Balance is a beautiful, essential—sometimes baffling—state to strive for.
As a child and teenager, I danced and loved ballet. The act of straightening the spine, engaging the core, lifting the head and extending the arms to achieve perfect balance was taxing but magnificent, requiring strength and persistence.
Balance in life necessitates that same effort and energy, and sustaining that stability can be a challenge. Sometimes my tendency is to sway too far one way or another.
Although meditation and mindfulness practices have helped my internal pendulum swing to fewer extremes, I have more work to do to achieve the balance I want for my life.
Sometimes we lean too much into one thing—work, for example—and neglect other parts of life. Sometimes fear of failure or of the unknown prevents us from trying something new.
The balancing act of my life includes efforts to give all I have to my career, keep up with family and friends and become the best possible version of myself.
One day I’ll feel like I’ve kicked ass at work, but I didn’t meditate or exercise.
Sometimes I’ll be the champion of correspondence and clean apartments, and other times my email inbox is a nightmare of unresolved messages, and it’s a battle to stop dishes and laundry from piling up at home.
Occasionally, I give in or give up and let my apartment become a complete mess for a couple of days. Then, of course, I beat myself up because what kind of adult does that?
You feel me, right? Such is life.
It’s a mentality of extremes, as opposed to striving for balance.
And this tendency is all around us.
“Go big or go home.”
“It’s all or nothing.”
“Sink or swim.”
I’m on a personal growth mission that developed from my mindfulness and meditation work. My motivation is the reality that I can only change myself. If I want anything anywhere to be better, I have to be better.
The mission includes finding more balance and checking off the 30 goals on this list, which I created in January.
One recent activity literally tested my balance.
I’d never been sailing. I’d heard about that boom thing you need to avoid, and I’d seen the “Friends” episode where Rachel tries to teach Joey to sail, but that’s about it.
We went out on an extremely windy day, and my main role was to use my weight to keep us upright. When our boat started to lean right, I shifted left.
As if to illustrate life in general, the work of moving back and forth was tough. But it was also fun and thrilling.
Midway through, I started feeling proud of us because, from the onset, it seemed certain we’d tip over, but we hadn’t.
There had been close calls, but each time I forced my weight against the boat, pushing it back to its upright position.
Then, for a second, I guess we lost our focus or got hit with an unexpected gust of wind, and Alina said, “It’s happening. We’re going over.”
The next thing I remember was being in water cold enough to cause hypothermia and saying, “What now!?”
We’d totally lost our balance.
And as comfortable as I am in water, I’d not been in this kind of situation—chilly river, extreme winds, and a lifejacket I put on improperly. (I’ll have to come back to the lesson I learned from that another time.)
We needed to get our boat upright, an effort that quickly tired us so much that once we did it, our arms wouldn’t let us pull ourselves back into the boat.
That’s when I panicked, before remembering to breathe and focus on the reality of the moment instead of fearful, runaway thoughts and extremes.
There was another boat to help us nearby. Alina was calm and cool and couldn’t have been a better teacher or leader.
So, I couldn’t let my emotions get out of control, and I couldn’t just give up because it hadn’t gone perfectly.
I managed to find internal balance in that moment. It wasn’t graceful, like a ballerina, but it didn’t have to be.
And I realized that it’s not always about maintaining impeccable balance. It’s about how you respond when you start tilting.
If I had reacted to that situation the way I sometimes do with my dishes, it would have gone like this: “Well, we’ve tipped so there’s no point doing anything more. Just let it sink.”
To be clear, it’s not like I heroically rescued us or even got myself back in the boat. We managed to get the boat upright, but there was no way we could get back in, so we did have to be rescued.
But in the moments alone together in the water, we kept working. (Alina, who has been sailing for at least a year, worked harder than I did and it was inspiring and amazing to watch.)
And maintaining balanced emotions in that stressful, seemingly imperfect situation was a small victory for me.
Before we tipped, we giggled and cheered for ourselves. We talked about the beauty and excitement of the experience. I savored those moments.
Ultimately, it was the most thrilling, humbling, adrenaline-filled learning adventure I’ve had in at least 10 years.
Sometimes, you have to sway and fall to grow.
Understanding that is balance in itself.
Update on other growth goal challenges
—I’ve written at least a line of poetry for each day, and I often end up writing more than one line. So far, I’ve written 3,765 words.
—I dyed my hair purple and loved it.
—I’m taking voice lessons from the amazing Rick Rushing. I’ll figure out the performance thing soon.
—I attempted to give blood but encountered a random, unexpected problem so even though I technically gave, they didn’t use it, so I’m repeating that one soon.
—I took my first trip to Sunset Rock.
—I’ve watched two out of 10 movies from the AFI list — “Blade Runner” and “Sunset Blvd.”
—I had a great day building with Habitat for Humanity.
—I’m working on one of my three paintings.
—And I’ve gone sailing, as aforementioned.
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