I often remind my students that balance isn’t static. Many of us (myself included) would like to imagine that balance is a goal, an endgame, and that—whether standing on one leg, on our hands, on our toes, or even simply with both feet flat—if we work hard enough, we’ll at some point reach some magic moment of equilibrium, and never have to work at balance again.
Of course the reality is that balance is more like reaching for some point on the horizon. We can focus on that point, while we continue to ground, to expand, to adjust… One day we feel pretty steady and then the next, well, we can feel like a real mess again. We may know that we are capable of being strong, steady beings, and yet on any given day, our minds wander, our legs wobble, and we lose compassion for ourselves as we begin to cling and accost ourselves for not being what we think is our “best.”
As I get older, and my body inevitably weaker, I acknowledge this internal narrative. I recognize how being able to step out of myself and observe may help me release a little bit of unconstructive anger or aggression. But I still feel what I feel, and sometimes the frustration, the disappointment, and even occasionally fear take hold, and I still let myself chase those emotions.
This happened for me in a big way last week in ballet class. I still go to ballet classes several days a week simply because it’s always been part of who I am and what makes me whole. I get depressed when I can’t go (even when I am otherwise off having a lot of fun!), and part of my efforts to maintain life Balance includes making time in my busy schedule of work, teaching, and travel, to make sure I have my ballet. Like many dancers, that means I go to class and try to do my best even when something hurts, which is pretty much always…
So last week, I felt a little twinge – something new, a calf muscle starting to pull. And as I kept coming back to class for Balance during a stressful week at work, a little voice told me to be careful. But I wanted, needed to dance, to feel whole. Not surprisingly, but quite suddenly, three classes later that twinge exploded into something more. I was afraid even to try to walk, and knew immediately that ballet class, as well as a more active yoga practice, are simply off the table for me for a few weeks. Even though my calf hurt, I found myself crying because it’s hard to know who I am without these things that I believe are so important to my Balance.
So important that I sometimes cling and fight and forget about making other parts of my life equally whole. And here it is, a lesson from the universe, a reminder not only that I need to give enough to my work to be able to love that a little as well (or at least like it, because I am indeed blessed to be working in a very interesting and rewarding field), but also that I need to give myself some opportunity to rest.
I am allowed to be a little teary that, between this injury and upcoming travel, I may be missing out on some of the favorite parts of my routine for the next month, or even longer. But something was out of balance, without my even knowing it, and perhaps I needed this reminder—needed to have no choice but to slow down, rest, give more attention to other things that bring me joy. I’ll be back in class when it’s time, but for now this is where I get to wobble and ground and expand and focus on today’s horizon.