Finding life’s balance

bella circus performs : yerba buena gardens sa...

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.

This afternoon I heard a cardinal sing

Observed near the Salton Sea, this female quai...

I woke this morning thinking I heard quail, and that was patently impossible, because I was surrounded by dozens of parked semi-trucks beside my motel, miles and miles of freeway on the other side, and a room three stories up. But I awoke thinking I heard the quail.

I had driven from my little town to Phoenix for the weekend. These communities are less than a hundred miles apart, but at the same time, are places that belong to different worlds: Phoenix-metro has about three million people; my little town about fifteen thousand. In my town right now the iris and forsythia are blooming; in Phoenix, the palo verde trees have turned a brilliant gold and the ironwood trees are a filagreed lavender.

Did I mention the traffic? We have only four-lane roads in my little town, and not too many of those. Phoenix has hundreds of miles of ten-lane freeways, as evidenced by the sooty residue on my car’s windshield this morning.

And money! We don’t have a lot here; WalMart is our big time shopping adventure. Scottsdale, on the edge of Phoenix has Neiman Marcus, a dedicated Mont Blanc shop, and the newest of Tesla showrooms.

Churches, too. I visited a Phoenix church this morning boasting a magnificent choir, acres of stained glass windows, and a membership approaching five thousand. The little church I often frequent in my home town has maybe two hundred members in attendance on a good Sunday—say, Easter.

Both places are important to me, for different reasons. I like to visit Phoenix, because it gives me perspective on my problems and goals and adventures. Somehow ninety miles from home I can see clearly what I cannot envision up close and personal in my easy chair.

I need, not the affluence of the metropolitan area, but rather the contrast of differences, the ability to say, oh! there is another world out there, not better or worse, but unique in its own way. I am not alone in my searching.

Northern Cardinal / Cardinal rouge

And this afternoon, when I came back, a cardinal singing in the crepe myrtle welcomed me home. A good journey, indeed!