Skip to main content
Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Reflections on Seeking Balance

December 7, 2023

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to the “Practicing Connection” monthly email to keep up to date on our latest podcasts, blog posts and workshops.

Join the “Practicing Connection Community” on LinkedIn. The community is designed for people who support military families in a variety of settings both on installations and in our communities.


About This Episode

(Season 4, Episode 15)

This is our annual Reflections episode. Each year we invite some of our podcast collaborators in the past year to share a reflection with us. Why? Central to connection and communication and collaboration with others is knowing yourself, learning and growing. Regular reflection practice can help with that.

In this episode, four of our guests from this year return to share their year-end reflections on seeking balance. Co-hosts Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch shared their reflections. The episode also features reflections from: 

  • Randy Lioz, Founder of DOC: Depolarizing Organizational Cultures
  • Courtney Paolicelli, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. Military Community and Family Policy
  • Cathy Marcello, Assistant Director of Programs, Modern Military Association of America
  • Arletta Eldridge Thompson, 15 Medical Group Health Promotion Coordinator, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam



Read More


Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. Here to start the conversation, our Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch.

Jessica Beckendorf: Welcome to our Annual Reflections episode. Each year, we invite some of our podcast collaborators in the past year to share a reflection with us. Why? Central to connection, communication, and collaboration with others is knowing yourself, learning, and growing. Regular reflection practice can help with that.

Bob Bertsch: This year, our Practicing Connection team has been experiencing some pretty big changes. We’ve added a new team member, our co-producer, Coral Owen. We’ve moved from monthly to weekly episodes with the addition of the PractiCasts, and we’ve launched the new Practicing Connection community on LinkedIn. With all that change, we’ve been thinking a lot about rhythm and balance. For the theme this year for our reflections episode, we invited our collaborators to share their reflections on seeking balance. Four of our guests shared their reflections on their pursuit of balance with us, and Jessica and I will share our reflections on balance as well.

Jessica: Our first reflection is from Randy Lioz. Randy joined us on episode four of this season, Practicing Depolarization. To talk about the challenges polarization poses to collaborative efforts, and how to engage in some depolarizing practices to improve our relationships and collaborations.

Randy Lioz: Hey, Practicing Connection listeners, this is Randy Lioz from DOC, Depolarizing Organizational Cultures. It’s been quite a year with a lot of challenges and a lot of excitement. Definitely been a lot of things this year that prompted me to think about balance, so I wanted to share some of them with you. It’s easy to get out of balance, but we as humans are so adaptable that there’s usually a path back to that balance. Anyone who’s gone through significant challenges in their life, which is pretty much all of us can recognize that we’ve generally figured out a way through those, especially if we’re open to new paths.

We do need to lean into our connections I think. Since it’s really often much easier to see when we’re out of balance from the outside. I’ve got out of balance a few ways in the recent past. The first way that I want to talk about is between vulnerability and boundaries. I tend to be a very open person, and I’m willing to talk about almost anything with almost anyone. While it can lead to strong connections and really rewarding conversations, sometimes it can lead to oversharing or at least sharing more quickly than others are comfortable with.

My parents are much more guarded than me, and they’ve actually tried to reinforce this lesson to me regularly over the course of my life. Sometimes I feel like they go too far in the other direction. We don’t want to be too closed off. A mentor of mine at Braver Angels, the nonprofit that I used to work for pointed me towards something called Social Penetration Theory. This was really enlightening.

It describes the process of forming relationships that starts at the surface level and then goes deeper over time. When we’re forming relationships, we really need to take the time to build trust before sharing, in order to minimize the risks of violating people’s boundaries. It really finally helped it to sink in for me since that mentor has seen me in a professional context. Once again, it’s about getting help from those who can look at the issue from the outside. I’ve been working on a more measured approach. One that really focuses on listening and trying to move more in sync with others. I think that I’ve made some progress on that.

I’ve also been struggling with the balance between self-reflection and criticism. Someone once told me that self-awareness was my superpower, but it often seems to come in hindsight, and at that point, it becomes criticism. I think a lot of us struggle with how we see ourselves especially when we’re knocked down, it can be so easy to doubt what we have to offer the world, our value. Again, it’s a situation in which getting an outside perspective is really important. Reconnecting with some of the people who I’ve been closest with and who I love and love me was so incredibly helpful for this.

Also, cognitive behavioral therapy is really relevant to this issue since an outsider can really help to point out the patterns that we’re exhibiting and point us to a path to shifting that. Finally, I’ve been trying to achieve some balance between pursuing passion and creating value for others. At certain times in my career, I’ve become a little fixated on the idea that the right path is the one where I’m doing work every day that gets me energized.

I think a lot of us have this romantic notion that this is possible. If you never want to work a day in your life, find something that you love to do and make that your profession. There’s definitely something to that idea. When I’m energized, I can really inspire others and enlist them in a shared vision that we can both be passionate about. Even in work that generally gets you pretty passionate, you’ll find that the needs of others don’t always align with those passions. You’ll need to suck it up sometimes and focus on something that’s a little less inspiring, but more useful to others. Balance is really crucial here since if we’re only focused on the needs of others, it’s really easy to get burned out.

We need to try to maximize, of course, the overlap between that passion and usefulness. Also, I think we really need to be willing to pursue things that are outside that overlap. Things that perhaps aren’t that interesting and engaging to us, but really fill a need for others and things that we just enjoy and get us energized once again. Hopefully, we can use those things to balance each other. Making sure that we’re taking care of ourselves and others, because we can’t really do one without the other. Trying to find these balances is an ongoing challenge for me, as I’m sure it is for you.

This has been more about what I’ve been thinking about rather than what I’ve actually necessarily achieved. I’m in the middle of my journey, just like all of you, but I guess I do feel a little bit closer than I was at the start of this year. I hope that you all are able to find more balance in your own lives and that you feel like you are making progress in your professional and personal goals and hopefully in developing into the person that you’d like to be. Of course, I hope that you’re able to strengthen your connections with those around you since that’s really what gives us meaning in life. Everyone have a great new year, and I’ll see you on the flip side.

Bob: Thanks to Randy for that great reflection. I really liked his point about how self-awareness in hindsight can present as self-criticism.

Jessica: Yes, that resonated with me as well. I’ve often been complimented on my self-awareness and my ability to share vulnerably but people have also commented on my self-deprecating humor and how it sometimes has made them a little, I guess uncomfortable. I love the jokes that I make about myself, and I don’t feel bad about them, but I do wonder if I’m being too critical. Self-awareness is really great, but if it doesn’t come with some radical self-acceptance, it doesn’t really move us forward.

Bob: I definitely agree with that. A lot to think about in Randy’s reflection. Jess, would you mind sharing your reflection on balance with us?

Jessica: Of course. Is it a little sad that I had to look up how others define balance to prepare for this? [chuckles] I know what it is, but I think I struggle with knowing how to do it. I think my journey this year can be summed up as finding balance between too much doing and not enough being. This has put me on a journey this year to tackle one area of balance, and that was balance within my work versus what you might think of as work-life balance.

I’m talking about the balance of workload within my work. At the start of the year, I was in the position of taking on a new temporary role within my organization while also trying to complete projects that I had started as part of my former role. That probably can only happen for the most part when you stay within an organization. That you’re still trying to finish up things that you had made promises about months ago when you started a new position. As my new role ramped up, it became stressful because I was trying to remain accountable to all of my obligations.

I even began to track my time down to the minute. I would categorize my time by projects using different colors for different buckets of work. Then I’d add up my time at the end of the week and I’d even figure out the percentage time I spent on each project. It helped me for a short while, but eventually, it added to my stress because it was exhausting and I didn’t feel like I could control it very much anyway. What good is tracking if I’m going to be doing the work anyway? What good is tracking the time?

It was however, really helpful to see and to be able to, I guess, show that most of the time I was spending at least the minimum amount of time I needed to on each project or that I had promised to each project, or at least it averaged out that way over the course of several weeks. The problem was that I was still often trying to make up for time not spent on a project by just working a little later which contributed to feeling burnt out. When I took stock of this situation, it started to become really important to me to reduce the number of buckets my work was stemming from.

I thought that that was probably one area that as time went on, I knew would be changing, and it became really important for that to actually happen. [chuckles] As the year went on, I kept wrapping up those old projects and not taking on new ones for the most part. I took on one other small one but now that I have only two buckets for my work, sometimes I think I may have overcorrected a bit. [laughs] We’ll see but it feels really great being able to concentrate more on fewer things. I also desperately need a little bit more from my non-work life, but that’s something to work on for next year.

Bob: Thanks so much for that, Jess. I love that idea of seeking balance within our work or across our work in addition to work-life balance. We focus a lot on work-life balance, but I love what you did to really look at your work and make sure you’re finding balance within your projects as well. Our next reflection is from Courtney Paolicelli. You haven’t heard Courtney on the podcast before. This will be the first time you get to hear her voice on the podcast.

We had the privilege of working with her on a featured article in OneOp’s PowerUp magazine and on the workshop building networks to alleviate food insecurity which was part of the 2023 Military Family Readiness Academy, Military Families and Food Security: A Call to Action.

Courtney Paolicelli: My name is Courtney Paolicelli. I use the pronouns she/her, and I’m delighted to share my 2023 reflections with this audience. As I think back on the past 12 months and how I pursued or rather attempted to pursue balance, I’ll be honest in saying that I’m torn. There are some aspects of my life where I feel like I’ve improved my balance, but others that still definitely need improvement. To set the stage, I just want to share a little bit more about me. I’m a spouse of an amazing Marine Corps veteran, a mom to an awesome five-year-old human, an eight-year-old golden doodle.

I’m also an Army Reserve dietician, and I’m also a full-time program analyst at the Department of Defense. Juggling or balancing these identities is challenging, not in the sense of necessarily knowing who I am, but more in the sense of finding time to be good at all of them. I began 2023 with a new energy. I was excited to be starting a new civilian job and happy to have helped my husband through his transition out of the Marine Corps and into a new civilian career. Our lives were flourishing. Our young daughter was preparing to graduate pre-K and life was and is still very good.

I started the year with a goal of pursuing a better personal-professional balance, primarily because in the three years leading up to 2023, I felt that I had neglected that balance and prioritized things that had got me temporary, but not always long-term satisfaction. To achieve a better balance, I started the year by resolving to take more personal leave and make memories with my daughter and my family. I started to recognize that my daughter’s early childhood years were short and fleeting. I wanted to take as much advantage of them as I could, and I did. I pulled the trigger and booked a trip to California and another to Disney.

While I’ll admit our adventures weren’t always smooth, I love them, and I took enough photos to ensure that my daughter will be able to recall all those trips almost minute by minute when she’s older. I was proud that I was able to pull myself away from my professional career and take those trips because taking that time and purposely disconnecting from all my professional obligations gave me an opportunity to focus solely on my family and live in the present and be in the moment, which was something I don’t always do. In 2023, I also pursued balance by asking for help.

My big ask for help came when I asked my husband to watch our daughter one night a week this past summer so that I could lock myself in my office and take an online photography class. I’ll admit that as an adult, I haven’t nurtured my creative side all that much. My day job is that of an analyst and I’m also a trained healthcare professional who loves science and loves data. All that to say, I just don’t often tap into that creative artsy side of my being but when I was growing up, I was very artsy. I loved dance, I loved music, I loved photography but as I got older, I moved away from those things primarily because I realized my talents weren’t necessarily good enough to make a living doing them.

Now, in the pursuit of balance in middle adulthood, I want to tap into that other side of my brain and have an outlet that forces me to be creative. I was thrilled to be able to spend four hours per week conversing about low-light photographs with other mostly younger students who shared my passion for cameras and understood what a thrill it was to make the perfect photo. Tapping into that artistic side of my brain and letting those creative juices flow really did help balance the more analytic logical side of my brain which often feels like it’s an overdrive.

All this to say, I’m not where I need to be and I’m somewhat bummed that despite my best intents, I have somewhat pursued but definitely not achieved balance in 2023. As a dietician and a preventionist at heart, I can tell you that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For the human body and mind, it’s all about preventative maintenance because I know that if you run yourself into the ground, it’s tough to come back, especially when you’re older. You have to take care of your body and your mind, just like you take care of a car. With a car, you have to conduct preventive maintenance by regularly fueling your car with the right types of gasoline.

You have to get all your routine oil changes, swap out your windshield wipers every so often, make sure you drive your car and don’t just leave it in the garage. Then you also have to change out the filters on your car on a regular basis. All of these maintenance steps are really critical to keeping your car going, and your physical and mental health work the exact same way. To maintain good physical and mental health, you have to perform routine maintenance on yourself. With a car, you have to give it the proper fuel and oil, with your body, you have to give it the proper nutrition.

With a car, you have to take it out and not let it sit inside or in a garage for too long. With your body, same thing, you have to get it outside, you have to exercise, you have to move and not be too sedentary. With a car, you have to swap out old filters and wipers that don’t work. For a healthy mind and spirit, you have to get rid of the activities that aren’t critical, that aren’t contributing to happiness, and replace them with things that are meaningful and things that are important. I know all of this and I want to treat myself and my health the way that I know that I should, but I will admit it’s difficult.

Part of it’s because I find it difficult to let go of activities that look important on paper, but don’t necessarily contribute to balance. Part of it is because there aren’t 30 hours or 36 hours in a day, and it’s just physically impossible to cram in everything that I want and need to do. Part of it, for better or for worse, is just simply my inability to prioritize what I know should be important. As I wrap up 2023 and look to 2024, I’m taking stock of my wins. I’m appreciating the things that I’ve been able to do, like taking advantage of my work leave and spending precious time with my family, and asking for help so that I have time to tap into my creative energies.

While I’m taking stock of these wins, I’m also thinking about how I’ll continue this pursuit of balance in 2024. I’m thinking about what balance looks like for me, what it should be or what it should look like, and what it shouldn’t look like. I can tell you that my vision still includes all the wonderful gifts that have been bestowed upon me, maybe just in a different proportion to each other.

Jessica: Thanks to Courtney for that reflection. I think one of the things that resonated with me the most was about asking for help like Courtney did one night a week to pursue something that interests us. I have definitely been there and it was really helpful to just my overall– being able to show up as my whole self all the time. It really fed my soul to be able to do that. I think we forget that we can ask for help sometimes, actually a lot of the times, I think we forget that. One of our favorite conversations from this season was with Cathy Marcello. Kathy leads the MilPride program for the Modern Military Association of America, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ military and veteran nonprofit. Cathy was kind enough to share her reflection with us for this episode.

Cathy Marcello: Hello, Practicing Connection listeners. This is Cathy Marcello, the assistant director of programs at Modern Military Association of America. We’re the largest nonprofit dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ service members, veterans, and their families. I’m an army brat, army wife, and proud mom to a trans child. I participated in episode two of season four titled Supporting Military Families with LGBTQ+ Youth. We discussed the challenges faced by military families with LGBTQ+ youth and how to best support those families. It was a really fun episode. I hope you’ll take a listen. We’ve been asked to talk about our reflections on the pursuit of balance.

Balance is almost as controversial a topic as my work in LGBTQ+ advocacy. As a military spouse who was often a single parent, balance felt like an impossible dream. I’m an expert at putting myself last, but I’ve had some insights this past year that I hope can help others. First, I joined the fight. I worked behind the scenes for many years to make progress for LGBTQ military kids. It wasn’t until to borrow the phrase, I came out of the closet and started advocating in my work life that a great deal of stress that was holding me back was relieved. It’s easier to not dwell in worry and fear when you are working on solutions.

With a little less weight on my shoulders, I said yes to a hiking trip with my sister through Tuscany and Umbria in Italy for 10 days. The backlog of work in my professional and personal life was a lot to climb out from under when I got back. A full inbox and unfinished chores was 100% worth it. We hiked between medieval towns along the path that St. Francis of Assisi followed from Laverne to Assisi. In a remote hilltop town in a tiny inn, I had a chocolate croissant freshly made that morning. Have you ever had a fresh-baked homemade croissant? It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Now is it balanced to be drowning in mom life and work life and then put everything on hold for 10 days in Tuscany? That’s up for debate, but in making room for myself, I got closer to balance and I’m glad I did it. I definitely feel more balanced, having made time for myself, and I’ve got some makeup to do there.

Bob: Thanks to Cathy for that reflection and for making me crave a chocolate croissant. I would really like one right now. [chuckles] It seems like work-life balance is on a lot of people’s mind, and it’s a constant process for us all.

Jessica: I remember learning about how it was very normal for Americans to say, “What do you do?” Because our work is so important to us, but when I spent some time in Italy, our professor at the time was like, “Yes, that question doesn’t work as well here because people think of life. It’s just life.” If you ask someone what they do, they’re like, “What do you mean? What do I do? I live my life. What are you talking about?” I think that’s a really healthy way to think about our life and I understand needing to have that boundary between work and life as well, especially the way we think of work, I think in the US. Bob, would you be willing to share your reflection with us now?

Bob: Sure, I’d be happy to. This year I’ve been seeking balance between hope and despair. That might sound weird to have hope on one end of that continuum since having hope is something that I think it’s important that we have all the time, but I’m thinking of it as something a little bit different as hope only or ignorant hope. The feeling that I’m hopeful because everything will work out, so I don’t need to think about that or see the terrible things that are happening around us. I can just be ignorant of it and be hopeful that someone will figure it out. That’s sort of on one end for me on that continuum and despair on the other end.

In meditation practice, that balance between that kind of hope I described and despair is often referred to as equanimity, which is a state of mental balance or even-mindedness in which our mind is accepting and non-reactive. When I see pain and suffering happening in the world, and especially the pervasive systems that either cause or fail to mitigate it, I find myself moving towards that despair end of the continuum. It can seem like the only way out of it is to move to the other end and ignore the pain and suffering of people that I don’t know and may never meet.

I tend to get angry and curse myself for being angry, feel helpless and curse myself for not doing more, feel sad, and ask myself what good my tears will do. Meditation practice has really helped me be more accepting of how I feel without so much judgment and self-criticism. It’s helped me be aware of individual moments and not get caught up in the arc of an unjust history or a doomed future. It’s helped me take a breath and not immediately react when I see something, hear something, or read something that may send me careening.

After a couple of years of avoiding the news and social media, I’ve been able to engage again, at least a little bit in the issues that I care about. I still have some ignorant hope. I have my fingers crossed that we can find a way to deal with so many of those challenging issues we all face. I’m definitely not immune to anger or feelings of despair, but right now I’m closer to equanimity than I was yesterday, and that’s enough.

Jessica: Thank you so much, Bob. I really appreciate that you shared that mindfulness practice or meditation practice has helped you throughout the year. We are a podcast about practices and it sounds like that has been a really powerful tool for you.

Bob: It definitely has. Our final reflection comes from Arletta Eldridge Thompson, health promotion coordinator for the 15th Medical Group for joint base Pearl Harbor, Hickam. Arletta joined us for the episode Hawaii’s Food Security Collaboration for Military Families. We talked with Arletta, Lorna Souza from the Hawaii Air National Guard Airmen & Family Readiness Program, and Kilikina Mahi from the Hawaii Food Bank about the challenges families in Hawaii are dealing with and the amazing cross-section collaboration that is helping to address those needs. Here’s our lead-up.

Arletta Eldridge Thompson: Aloha Practicing Connection listeners. As a health promotion coordinator and exercise physiologist by trade, my job is to teach healthy lifestyle skills. Much of what I teach and try to build skills on is from my personal experience. I know if I have struggled with an issue, so have military members. It’s all about teaching lifestyle, balance, and resilience. Since moving to Hawaii six years ago, I’ve been immersed and exposed to Hawaiian culture. You can not help but pick up what makes Hawaii so special to so many people. It’s not what you would think. The beauty of the land, the ocean, hula dancing, or the marketed paradise of Hawaii.

In today’s reflection, I want to give thought to the word pono, as with the word aloha, it has many meanings. Aloha is love, respect, and celebration among other meanings. Pono also has multiple meanings. We mentioned the Hawaii Air National Guard Pono Pantry In our podcast. The Hawaii Air National Guard chaplains chose that name for a particular reason. Pono is a Hawaiian word that is roughly translated to righteousness, goodness, or balance. It often is used in the context with living a moral, upright, and harmonious life. Be pono encourages individuals to act in a way that is fair, just, and in harmony with both them and their surroundings.

It is a concept deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture and values. We are well aware that asking for or writing about something will inevitably bring into practice that what you are asking. I’m sure you have plenty of experience with the word patience. You then get all the patience you ask for. If you write about pono, inevitably you will be confronted with real-time practice of pono. As I pondered this podcast, my life lesson was a dispute with my landlord. I like to think of pono in terms of a boat. The boat can sway and tip, as long as it is upright, you’re good. If the boat tips too far to one side, then rolls over, you’re in trouble. It’s all about balance.

In my dispute with my landlord, he was blind to the balance on my part. It was not until I said something that he knew the balance had been tipped. He immediately said, “Oh, I did not know.” In my culture, we have to make this right. Under pono, once you know something is not right, you’re obligated to make it right. As the other party, I too had a responsibility to let him know, as he put it, “What would make you whole?” It would be wrong of me to hold a grudge or to let this stew.

I would have to accept his sincere offering of making this right. There is a mutual responsibility to come to an agreement both parties will accept. My landlord needed to be pono, I needed to be pono. Back to the Hawaiian National Guard Pono Pantry. The name was chosen to help military members restore balance of their lives with food. It’s a way to make those members whole. It is not right to let them struggle. It’s pono to help them back on their feet.

I will leave you with this question and a reflection. What areas of your life could you be pono? Explore areas within your mind, body, and spirit. You too can be pono and carry a little Hawaiian culture with you no matter where in the world you live. Aloha and a hui hou, which translates to lots of love until we meet again.

Jessica: Thanks so much to Arletta for that inspiring reflection. We talked with Arletta and her colleagues before the devastating wildfires in Maui in Hawaii County. The recovery efforts are still ongoing. If you’d like to help, please go to the webpage for this episode to find a list of organizations you can donate to.


That’s it for this episode. We want to thank Randy Lioz, Courtney Paolicelli, Cathy Marcello, and Arletta Eldridge Thompson for sharing their reflections and for their generous collaboration this year. Heartfelt thanks to our other podcast guests from this season, Dr. Ron Avi Astor, Lorna Souza, Kina Mahi, Monica Bassett, Dr. Chip Be Knight and Nicole Weiss. Thank you for listening to and supporting the Practicing Connection podcast.

Bob: Finally, thanks to our incredible team, co-producer Coral Owen, announcer, Kalin Goble, Hannah Hyde, Maggie Lucas, and Terry Meisenbach for their help with marketing, and Nathan Grim, who composed and performed all the music you hear on the podcast. This season is not over yet. We have three practicasts coming your way before the new year begins starting next week with practicing generosity. We hope you’ll join us then. In the meantime, keep practicing.


Kalin Goble: The Practicing Connection podcast is a production of OneOp and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, US Department of Defense under award numbers 2019-48770-30366 and 2023-48770-41333.

[00:33:54] [END OF AUDIO]


December 7, 2023
Event Category:
Event Tags:

How To Join

Complete the registration form with your name, email address, and how you learned about this webinar. You should receive a confirmation email shortly after with the connection information. Please email us at [email protected] if you have any questions or need technical support.

If you are unable to join the webinar via Zoom, please view the live-streamed webinar at

More Info

Practicing Connection Podcast