What is this cuss word called balance?


My first sense of the word ‘balance’ came in elementary school when I participated in gymnastics. I remain mystified as to why I was enrolled in this particular activity, since anything related to bouncing around an arbitrary apparatus was a recipe for injury and burst blood vessels in my face (for real; I looked like I had bruisy pimples for a couple days). I’m not exactly unathletic, but to say that I did not excel in this arena is a bit of an understatement. However, I loved the balance beam. Performing cartwheels, summersaults, and swooping while waltzing across this four-inch beam of awesome gave me a sense of freedom. My dismount was a cartwheel/roundoff combination. I loved the feeling of flying through the air, landing on solid ground, and the ta-da of completion. To me, that was balance.

In high school chemistry, I learned a different type of balance. My ability to blend chemicals and make them smoke, change colors, or create peanut brittle taught me that to use balance correctly was joyous, while using it incorrectly could set off the extinguishers (it wasn’t me, I promise).

In early adulthood, balance meant managing my social calendar and work responsibilities. It was simple fun. No I can’t join you for drinks tonight because I’m going to the movies with the girls. How about Friday? This type of balance, while rigorous, was a simple warmup for the type of balance that would be required of my no-longer-playing-at-it adulthood.

For those of us who have read Cat in the Hat, there’s a scene where Cat is teetering on a balance board, juggling objects, and rhyming. He juggles and balances successfully – until everything comes crashing down. That’s life: Yours, mine, anyone who tries to do too much for too long.

While I love aphorisms and quotespirational phrases, sometimes the whole balance concept seems like a swear word. Of course the successful person has the same 24 hours in a day that the less successful person has. Of course it’s a matter of balance. Bite me. I don’t need that type of demotivation. Balance is a highly personal benchmark, and telling me to use my time more effectively is the equivalent of telling me I need to eat more vegetables. Common sense? Sure. Annoying? You betcha.

As the social scientist I am not, I asked a few friends what balance meant to them. Managing time commitments effectively, making sure everyone gets fed on time, and finishing chores on time were pretty high on their lists. This is awesome, but these answers just show efficiency. I have to think that true personal growth and wellness has more to do with self-management than time management.

We have to make decisions about what’s important to us and try to honor that. In the act of saying yes to this experience or situation, I have to say no to something else. Some people might think they can do All The Things, but they are juggling fish bowls with bowling pins while standing on balance boards and we already know that’s not going to turn out well. No one can do All The Things, which is definitely not the same thing as saying that we can’t do a whole heckofalot of wonderful things. We just need to be a little more selective of what we do to busy ourselves so that we can balance the busy with some not-busy. Now if only I could follow my own easy-to-type advice.



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