You know the classic spinning plates performance? The performer has a bunch of thin sticks, and one by one he spins a plate and balances it on one of the sticks. Every time a plate is about to fall, he gives it another spin. And he just keeps adding plate after plate until he reaches his maximum capacity.
Spinning, Spinning, Spinning Plates
It’s definitely something to watch. Always impressive and keeps you wondering if he’s able to successfully keep it up without making a mess of everything.
Sometimes my life feels exactly like this. I’m spinning one or two plates and everything’s going just fine. In fact, I’m impressively handling everything with confidence and panache. But then I’m handed another plate.
I get the new one up and spinning and the visual is breathtaking. I’m proud and confident, although a small bead of sweat starts dripping down my forehead.
And then another plate arrives.
Spinning Plates: They Never Stop Coming!
I spin and spin, I’m sweating and shaking. And I feel like I’m getting a handle on everything, when another three plates arrive at the same time. And with a great deal of effort and a whole lot of hardwork, I get all three up, but have my first casualty. One of the original plates comes crashing down. Shards are flying in every direction. And the nerves are firing like there’s no tomorrow.
But of course, that’s never the end. More plates start arriving. They are different shapes and sizes. There are hundreds of onlookers, sitting on the edges of their seats, wondering how I’m going to handle everything. Waiting to see what happens.
And before you know it, I’m asleep on my arm. I’m surrounded by sticks and broken plates. And just one little plate is spinning, slowly, waiting to stop.
And the curtain closes. Sporadic, weak applause fill the room.
And this is how my life has felt countless times in the last few decades.
Spinning Plates: Master the Multitask
That’s not to say I cannot multitask. I do so all the time and I stand in the face of those who claim men are incapable. I’m multitasking as I type this very post!
And there is little to no finger pointing, unless I’m pointing that finger right back at myself. I can choose a simple life. I can work and eat and sleep and spend time with my family. Rinse and repeat.
But it’s not in my nature. I don’t have to write a blog or ebooks. They’re not paying my bills (yet!). I don’t have to study languages and fitness and Search Engine Optimization and cooking. I don’t have to spend hours of my week in the gym.
Yes, I’m constantly bringing in my own plates. I’m tossing on extra responsibilities and trying to make life so much more than just a repetitive cycle, earning money to pay the bills so I can start all over again.
And I want to. Arguably, I need to. I can’t truly live without it.
Spinning Plates: What Did I Do Today?
My day usually ends with a familiar pattern. Dinner, shower, some family TV time, and a brief nap (otherwise known as sleeping). Then I wake up and start the craziness all over again.
However, I’ll always look back at the day that had passed. Did I do a good job at work that day? Did I complete all the tasks in front of me without getting overwhelmed, stressed, or agitated?
Did I take care of myself? Did I eat foods that will nourish and sustain me, or did I gorge on crackers mindlessly? Did I work hard at the gym or did I sleepily just go through the motions?
Did I learn anything new? Did I grow and become a more capable person? Did I create anything I was proud of? Did I add to the pile of things I’ve made throughout the years, things that have become a part of my identity? Or did I just coast? Did I just do my job, nothing more than a few emails tossed out to an endless slew of customers?
And did I have meaningful interactions with the special people in my life? Or did I lose my patience? Did I become closer with the most important people to me, and have substantial conversations that will make me a better person? Or did I just float through my day, simply looking forward to finally getting to sleep it away?
Spinning Plates: Going to Sleep Happy
I want to go to bed every single night knowing that my day wasn’t wasted. It’s a borderline obsession. There have been so many days and years of my life that I cannot look back at with fondness. I can’t say what I did that day. I can’t say that I grew as a person. That I’m better now than I was before.
And it pains me.
So my plates are spinning. And every once in a while, I need to clean up the broken pieces here and there. And even though it’s sometimes more than I can handle, I’m the primary plate provider. I pile on and pile on, always having trouble figuring out when I should give it a rest.I want to go to bed every single night knowing that my day wasn't wasted. Click To Tweet
Spinning Plates and the Unexpected
And even though I wouldn’t have it any other way, the real pain comes when my life is so filled, and the unexpected inevitably creeps its way in and disrupts the relative calm.
There I am, managing all the plates with flair. But then a fly starts buzzing around my head. Or a giant earthquake rattles my city. And I need to do everything I’m doing with this added challenge that’s far above my skillset.
I pile it in. But then my phone rings and I begin to fear I won’t be able to do the things I need to do. Or work gets more overbearing or stressful. Or my dog throws up. Or someone bashes me on Twitter. Or rear-ends my car.
Whatever it is, my problem isn’t how many plates I’m balancing or how to do so correctly. It’s how to stay sane when I’m trying to make it all happen, and life pokes its head into the picture and reminds me that I’m not in charge.
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