Joy Magazine

Teetering on the edge of balance

I used to see my life as this endless string of starts and stops that always seemed to cycle back to the same circumstances, emotions and, more often than not, the same type of crisis. I began to wonder whether the elusive balance I heard so much about was real or just a fictional, million-dollar invention of the self-help world.

My life seemed so heavy at times that waking up was exhausting.

Through my musings, I envisioned a teeter-totter, with my life depicted in one seat as a big bully. Opposite the bully was a scrawny me "teetering" in the air. Balance was the long bar between us.

As bullies tend to do, mine would slam his seat against the ground over and over, increasing the intensity at a steady rate, jarring my spine from top to bottom until I was sobbing, the discomfort in my head matched by a huge one at the other end. (The obvious fact that I have a few latent bully issues isn't the point here.)

So there I was, watching myself get jerked around by a huge pain in my "… teeter-totter seat when I realized the bully wasn't the problem. My perception was the problem.

I actually had two options. I could stay there until I lost my hold and shattered on the cement (or worse, survived to do it again), or I could quit playing. There's a well-known, often-overlooked rule in the bully world: If you stop playing, the bully no longer has control.

I decided to climb off. However, to do that, I had to let go of the safety handle while still in the seat and crawl onto the bar that separated us. It was a risk. It was scary. The bully began to bounce wildly up and down, at one point standing in an attempt to send me hurtling onto the cement below. Ironically, being on the bar meant I was closer to the center, which actually took away the bully's power.

"I don't want to live like this anymore," was a common refrain in my life. It never occurred to me while being jerked around that I didn't have to. I could choose not to fill the seat opposite me with the heavy, hurtful things (and people) that kept me perilously suspended in fear. In fairness, the bully was just doing what bullies do. Understanding that I am responsible for my own life and what I allow in it was both frightening and freeing at the same time.

I don't think teeter-totters were constructed so kids could sit still. The fun is in the movement. Neither was life created to be lived in a void. Balance isn't about the bar between us being perfectly level. Balance is about the movement between the ups and downs inherent in the journey of life.

Balance is what you choose to allow in the seat opposite of yours.

Joy reader Patti Nelson lives in Talent.

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