The different meanings for “balance” intrigue me as I have grappled for many years for that elusive “balance” in my own life. The Oxford dictionary says that “Balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright” (ex. She lost her balance before falling).
Isn’t remaining upright what we all want to do? Do we not want to stand tall in our workplace, in our community, in our church, in our group of friends and in our family? Not towering above others but simply standing strong and relaxed in the position that we are inhabiting. Standing tall is not always easy. There are times when the wind is blowing one way but we feel called in a different direction. How do we withstand that wind and keep our balance? Putting on a protective jacket or sweater to keep the chill away and keep us warm is often a first step. What covering feels right for us? Supportive friends? The anchor of our faith? Solitude so we can sort out the different pieces of our call to go against the grain? Resting in nature? I have found all of these coverings can help keep me warm in times when I feel I am hunkering down against a headwind.
At different times in my life I have found I need to do different things to “keep my balance.” I remember being a young third grade girl in my pink tutu and the ballet teacher demanding that we point our toes a certain way and lift our arms a certain way to maintain our balance. Now, in my seventies I walk carefully over uneven surfaces and walk slowly against the wind to keep my balance.
I used to think my goal was to even out all the parts of my life—correct percentage of work, family, spiritual life, exercise and fun. I now no longer attempt to keep every piece of the pie chart in correct proportion. There were times when a deadline at work called for a bigger chunk of the pie. There were times when challenges at home called me to direct almost all of my time there. There were times when recuperating from surgery called me to simply rest and receive nourishment. I found that truly being present without guilt to these times—many unexpected—gave me the energy I needed to withstand the wind and be ready for the next step. However, if I used my energy to deny or minimize the situation or to simply wail against the injustice, there was not the energy needed to stand upright in the storm.
There are times we are called to compare the value of one thing against another to keep things “in balance.” What is the cost vs. the benefit? If I shirk my duty at work and watch hours of Netflix, is it worth the consequences or the time it will take me to catch up? There are other times that watching mindless tv or immersing myself in some good fiction for hours has helped me rest and replenish for the work ahead. What is the cost? What is the benefit?
So for me it is no longer attempting to keep all parts of my life “equal” or in “balance.” It is about being present to what is strongly calling to me in the moment and putting on my sweater and stepping forward to meet that challenge.