When I was little the circus would come to town, and if my folks had the money we’d go see a performance. I liked the horses, didn’t find the clowns terribly funny, and gasped at the tigers and lions. But my absolute favorite were the artists who walked the tightrope.
They had this long floppy pole for balance, and I would hold my breath as they made minute adjustments, sometimes stepping back, then teetering precariously before they walked ahead slowly, testing each foothold. Only when they reached the platform at last, did I breathe again.
Life is like that, too. In difficult situations, the future seems precarious. I find that I have to move back before I can go forward. I tilt one way and then another to find balance.
Sometimes I forget that balance is ALWAYS a matter of making adjustments, depending on the current situation. That finding a balance in life is always temporary. I struggle to be flexible in the situation, ready to teeter and tilt and fight gravity for a toehold.
But that’s not such a bad thing. Kathy Freston, in her book Quantum Wellness talks about the four Rs of balance: Regular, Reach, Relate, and Rejuvenate. Regular is the ‘getting things done’ phase. In this category fit all those things you HAVE to do: work, chores, sleeping, eating, those ‘to do’ lists that multiply like rabbits.
Regular seems to be a strength of mine. Given a firm deadline, I can usually suck it up and get it done. Maybe not perfectly, but somehow, the important things are usually finished.
The second R, Reach, is also one that I enjoy. I’ve always been a reacher. I delight in discovering a new idea, a word I don’t know, a world I haven’t visited yet. It becomes an irresistible invitation. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt is my motto.
But I start to fade on the 3rd R, that Relate part. By nature, I am an introvert. Give me a good book, a warm cat, a comfortable couch, and I am content. I need to remind myself that there are others in the world, and that friendships need maintenance in order to thrive. I forget that, sometimes.
And when it comes to the 4th R, Rejuvenate: Have fun? Take care of myself? Do all those good things like exercise and eat well and sit in the sun and laugh? Ah, those are definitely way, way down the To Do list!
As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and they is us.”
I walked along a favorite creek not too long ago. It is in a pristine slot canyon, with high red rock walls on either side. To get to the spring at the end, I must criss-cross the water a dozen times.
Each crossing is different. Some are easy, with large flat rocks. In some, poles have been placed across the water, and I must balance with one foot on each log, in an awkward, hitch-step fashion to reach the other side.
As I get deeper into the canyon, fewer hikers have gone before me. When there have been rains or frost in the early morning, the crossing rocks are slippery, and sometimes I end up with a wet foot. Or I choose a rock that settles into the mud, shifting uncertainly, and my arms fly out in balance in order to reach the safety of the other side.
Each crossing is different, each requires a different strategy to find balance. Sometimes I misstep and I end up in swift, cold water that jolts me into awareness of the present moment. At each crossing of the creek, I find that balance can be maintained only for an instant, and then a new challenge presents itself.
And I begin to recognize that life is like that, too. A work in progress always moving forward, in balance for just a moment before slipping into chaos once again. I begin to understand that life is all about finding balance and losing it, and finding it once again.