Every time I sit down to balance the checkbook, I cringe. I want everything to balance perfectly, an occurrence that is roughly akin to the total eclipse scheduled for April of this year. It isn’t that I’m not responsible about entering deposits or expenditures, but there are two of us in this household scribbling numbers on those skinny lines, and, once in a while, we don’t get it quite right.

Receipts help to keep me honest. Carrying that piece of responsibility from the counter to the check register makes me accountable and prevents me from forgetting to subtract an expenditure.  I must admit to frustration with teeny tiny print, smudged or faint printouts, and the various ways in which zero is printed. Sometimes it looks like an eight. Sometimes it looks like the letter O. And sometimes I don’t take the time to read all the way to the end of the register tape to find the final total. Gah! I feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy picks up the football. The universe conspires against me!

When the end of the month arrives, I sit down, pore over the numbers, and thank the Lord I didn’t end up an accountant. I would have made a lousy one. But I absolutely, totally, completely admire those who find strength, solace, and beauty in making the bottom line come out right. This leads me to think about the other balancing act in my life, the one that fills me with purpose and, dare I say it, joy — my writing and reading life.

My days are balanced around the hours I spend on manuscripts, poems, and website articles, and they are demanding. Each crafting requires an expenditure — of time, effort, energy, and, yes, accountability. All this, of course, must be measured against the other parts of my life, the cleaning, cooking, social interactions, and volunteer efforts. These past weeks I’ve found my commitments beyond the actual writing to be overwhelming. My balance sheet has tipped into the debit column.

So, now there comes a reckoning. It’s not easy to subtract activities from the schedule. I enjoy all the events penned onto my calendar. But just like a financial account, our personal register needs to balance. We need to save some time and effort for those future creative rainy days.

I’m practicing the word no in front of the mirror, rehearsing ways to keep my hands in my pockets when a group asks for volunteers. This goes against my natural instincts, but it needs to be done. The only way to keep balancing is to make sure both sides of the equation match.

If the past few years have taught us anything besides how unstable life can be, they have become an exercise in balancing the right, the good, the special gift that each day offers. This year, I hope to work toward a more perfect balance in all things.