KC Voices: Delicate (mental) balancing acts for a new year
We’ve been asking members of the KC community to submit stories about life under quarantine, protests, politics, and other subjects that require discussion. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. Today, local therapist Dawna Daigneault shares with us some thoughts on balancing your life in a period with no stability.
Think of a road. It stretches out before you into the horizon. It has perceptible ups and downs as part of the course, but it also has imperceptible bumps and ruts. In one direction is your future, and in the other direction is your past. When you look at the work this road requires, easy doesn’t come to mind.
Regarded as one of the greatest writers, Leo Tolstoy said, “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town.”
When we think of life as a journey, we can get caught up in how far we have to go, how difficult the path is, and how unprepared we feel. We know taking a trip requires work.
If you turn around and look back at the road you have traveled, you may feel proud of the journey and take the experiences as lessons for how to keep traveling, or you may feel resentment, irritation, or remorse as you remember the challenges that threw you off balance.
The past and future orientations can be helpful as points of view to consider, but both can become devastating preoccupations that create fear and anxiety or regret and despair. When you imagine either past or future, you can feel immobilized by the feelings that accompany your mindset.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” -Lao Tzu
What if being at peace in life requires a new perspective on balancing our daily steps?
If we are lucky, we get to take the journey of a thousand miles and make some of the steps enjoyable. There is a way to work and play, journey and dance, daily. Points of balance can be discovered along the way, between the edges of the road as we travel.
British writer Alan Watts said, “…the point of life is simply to live, just like dancing. The point of dancing is not to get somewhere or finish the dance. The point of dancing is to dance. Life is a dance.” He may haunt my dreams for housing his idea within a journey metaphor, but I love the two ideas together and will take the chance.
Just being in the moment is a good choice towards getting rebalanced, but it is just one of many balance points. It may be the best point to regain a peaceful mindset but it is a pause. We are made to move and rest, run and sit, stop, and go on our journey.
Dancing is play and work. Think about how you plan your steps between two opposite points on the road. Those boundaries keep you moving down the road by zigging and zagging through your day. You may think you don’t want to zig or zag but you already do, so why not do it better–with more points of balance?
Let’s borrow from Watts, the idea of dancing, couple it with Tolstoy’s journey and this notion from 1922, “But we stupid mortals, or most of us, are always in haste to reach somewhere else, forgetting that the zest is in the journey and not the destination.” -Ralph D. Paine, Roads of Adventure.
Using these ideas together, we can construct a journey made of a road stretching from sunrise to sunset upon which we dance daily. You get to decide which dance steps are best for you, fun, fast, bouncing, swooping, or slower, measured, precise, and careful. You can change from fast steps to slower steps when a change makes sense.
Each day you wake up and decide if the first steps in your dance bring joyful delight, misery, or calm attention to that moment. Throughout the day, there are thousands of steps available to us. You can choose where they will take you and how you let the moves affect you.
Somewhere between structure and freedom, we sway, twirl, and tread. More structure is needed Monday through Friday, at least for me. I enjoy moments of freedom on workdays, like I wake up early enough to take time to drink my morning coffee. That hour of freedom is for enjoying a simple pleasure, and it’s worth the added structure of setting my alarm earlier.
On weekends, I enjoy more freedom but not without enough scaffolding to structure my day. I often don’t set my alarm because getting to wake up whenever I do feels luxurious. I do still brush my teeth, wear clothes like athleisure, and eat a meal before noon.
My dance steps move me back and forth between the sides of the road. Between the points of Structure and Freedom based on the goals, I have set for my life journey. I have created dance moves I often repeat because they make me more efficient but sometimes, I like to throw in a rogue move just to experience a new rhythm.
I sway, step, or march from one momentary point to the next. Many different points of balance are located all over the road between the border points of structure and freedom. There has never been just one point of balance that we get to and stay on.
We are made to move, to explore the day and our ability to move around in it. You create the balance points that make dancing through life work for you. Your style depends on how much structure you need to succeed and how much freedom you allow yourself to enjoy.
Our movement patterns help balance our day between becoming and being. Eagerness to become more than we are now gets attached to a desired goal that will need structure to achieve. A lack of structure sits us down on the road confused by the absence of a needed pattern but the lack of freedom can cause the sense of being trapped in that same pattern.
Freedom to be (just be you) is a happy change of pace from the work of becoming but only because working at living is a priority. The balancing act is the right steps for you, to get you where you want to go and like yourself while you are taking your next steps.
“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Learn more about life balance or find a counselor to talk to about feeling off-balance at the fully redesigned self-worth website, www.ribbonofworth.com.