The Art and Strategy of Juggling, Or, What I Do in My Kitchen Late at Night

>> Aaaaaaand action!

It’s 11pm and I’m standing in the middle of the kitchen, juggling three Cuties clementines.

As I juggle, I try to keep the oranges at the same height and the same distance apart as they braid in the air. I want them to look balanced, symmetrical. Then I drop one. And then all three.

But the faster I throw the oranges and the less attention I pay to keeping them consistent, the better I juggle.

>> Cut to director’s commentary

I’m not sure what inspired me to juggle at 11pm for absolutely no reason. And don’t pester me about the fact that I can juggle. I’m well aware it’s completely dorky and peculiar. But it’s fun—and cathartic in a weird way.

It annoyed me that when I conscientiously tried to carefully juggle the oranges, I couldn’t keep them in the air. But when I quit thinking so hard about it, I didn’t drop them—not once.

In fact, I wasn’t even looking directly at the oranges. I was staring past them, using my peripheral vision to make sure I caught each one. It was somehow…natural.

>>Cut to profoundly philosophical macrocosm of life. Maybe.

I hesitate at kneeling to the cliche phrase “juggling priorities,” but juggling is exactly what I’m doing.

I’m always (and I very much mean perpetually) learning how to juggle priorities. I take on way too many projects, tasks and responsibilities. And then, once I’m overloaded, I:

  1. freak out,
  2. don’t sleep, get everything done butjustbarely,
  3. don’t sleep, get nothing done and implode in a stressball, or
  4. drink copious amounts of coffee and prance around the kitchen juggling small citrus fruits.

None of these options is healthy.

Forcing the juggling made it so unnatural. But trusting myself allowed me to be much more natural.

Though juggling oranges in my pajamas late at night doesn’t count as “artful” by any sort of fashionable or being-cool standard, I think there’s a way to be artful in juggling the excess of responsibilities many of us take on.

How? Well, for me, I’ve realized I can’t force-fit everything. If I create too many to-do lists, or assume I have it all figured out without being receptive to new ideas, or plan each day down to 15-minute increments, or super-miniscule-look!it’sdust!-micro-manage each of my tasks, I will drown in my own strategizing. (After which I will promptly burn for having uttered the word “strategizing.”)

If I give space to my ideas, endeavors and responsibilities–if I let spontaneity play a part–my responsibilities are no longer burdens. They become challenges.

Perhaps a little bit of thoughtful strategy and a little bit of unrehearsed juggling are the keys to accomplishing goals.

{But the next time you freak out about the gajillion things you have going on, try juggling some fruit, in your kitchen, in your pajamas. I recommend citrus fruits; if you’re a lousy juggler, at least you can make juice when you’re done.}

  • jen

    Ha. I can juggle too. :) Sometimes when we try to do something, it is much harder than if we relax and let it come. It’s one of the ironies of life.

    • No WAY! It must be a Harris genetic thang. ;)

      Seems I’m grappling with a lot of juxtapositions, eh? Relax/force, stillness/motion, etc. How Jack Handy of me. ;)

      Thanks, Jen. I love seeing you here — always.

  • jen

    Ha. I can juggle too. :) Sometimes when we try to do something, it is much harder than if we relax and let it come. It’s one of the ironies of life.

    • No WAY! It must be a Harris genetic thang. ;)

      Seems I’m grappling with a lot of juxtapositions, eh? Relax/force, stillness/motion, etc. How Jack Handy of me. ;)

      Thanks, Jen. I love seeing you here — always.

  • Les

    I tried to learn to juggle in college. I got to where I could get three balls going for maybe 10 throws before they all started crashing to the ground or more likely, going further and further out in front of me. That said, maybe as I’m older, I should try again. On a different but related note, I want to learn to play the didgeridoo, which requires circular breathing. Good thing I live alone, eh? :-)

    But, I really love this post. A great metaphor for approaching life and all the challenges we face. Thank you for sharing.

    One last thing: I think being a “dork” isn’t a bad thing. In fact, taking yourself and life too seriously is the bad thing and too many people have lost sight of their inner geek/nerd/child and are truly missing out on a pretty amazing life.

    Geek on, Cali!!

    • Les – I love that you want to play the didgeridoo. That is one AWESOME instrument. And you can juggle too — high five! :) I do agree – dorky isn’t bad. :)

      Thanks for your kind words, Les. Geek on!

  • Les

    I tried to learn to juggle in college. I got to where I could get three balls going for maybe 10 throws before they all started crashing to the ground or more likely, going further and further out in front of me. That said, maybe as I’m older, I should try again. On a different but related note, I want to learn to play the didgeridoo, which requires circular breathing. Good thing I live alone, eh? :-)

    But, I really love this post. A great metaphor for approaching life and all the challenges we face. Thank you for sharing.

    One last thing: I think being a “dork” isn’t a bad thing. In fact, taking yourself and life too seriously is the bad thing and too many people have lost sight of their inner geek/nerd/child and are truly missing out on a pretty amazing life.

    Geek on, Cali!!

    • Les – I love that you want to play the didgeridoo. That is one AWESOME instrument. And you can juggle too — high five! :) I do agree – dorky isn’t bad. :)

      Thanks for your kind words, Les. Geek on!

  • @johnincolorado

    i’ve only recently learned how to juggle without ending up in a stress ball in the corner or doing stupid things that derail my life. literally.
    i know i can juggle a few oranges. 3 not 4. i can juggle knives. 2 not 3 (but i do get cut sometimes) i don’t like to juggle chainsaws. i’m scared of them. sometimes i act like i could if i wanted to try but inside i know i couldn’t and i’ll never have the guts. i’m pretty close to admitting that truth out loud to other people. (although i think they already know)
    there are probably many things i will never be able to juggle. i might admit that out loud, too. one day. (although i think everyone already knows)
    metaphorically speaking, of course.

    • John – So beautifully said. I LOVE THIS.

      Thank you for sharing. Your comments adds depth to my post.

  • @johnincolorado

    i’ve only recently learned how to juggle without ending up in a stress ball in the corner or doing stupid things that derail my life. literally.
    i know i can juggle a few oranges. 3 not 4. i can juggle knives. 2 not 3 (but i do get cut sometimes) i don’t like to juggle chainsaws. i’m scared of them. sometimes i act like i could if i wanted to try but inside i know i couldn’t and i’ll never have the guts. i’m pretty close to admitting that truth out loud to other people. (although i think they already know)
    there are probably many things i will never be able to juggle. i might admit that out loud, too. one day. (although i think everyone already knows)
    metaphorically speaking, of course.

    • John – So beautifully said. I LOVE THIS.

      Thank you for sharing. Your comments adds depth to my post.

  • This is hands down the absolutely best thing I’ve read today, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess it’ll be the best thing I read all week.

    I decided over the weekend that some things have to go, that it’s ok for me to say no to some things. I don’t know what those things are yet but I’m tired of juggling and I want to do fewer things REALLY well, rather than feel like I’m doing a million things just kind of.

    Knowing me, I won’t let a lot go, but I’m going to have to let SOME things go.

    You’re amazing and beautiful and I want to see you juggle sometime. xoxo.

    • Doni, Your words–and your experiences–mean so much to me. I think you and I (and Alex as well, whose comment I’ll reply to momentarily) share the trait of taking a lot of things on. And I believe we (healthily) thrive on having lots of projects. But, as we know, this has the potential to backfire.

      I applaud you for knowing when to say when. And it IS hard. You’ve got me for moral support (or a kick in the pants) if you EVER need it…or if we just support in keeping each other on track.

      And I’ll totally juggle sometime. As long as you do, too. :) <3

  • This is hands down the absolutely best thing I’ve read today, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess it’ll be the best thing I read all week.

    I decided over the weekend that some things have to go, that it’s ok for me to say no to some things. I don’t know what those things are yet but I’m tired of juggling and I want to do fewer things REALLY well, rather than feel like I’m doing a million things just kind of.

    Knowing me, I won’t let a lot go, but I’m going to have to let SOME things go.

    You’re amazing and beautiful and I want to see you juggle sometime. xoxo.

    • Doni, Your words–and your experiences–mean so much to me. I think you and I (and Alex as well, whose comment I’ll reply to momentarily) share the trait of taking a lot of things on. And I believe we (healthily) thrive on having lots of projects. But, as we know, this has the potential to backfire.

      I applaud you for knowing when to say when. And it IS hard. You’ve got me for moral support (or a kick in the pants) if you EVER need it…or if we just support in keeping each other on track.

      And I’ll totally juggle sometime. As long as you do, too. :) <3

  • I shared this in my Google Reader and basically said that anything I ever needed or wanted to say has already been said or will be said by you.
    Not sure what I did before I had your blog to read.
    I chose sleep and social networking this semester over proposing my thesis by March. It has been a wise decision. Balance balance balance. :) Of course, I haven’t bee working out at all and feel kindof yucky But I just can’t do it all. And you explain all of that beautifully here.
    Love you mean it.

    • I’m so humbled by your kind words, Alex. As I mentioned to Doni, I think we’re simply wired to take on a lot of things (and–probably–built to be good at it). It’s interesting (for me) to sit in this space and actively reflect on it. This kind of self-reflexivity is kinda…weird. But good. Weird-good.

      Good for YOU for choosing balance. Everything that you are doing is an inspiration to me; it really is.

      <3 x infinity

  • I shared this in my Google Reader and basically said that anything I ever needed or wanted to say has already been said or will be said by you.
    Not sure what I did before I had your blog to read.
    I chose sleep and social networking this semester over proposing my thesis by March. It has been a wise decision. Balance balance balance. :) Of course, I haven’t bee working out at all and feel kindof yucky But I just can’t do it all. And you explain all of that beautifully here.
    Love you mean it.

    • I’m so humbled by your kind words, Alex. As I mentioned to Doni, I think we’re simply wired to take on a lot of things (and–probably–built to be good at it). It’s interesting (for me) to sit in this space and actively reflect on it. This kind of self-reflexivity is kinda…weird. But good. Weird-good.

      Good for YOU for choosing balance. Everything that you are doing is an inspiration to me; it really is.

      <3 x infinity

  • Unrehearsed juggling … I like the thought of that. I notice this when I play piano. If I don’t look at the keys, letting the music flow out of me, I play much smoother.

    • Gorgeous parallel, Melissa.

      When I dance, I’m always on when I let myself be enthralled by the music. It’s a pretty incredible feeling to trust yourself and let go.

  • Unrehearsed juggling … I like the thought of that. I notice this when I play piano. If I don’t look at the keys, letting the music flow out of me, I play much smoother.

    • Gorgeous parallel, Melissa.

      When I dance, I’m always on when I let myself be enthralled by the music. It’s a pretty incredible feeling to trust yourself and let go.

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  • Cali, what a great post. I take on too much as well and am always juggling things that may not even be necessary at the time! I’m a planner, a strength and a weakness, and I’ve been learning lately how to just let go….
    I am new here and look forward to reading more!
    Diana

    • Hi Diana! Wow – thank you so much for stopping by, taking the time to comment, and sharing.

      That’s a really fascinating (and nuanced) perspective that you bring up: planning. I’m a planner, too…and it seems like being a planner is both good (because it means organization) and simultaneously challenging (because it makes us creates high expectations for ourselves).

      Cheers to figuring out how we can juggle gracefully. :)

  • Clintm77

    I was in my kitchen juggling Cuties just now, and found them to be perfect for that task. I then pondered whether or not I was alone in this, so I googled it. Thanks for the moment of solidarity!