I used to rail against the word “balance” when I was too young to know better. It seemed to imply a tremendous amount of mediocrity; a flaccid, passionless existence; a bowl of luke-warm porridge, food for the faint of heart. I was a twenty-year old student then, and all-nighters could be compensated for with the luxury of an endless daytime nap. My daughter is a twenty-year old student now, and I wish her as many all-nighters as she can handle – such is the freedom of being young. You don’t get that luxury back again, easily. Cheers to the reckless unbalanced life of the young. What you learn from these years will serve you well in the years ahead.
But I don’t regret getting older – I love the wisdom that comes with aging, the sense of purpose and accomplishment, the confidence about what truly defines me. And the deep understanding of the blessed gift of balance.
But it is a gift, I have come to believe.
And I’m still no good at it.
When I am diligent I go to yoga.
Sometimes regularly and often…but sometimes not at all.
Sometimes I feel healthy and strong, with an organized life wrapped up like a tidy package with neat corners and carefully pressed bits of tape on the edges. Nicely done, I think. I’ve got this!
And sometimes I don’t. I write obsessively, stay awake late into the night, dream images that pull my eyelids open while I sleep, wander the house fuelled by cups of coffee and whatever vice I can get my hands on, writing until it seems I can go on no more, the edges of the package torn open and the tape stuck in all the wrong places.
Yoga is good for me. I know this.
And I like yoga. But the ‘balance poses’ in yoga throw me, though less than they used to. I used to pray everyone’s eyes were closed when the ‘tree pose’ was coming – I would teeter my way through it, wish for a wall to lean on and hope no was watching.
“I’m just not a great balancer,” I would console myself.
But the truth was, the core muscles I needed were in sad shape. Balance is all about inner, core strength I’ve learned. I’m getting better at it; I’m stronger than I once was.
But I also don’t think it’s quite that simple. Life is not exactly like my yoga classes.
I am a writer and, I think like most creative people, my inner self is shaped differently than others.
What if, as someone who is creative, we are shaped with long wide wings that reach a hundred feet in either direction? What if those wings are the very things we need to take flight, as we do when we write, or paint, or sing or dance?
And what if they don’t fold neatly against our bodies but stick awkwardly out – all the time! – so we roam the planet with a great pair of wings that will let us soar into the sky, but pretty much stick out ridiculously in ordinary life? What if we’re the kind of people who find ourselves constantly bumping into walls and highway overpasses and other people’s drinks at cocktail parties with these ungainly extensions from the shoulders that we pretend aren’t there?
And what if our balance point – the fulcrum beneath us – is delicate and thin? What if it’s not a sturdy block a wood as wide as a tree, but what if the point that touches the earth is as thin as a single layer of fresh water pearl, or a snow crystal turned sideways? What then?
How hard is it to balance the wingspan of an airliner on the delicate edge of a snowflake? What on earth do we do then?
Those of us blessed with wonderful creative spirits, with wings as wide as the world, just might have trouble balancing. And just when we seem to have it, when the swaying to and fro, back and forth, up and down has seemed to stop, and there we are on that tiny point, at last stabilized for that one brief moment – thank God, here is our balance – something happens.
A few grains of sand fall across one wing, or a breeze whips past unexpectedly, and it all comes undone.
What then, shall we do?
Here’s what I think:
- Understand that the blessing of your wingspan is also your gift to the world. So be it. Balance will be your challenge. Accept this and carry on.
- Develop your core strength. This will save you. Be grounded as best you can but know that the strength inside of you will help to hold you in place. Work at this strength.
- Remember that you are created in the image of the Great Creator. You are not flawed. Your wings are a gift.
Be at peace. You are needed here.