can I have your email / number / etc?”

  8. *Long sigh*
    You know if you list all of these things, it sounds impossible to balance.Less like trying to even out a scale and more like trying not to fall off of a power plate or trampoline, that one’s jumping on, one legged.
    I try to straighten out my place (and life) on top of everything else, like eating healthy and work,and studying and trying to keep a social life going and it’s just so tiring.
    I try to scratch things off of my impossibly long list of things to do (gym? Not today, ok?)and I try to not overdo them.
    To reign myself in.
    “Meet friends?” only one “appointment” a day.
    Eat healthy? Yes. But let’s be realistic and return to bread, because no carbs doesn’t fly on no time.
    Also, I try to think of being more aware, in the moment, once in a while. Because if life is just about ticking off boxes while rushing by, what’s the point, right?
    And with the work/life balance..
    I’m working long, switchy shifts so that if I prioritize sleep, I end up sleeping at the hospital most of the week and it…is surprisingly perfect most of the time?
    It de stresses me so much,not having to worry about work life balance, what I’m going to eat, who I’m going to meet, and where, answering my phone every few minutes, checking up on social media. It’s its own headspace and I’m over feeling guilty for enjoying it the way I do.
    On my days off, I enjoy them so much more!
    I don’t know, I haven’t figured it out yet, either. But prioritizing sleep and working out and eating better has really helped my mental health like a thousand percent. And I’m writing this down here to remember it,too.
    Priorities:
    Eat,sleep, walk.
    Cook,run,lift, for extra credit.
    Good luck on your end!

  9. Downloaded Tinder and someone asked to meet up. Pretty sure they are queer and I am excited. Did a lot of writing. Ummmm, might need to go to therapy. And I shall buy no more plants for the next month. Gasp. Someone help me. Anywaysss. What’s up?

      • Hopefully this weekend (or next I never know what to say when it is Sunday, but I am meeting someone the next weekend).
        Scripts, almost complete with my next short.
        Rubber plants, fiddle leaf fig, tea bush plant, peperomia, and I just filled a window box with oxalis, narcissus, some type of ivy, and cyclamen. The cyclamen have not started growing (grrrr) , but everything else is doing great.

        I need this date so badly, like I shouldn’t but I do. I am slightly depressed and I think this will help. Hopefully it doesn’t suck.

  10. Hi honey!

    Balance is such an interesting thing- I feel like my body and mental health really wants to self regulate (mostly) so I have to listen to it, but that’s honestly that’s how it works best for me. Also having a reasonable assessment of like, what is going to make things work vs be the ideal thing. Like, I have to eat dinner, and it is means I have an apple and crackers and cheese for dinner one night, everybody will live, or if I’m lonely but too tired to go out, I’ll text a friend and maybe Skype with somebody. Girlfriend calls me the queen of the workaround, and mostly I try hard to think about how to get my needs met in ways that are concrete, because I’m very inclined toward that dreamy idea “what if there’s another life for me somewhere…..where I don’t have to deal with all this bullshit….” which does not actually exist. So like, if I’m bored or lonely, figuring out if I need a new kind of social connection or intellectual stimulation or what. Also when I run out of ideas I tend to treat myself like a little kid and be like okay you haven’t eaten in four hours time for a snack these are your options or like I’m bored, okay do you want to read a book or watch a movie and knit….? And I make myself drink a lot of water and go for walks every day and try to respond to text messages in a semi-timely way. Just kinda make it up as I go along. I’m attracted to extremes and intensity but don’t cope super well crashing into them, and accepting that has helped smooth out some of the high highs and low lows. Hope things even out for you soon! Xoxoxo

  11. I’m ot American, so I’m not travelling for Thanksgiving, but I had a moment today almost worthy of an American Thanksgiving:

    I was on the phone with my father, who told me a famous actor/singer from my parents’ country just died. He just read it while on the phone and was surprised at the man’s relative youth, so he wondered aloud what he might have died from.

    I hear my mother, the self-professed tolerant of the two, in the background: “He was a homosexual so probably AIDS.”

    No, no, he died of a lung disease closely associated with smoking. One of the many reasons I’m not officially out to my parents (though I don’t exactly hide since I post bi-pride and queer things on social media that they follow).

  12. I’m a grad student and I’m used to balancing research/teaching/classes, but this quarter I finished my course requirements and now I need to balance writing/teaching/actually -leaving-my-office.
    It’s tough! I love my research, but I miss the social structure of grad classes. I’m visiting my extended family in Portland for Thanksgiving and hopefully that’ll help settle me more.

  13. I’m not good at balance either, my therapist literally just last week was like “We’ve really got to get you to an even place where it’s not all or nothing, not just black or white because that seems to be where you get really undone.” and like for some reason I can understand and hold spectrum in other areas (my sexuality, gender, trauma, etc.) but like emotions for some reason I feel need to be an all or nothing and we just commit to one for like nine months and then give birth to another one and go again.

    What’s been helping me is like writing diary stuff, cause I can look back and see the signs of me about to spiral into a bad episode like yesterday, things I know keep me grounded and and putting them within reach, and just being okay with doing the best I can and learning that my best looks different every day, maybe even every moment.

    Not excited for Thanksgiving in the least, cause my whole family is coming and for the past two years we just didn’t do that. But now cause family stuff everyone’s coming and I’m trying to figure out a way to disappear but also get enough mashed potatoes to hold me til Friday. But! The Hey Arnold Movie comes on next weekend so it’s like evening out I guess.

    But! I’ve left my house multiple times this week which is good! I’ve gotten drunk which is less good but we’re okay! idk it was really a hellish week (like objectively was okay? but then trauma nightmares intensified to a terrifying degree really disrupted me), but I’ve got people who look out for me, and people who let me love them, books, and ginger tea, and Netflix. Like, it’s good.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

  14. I’m utter shit at balance. I’ve been putting off starting my life and figuring out what I want until I finish school, which, we’re in year 8 of grad school now, which is killing me, so.

    Pretty much the only two priorities I have now are my diss and my mental health, not really in that order. I make time for yoga, I try to have in person time with at least one friend at least once a week, made a recurring notification in my calendar to text one of my long-distance besties and set up a skype call every three weeks, and I indulge the urge to organize evvvvverything (everything must have A place. Everything should be in its place) that sprung up when I started grad school and has been gradually intensifying each year, since having all my cleaning supplies and bathroom stuff gathered neatly into baskets soothes my brain.

    My diss hasn’t been happening for a while, which is … not good. But I started new medication this week, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s actually having the effect I need it to have, so, you know, maybe this will end.

    • also, I bought a fancy pill box that has been making me actually take all of my medication when I’m supposed to, and I’ve started actually acknowledging that when I have to be somewhere in the morning I need to pack up everything I might possibly need (and forget, like my meds) the night before, since I am inevitably going to sleep later than I should and have to dash out the door and fail to do lots of things. So, planning and scheduling things for when I am capable of thought, and letting myself be a disaster when I am going to be a disaster.

        • I managed to write 200 words, in complete sentences, which are good enough to stand in this draft and let me move forward in a direction. This is a monumental achievement. I haven’t written anything that wasn’t pure freeform circuitous gibberish in two years. (I have a dozen notebooks and god knows how many files full of that).

          I’m cautiously optimistic my new meds are doing what I need them to do and it’s such an overwhelming crushing relief that just maybe I’ll be able to see straight long enough to get out of grad school, maybe this is possible, that I’m kinda crying.

          You can do it. It’s probably gonna suck (the experience, not the work produced), but you can do it. I think I’m talking to both of us.

  15. Life balance has gotten much easier for me now that I think about it on a longer time scale. For years, I felt like I had to do some of everything every day- do work, have fun, eat right, exercise, clean, etc- and that gets overwhelming very quickly.

    Now I think about balance over the course of a week or a month, and that’s way easier. Some weekends I hike all day, and other days I read in my pajamas. Some months involve crazy work deadlines and others are low-key maintenance.

    YMMV, but for me the key is routine. Knowing I have dance practice three days a week means I don’t stress about working out on the other days. Friday-Sunday I make sure to go outside and get lots of sun, so it’s not so bad when I drive home in the dark on the others. And so forth.

    It sounds obvious, but for me it made a huge difference. I hope this helps someone else!

  16. Ugh physical balance is easy, life balance is hard for me.
    Like I’m that sober at 3am person in the parking lot using the wee little curbs as mini balancing beams doing spins and tiny jumps but my life seems to be at time ship with busted wheel or rudder than no matter how hard and push or do maintenance drifts to the West and I can’t make it go East away from the ice field.

    I get my head in better order, manage my bad habits, and start making progress on where I think I want to be and my body goes:

    In panic about how far behind I am and need to do the best to just make it to worthwhile or adequate I do those bad habits I know are bad and just sink because I’m tired of fighting and trying so hard for what doesn’t matter in the scheme of the world. Some people think I’m a snobby and stand offish sometimes and it boggles my mind because I’m such minuscule speck and so are they.

    The best I can do for myself to attempt any sort of balance is hold hard and fast to 2 standards of self care:
    1) Eat; meaning I pack/prepare good things, take mandatory breaks to eat them. Right now that means consuming a nut bar, trail mix or PB sandwich pacing while the hallway in front the lab.

    2) Exercise; there’s like bare minimum I need to center myself and keep manage some physical issues. For me that’s stuff I can do in my jammies.

    I think making sure you stay fed and take little breaks is solid advice for anyway trying to maintain. Low blood sugar etc does not make for good decisions, and stepping away from a thing for a little doesn’t impede progress on the thing. Ramming yourself against a proverbial wall doesn’t make stuff happen.
    Acknowledge you’re a human not a robot, give yourself short(timed) breaks to decompress and fuel your body it don’t run directly on solar polar.

    Um I been listening to this and I can’t watch or I get sucked in
    NSFW (I’d rate it TV MA I guess)

    Chelsea Wolfe – Spun

  17. Balance for me has been a challenge, because I’m only 90 days into a move to a new city, that was brought on by a major dumpster fire of apartment flood, job loss and already being broke and scared after having moved after I broke up with my partner I thought I was going to marry and also coming out to myself within the last year. Oh and I’d only been in that city for 11 months and prior to that another city for 15 months and my home state for 28 years. So yes, just getting some equilibrium has been tough lately.

    However, I find that listening to podcasts, being on sites like this and also going directly to sites that I enjoy, versus letting Facebook or Twitter tell me where to go, and also making sure I get sunlight and talk to at least one person (even if that’s just via Hangouts or Messenger or texting) helps.

    I’m skipping Thanksgiving this year and skipping one side in particular for the second year in a row. This will be the first time I completely shut down on Thursday and don’t have any interest or desire in engaging in anyone. Both sides of my family are hostile to a lot people and I have no desire to be out to any of them, save a handful of the younger ones (one I told on Coming Out Day and another got forced back into the closet. Different sides). Plus, I’m too broke to travel this year and also way too broke to participate in the mild, but still very much, capitalism around the winter holidays. Also, I’m still fighting a lot of people in my industry (nonprofit and urban planning and yes, writing), for fair wages and I’m dealing with a broken contract from last year that plunged me into this financial hole.

    So yeah. In addition to what brought me out of the comment lurking space, this is how I’m trying to find balance. (And I fell asleep before I could finish, but woke up after finally sleeping through the night for once to share).

  18. I’m going to New York tomorrow to see my best friends for the first time in three months and I’m so excited. We’re going to spend Thanksgiving with one of their families and I’m excited about that too, I’m not into the colonialism but I love her family and I love pie.

    I tend to take shortcuts for creating balance. Like I have a handful of easy to prepare balanced meals that I eat all the time because they’re healthy and require no thought, which lets me focus on other things.

  19. Balance is super hard for me. I have BPD and my brain likes to go from one extreme to another. This week has been a lot of hormonal “I’M THE WORST AT EVERYTHING I DO AND I’LL NEVER HAVE A CAREER!!” So… I don’t know what to do about that.
    BUT my Autostraddle hoodie came in!!!

  20. Listen my autonomic nervous system can’t even do balance properly. There’s no hope for the rest of me being able to do balance.

    But seriously, balance is very hard for me because it…kinda requires planning and I’m living on an hour-by-hour schedule as determined by my body (which takes priority even over the puppy). Balance becomes super important because overstretching yourself? Oh hey now you get stop spend 3 days in bed recovering, best case scenario (worst case scenario is “3 days in a bed in the ER recovering” which I did last year because I was DETERMINED to go to the holigay meetup even tho my body was like “um. please no.”). I try to listen better to my body now and keep things VERY FLEXIBLE so like okay, my NEED TO DO LIST consists of like doctor’s appointments and the NEED TO DO THIS WEEK LIST is like playing phone tag WITH doctor’s offices and insurance companies and like, laundry. Then there’s the NON ESSENTIAL BUT NEED TO DO LIST which consists of training sessions with the pup, exercise the pup (because while it goes BEST if the pup gets exercised more than just all at once but I can find people to do walks for him if I can’t), exercise MYSELF (which sometimes exercising with the pup qualifies), house cleaning stuff, reading relevant stuff, etc.

    Okay I missed the FOT on Friday because of the pup deciding to be a shit, proceeded to not take any of my advice about balance and pushed through my limits to go see Fun Home today and am PAYING FOR IT HARDCORE but also #noregrets it was amazing.

    Here is The Pup practicing his audition for the doggie reboot of The Exorcist:

  21. I’m really bad at balance. I’m very introverted, and my job is socially exhausting (40 to 48 hrs a week with toddlers), so when I get home it’s all I can do to stay awake. I don’t socialize. Also right now I have 17 hours of online training to do by Dec 6th, so weekends are not weekends. It’s online training and then prepping craft supplies for the week (admin is nuts abt crafts idk)

    Sometimes I cry in the shower because I haven’t done anything art related in months. I never finish projects. I burn out too fast. It’s a major self hate sticking point.

    • As a semi related side note I think I’d make an AMAZING nun. Not, like, spiritually? IDK I just think I have an ideal personality for flourishing in a very regimented, socially cloistered society of entirely women where I never have to pick out my outfit in the morning again bc there’s ONLY ONE OPTION & all my time is managed for me via centuries of tradition / vespers or whatever

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