Balance and the Pendulum Rhythm

Feb 13 2012

I get the question a lot, and I understand why. I really do. God knows, I’ve probably asked busy moms how they do it, too.

How do you find balance?

How do you balance your family and your job?

How do you balance your kids and your husband?

How do you balance cleaning the toilet and finding time to write?

How do you make room for God and for personal hygiene?

You guys, I’m not here to lie to you. And I want to personally apologize if you’re someone who’s asked me a balance question, because I undoubtedly laughed in your face. And I feel like it’s really important to let you know, I wasn’t laughing at YOU, I was laughing at BALANCE.

Because, of course, I don’t know Balance. I haven’t met Balance. And every time I think I sense her in my vicinity, sniffing around the periphery of, say, an organized room or an updated calendar or a load of laundry I actually managed to put away, Balance seems to find a way to fade back into the mist.

It appears that Balance is my mythical creature. She’s like a unicorn. As much as I’d like to meet her (and try desperately to believe in her), I suspect she’s skittish and nervous and that I move too fast. I scare her away as I bumble through the forest, breaking sticks under my feet and trying to coax her to me by shouting, “BALANCE! Where ARE YOU? I NEEEED YOU!”

My life is out of balance, and that’s the truth. And the only question up there at the top of this post that’s easy for me to answer is the one about the toilet. How do you balance cleaning the toilet and finding time to write? You guys, I don’t clean my toilet. That just doesn’t happen at my house so you might want to go potty before you come over because it’s not a pretty or probably even a mildly sanitary experience around here. (Thank you, toilet, for sacrificing yourself. You are The Giving Tree.)

But here’s the thing about balance.

I’ve been wondering for quite some time if I’m chasing the wrong unicorn in life’s forest and if balance maybe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

See, I see balance like this:

 

A set of loose scales and a precarious, fragile pin on which they’re perched.

And here’s the problem. If I use scales to measure my life, I have to weigh the pieces against each other, and I’m forever choosing sides. I spend time with my kids at the cost of time with my husband. I sweep my floor at the cost of writing a letter to a friend. The merest breath can cause the scales to shiver, not to mention the mini-hurricanes that are my children, and I live in fear of the see-saw, that I will either rocket off the top on a trajectory I can’t sustain or thud to the bottom when it all falls off the other end. No matter what I do with a balance system, I’m left feeling like a thief, stealing the pieces back and forth and always coming up wanting.

Have you ever watched a baby learn to walk? The stumbling, joyful, crazy mess of imperfectly learning to do something magical like lift oneself off the floor? We use babies as a metaphor for failing and falling and persistently trying again, and I like that metaphor because I think it’s true. But another truth is this: babies don’t spend their learning-to-walk time just failing and falling and trying again. Babies spend their learning-to-walk time finding their center. All of that flailing serves a purpose. Because when the baby finds his center, he finds his gravity — the thing that secures him firmly to the earth and allows him to make forward movement, swinging his body like a pendulum, always out of balance, and always coming back to the center.

 

I think about my life thirteen years ago as a new mama. And then my life nine years ago as a new mama again. And then my life five years ago as a new mama again.

Every time I became a mother, I was thrown off balance. And every time, I was embarrassed by my awkward attempts to woo a balance unicorn that may or may not exist. I longed to be like other mothers, nuzzling and petting their balance contentedly.

What I didn’t realize is that motherhood throws most of us off balance. Of course it does! When we become moms, our center of gravity shifts by an entire human being.

These days, I’m not interested in the scales. Instead, I’m trying to find my pendulum rhythm.

See, the pendulum rhythm is as loud as it is dependable. And it’s meant to move.

Rhythm reverberates through my heart. Its click-click beat chats up my soul. It teaches me how to dance with the pulse of life. And, if I listen closely, it whispers gentle reminders that its pace will slow over time to give me rest before I put it in motion again.

Rhythm doesn’t require me to hold my breath and or stay still as a statue to find my center. No. A pendulum rhythm – including the wild swings outward – still moves me ever closer to the middle, which is where all of my important things are found. My people, my God, my words – they’re all poised there, right at the center. My gravity.

These days, I see balance the same way I see the Loch Ness Monster. Gosh, it’ll be SO AWESOME someday if I find out that it’s real!

Until then, though, I’m living my life by the pendulum rhythm. Wildly swinging back and forth and always coming home to center.

……….

scales image courtesy of Kittisak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
pendulum image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net