I remember a talk I once went to on stress, in which we were told that stress is not inherently bad, in fact that it can be as bad for us to have too little stress as it is to have too much. The key is to try to find the sweet spot at the top of the stress bell curve where you have the perfect amount of stress to be optimally energised and productive.
You can probably say all the same things about time as well. I think that it is definitely possible to have too much free time on your hands, and that this is as damaging to your psyche as having too little. Tragically, in our culture, we’ve set things up in such a way that too many of us exist at one end of the bell curve or the other when in comes to time. Many of us spend our twenties (when we aren’t travelling the world) renting, doing jobs with very little responsibility, in and out of relationships, with no dependents and no major assets, living a life of extended adolescence; and then at some point in our thirties (often within the space of a few years) we get married, have kids, buy our house, and reach the point in our careers where we are working longer hours than we ever have or ever will again.
It is like we have decided to live our lives the way children eat their meals. Eat all the ‘good’ things first, and postpone eating all the ‘bad’ things as long as possible. But the reality is that, just as having a little bit of everything with each forkful is the richest and most interesting way to eat, so too living with a balance of responsibilities and freedoms is a much more nourishing way to live.
A friend once used the analogy of a slinky to explain the balance required between description and action in writing fiction (and I think it applies to balance in life as well). If there is too much description and the story moves forward too slowly it is like a slinky that hangs limply between your hands. If the story moves too quickly without adequate descriptive detail, it is like pulling the slinky so taut that the wire stretches out of shape. But if you get the tension exactly right the waves of back-and-forth energy will make the slinky almost hum.
Once again, the key is finding the sweetspot, the top of the bell curve, the perfect amount of tension to be energised without being overwhelmed. That’s what I want, and I know it exists, because I’ve been there… and I want to be there more.