Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Importance of Balance

What the world needs now…is not love sweet love. What we need is balance.

“Balance: 3.) harmony; a state in which various parts form a satisfying and harmonious whole and nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest.”

I am probably ultra-sensitive to this fact since I let my own life get so out of balance. What started out as the exhilarating challenge of realizing a dream quickly descended into an all-consuming obsession with the work and the worries and the insanity.

I remember trying—for about the first three weeks, it seems—to maintain something that resembled my “old life.” But as I became inundated by the pure magnitude of what I had gotten myself into, I became convinced that “total immersion” was probably the only way I was going to get control of the café. I watched my old life and its priorities disappear like a diamond ring down a shower drain. Keeping my house clean, my lawn mowed, my flowers watered? Tracking what I ate and when? Walking the dog, petting the cats, feeding the birds? Being with family, being with my husband? All these things that made up the fabric of what I had thought was a non-life became expendable; fluff for which I had no time or energy. All of my focus, all of my resources, swung ‘round to be centered on one thing: the restaurant. One of my sisters called the cafe “the job that ate your life.” Indeed. It took about 48 months of sloughing off part after part of my old self and penetrating deeper and deeper into a maze that I ultimately realized I was never going to solve, to make me understand that I had had a life, once. And I wanted it back.

Now, I’ve chucked the café and thrown myself into the work of reclaiming my life. I revel in getting out of bed whenever I feel like it; I happily grab hold of some project that has needed doing for, say, five years or so, and bang away at it until it’s done, even if it means staying up half the night or missing a couple of meals. Or I sit and do nothing. Because I can. I’ve utterly thrown over self-discipline for a kind of bohemian schizophrenia. I do whatever I feel like whenever I feel like it. Truthfully, it was kind of nice for awhile, but I’m beginning to realize that this is not right either. I’ve swung too far in the opposite direction from the unrelenting barrage of challenges that comprised my life for five years. It’s hard to feel like you’ve accomplished something when you really don’t have to do anything. And I’m still out of balance.

So it’s easy for me to see what’s going on in my life as a microcosm of the rapidly degrading culture of the United States of America. Everything is “Extreme.” There is no balance.

The halls of Congress have become a 21st-century Coliseum; an arena which hosts spectacle after spectacle in the Clash of Ideological Titans. Not a moment’s thought is wasted on the efficacy of forming a “satisfying and harmonious whole.” It’s just two enemies hammering away at each other, neither willing to settle for anything less than all the marbles. Government? Legislation? Providing for the common good? Meaningless. It’s all about winning. Though I’m not sure either side has any idea what the prize is supposed to be.

And every two years, the hapless voting public, convinced by the puppet media that they have been duped, abused and led to the brink of disaster by whichever party has laid claim to a tenuous upper hand, mindlessly stampedes as far as it can cringe in the opposite direction. The scales tip way too far the other way, never pausing at anything approaching the middle. Balance loses out again. And, thus, so do we all.

Balance. How do you sell it? It’s not a sexy concept. It’s not excessive enough for today’s American consumer. In fact, it’s entirely the opposite. How do you sell calm, reason, harmony—these things for which our society is so desperate—in a world where “extremeness” has become everything?

I wish I had the answer. I’m having a hard enough time finding balance in my own life, surrounded as I am by a society constantly pushing toward too much. I can only hope that the world will tire of “extreme everything.” History proves that the pendulum will swing the other way. Slowly and steadily, I hope, as tough as it will be to wait it out. If only we could get that pendulum to stay in the middle once it gets there. Or at least restrain its tendency, of late, to swing about quite so wildly.

Cross-posted at "Women On..."


  1. I wonder if out politics is beginning to resemble the all or nothing theology of the religious right. You're either saved or you're not. You're damned or you're not. There's not middle ground. There's no seeing the Spirit of God that dwells in us all and in all Creation. Too many don't see God in each other, we see demons. Frankly, I think if I could go back in time and drown Augustine and Jerome at birth I would and take the consequences.

  2. Balance. I practice balance when I practice yoga. Some days I have a difficult time finding it and I wobble or fall...but if I focus, gently, on something, in front of me, then I can balance in the posture. Gentle focus on what is in front of me greats balance within. Not focus on others, not judging or comparing or criticsizing, or berating or convincing, but finding inner balance of self.

    I hope your process of finding balance restores you in profound ways of peace and contentment.