Being in Balance

photo credit Elena Mozhvilo/Unsplash

Our language can deceive us. Take the English word balance, which can be a noun or a verb. You can own the kind of balance pictured above because it is an object. You can’t “possess” the kind of balance pictured below, as it is a moment by moment flow.

photo credit Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

You can be in balance, but you can’t own it. And this distinction is often lost, partly due to our current culture that believes what we have bought and stored in our home is ours. We are a society of consumers and owners. We don’t do quite as well with being states. And while objects inevitably decay, a state of being can be returned to time and time again.

Being in balance, any skilled surfer will confirm, demands being in the present moment. It requires assessing the current conditions and making adjustments, large and small in response to them.

You can’t do this when your attention is focused on that hurtful thing that was said to you in fourth grade or when it is trolling forward imagining the offenses possible at the next family gathering.

It is difficult to find this kind of balance when you are overwhelmed by your to-do list, your work situation or family circumstances.

The place to find it is in a space of both effort and stillness.

Take a moment to stand up (if that is available to you) and center yourself, imagining both your feet grounding deep into the earth. Then gradually shift your weight into your left foot until you can easily lift your right foot barely off the ground. Your arms are at your side, initially. Now notice your left foot and ankle. They are in constant adjustment to keep you in balance. If you haven’t done this exercise in awhile, you will notice that every little thing throws you off: your thoughts, moving your eyes, unexpected sound. But the more you practice it, the more skilled and resilient you become. Eventually, you can stand on one foot with your eyes closed and move all the other parts of your body and even entertain distressing thoughts without falling over.

To create this same kind of equilibrium in life requires you to create gaps and to pay attention. You don’t learn balance careening down the advanced skier slope, you learn it on a very slight incline. Likewise, if you are so busy with activities that you have no time for reflection, you don’t have anyway to assess if what you are doing is in line with your values.

There was a time in my life when I was working 65 hours per week and raising three teenagers. This is kind of the equivalent of standing on one leg, holding a chair by one of its legs with one hand and a wiggling toddler with the other. There were few moments of balance. The only gaps in my life at that time were when I was waiting in line at the grocery store or when someone put me on hold on the phone. Also, a couple times when I locked myself out of my car and I had to wait for someone to bring me the spare key. I realized how unhealthy my busyness had become and I leveraged these moments to figure out a way to give myself twenty minutes of quiet time at 5 am. That morphed into designing a work schedule that benefited my employer and co-workers and reduced my hours to 45 per week. A million more adjustments, large and small, and I am in balance most days now. I still get thrown off. But I don’t shame myself about it. I get still and centered and try again.

How about you? Where can you find a couple of gaps to begin to practice being present and test your balance.

The Magic of Enough

I find these stones beautiful. I took this photo on a trip to Ireland, to visit one of my kids.

Rocks? Enough? Hmmmm.

Abundance! Who does not want abundance? More than enough! Your cup flowing over. You can feel it. Never being in need. Having more than enough to share. The ability to just relax, because all your needs are met. And will be met.

Do you know what that looks like? I mean, could you describe the exact moment that you know you do not have to stockpile for the next social upheaval and can share with your neighbors? Or someone on the other side of the world?

Do you ever wonder if Bill and Melinda Gates ever said to each other after the lights were out, “We can’t possibility spend all this money in our lifetimes. Even if we buy 20 gold-plated private jets. What should we do with it?”

Or what was the tipping point for Andrew Carnegie? Born a poor weaver’s son in Scotland, he became an American industrialist, one of the richest men in the 20th century United States. He then proceeded to give away the largest portion of his fortune to fund 3 thousand public libraries and other cultural endeavors.

Or for Dolly Parton, who seems to almost solely support the economy of eastern Tennessee?

I do not know what their tipping points were. But I can teach you to find your own personal tipping point. And for most of us it does not require billions of dollars. Are you curious?

What is enough?

The first description of enough that rang true to me was in the book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Joe describes being really, really, hungry and going out for hamburger. For political correctness (because this is NOT the place we want to lose readers…) you and I are going out for a bowl of mac and cheese…. or maybe vegan lasagna……or maybe raw carrot juice. Please work with me here. Whatever your favorite food may be….you have not eaten for a bit and your animal body is hungry.

There is the scenario. You are hungry. Your favorite food is now available. You eat the delicious burger, or mac and cheese, or vegan lasagna or carrot juice. Whatever delicious thing you eat, your taste buds are jazzed! Your belly is content! It was soooo good! And here you are, still at the restaurant. The company is good, and you are not in a hurry, so you decide to order another of that delicious thing. And you eat the next one, the whole thing. The first was so yummy!  But you are kinda full. So it is not as delicious as the first one was. But it was still pretty good. So, you order another one. And eat that one too. And now you are nauseous, sick to your stomach.

So where is “Not Enough?” It is when you are hungry. And where is “Too Much?”  It is when you are throwing up. You can’t take it all in.

And where is “Enough?” It is somewhere in between.

And here is the key: enough is different in each person and each situation. How many saris does each of Mother Theresa’s nuns need? According to a 1990’s documentary- three: one to wear, one to wash and one to mend.

Let’s consider the generous Dolly Parton, how many saris does she need? Zero. How many sparkly, sequined, full-length gowns does she need? Probably in the hundreds. How many sparkly, sequined gowns to I need? Zero. Where would I wear it? To the library? To the grocery store? To the Social Security Office?

We begin to see that “Enough” varies from person to person and varies for the same person over the course of a lifetime. It pertains to how much food we eat, how much and what kind of clothing we maintain, how many social groups we interact with and just about every aspect of our lives.

Discovering your own personal “Enough” is a kind of meditation on quality of life. You discover your closet is full of clothes that you don’t wear–that is information about what is enough clothing for you. You notice that you feel energized going for a walk with your friend in the morning and are unspeakably lethargic making a dish for an evening potluck gathering at same friend’s home. Hmmmm. That’s interesting.

And here is where the magic occurs: Once you know your “Enough,” just one unit more is abundance. And two units more begins to feel like too much. Like clutter. Like a burden.

You love horses? You have a 200 acre farm? How many horses can you ride in a day? Are they all rescues, that don’t need to be exercised? Are you creating a therapy program with the working horses? How many volunteers can you supervise? Exactly how many horses and how many volunteers is too many?

I raised four children, just the right amount for me. Because I did it on a nurse’s salary and wanted them all to go to university (if they desired it), I had to be very, very efficient in how I allocated our resources. We did not go out to eat, except maybe for Mother’s Day. We lived in a modest home. Everybody had a week’s worth of clothes, until they stopped growing. Then the clothes stockpiled a bit. Ha! Abundance!

We have navigated “too many activities” and “too many Christmas celebrations” and “not enough money for the college I want to go to” and “how many cars does one household need?” And what is the most facile and economical way to have 3 meals a day for 4-5 people, every single day?

I know that your personal “Enough” will be mitigated by your culture, and your family, and the length of the cycles of plenty and scarcity that occur in your region.  If you have walked on foot out of a war-torn region, I dare-say, material “Enough” is what you carry on your person. And personal safety “Enough” is something that you will describe to me.

But I am confident in this–want to have abundance? Find your “Enough” first. Abundance is in the close shadow of “Enough.”

Organizing The Extra Closet

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For the past year I have been storing the “sprucing up the apartment” materials in this closet.

My son’s bedroom has two closets and he uses only one of them. This closet has become the place where I store the “bed in a box” and painting supplies and just random stuff I had not yet found a home for.

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Here is the other side.

The pool noodles and the lawn chairs (which we use for outdoor music concerts) may not get used this summer, but eventually we will be able to gather again. We will save them for that time.

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I sorted what is going to stay and what is going to go.

The stuff that I will donate to Habitat for Humanity and a charity shop have to go back in the closet for now. But at least it is organized.

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The wire hangers will go back to the dry cleaners when they open.

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The orange box is a memory box for my son’s stuff. The middle box holds a few of my books for sale. The blue bins hold supplies for making fabric masks and some home repair items like Goo Gone and paint brushes.

And here are a couple of bonus photos from our walk in the park this week.

 

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Redbud trees in bloom throughout the park are a native species.

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Tulips in front of Art Hill.

Be well, beloved readers.

Floor Reflections

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The floor section that I made shiny this weekend.

Like most of you, I am sheltering in place, at home to reduce the rapid spread of the CONOVID 19 virus.

This gives me lots of time to work on home projects and restoring the floor is a meditative, time-consuming process. It gives me lots of time to reflect on things (other than how great the floor is going to look.)

One of the thoughts that I keep returning to is “How did I get here?” I retired at age 58 from a job that I had loved for decades until I felt overextended and burnt out. I’ve been a caregiver since I was 11 years old. I still am. When did it stop being a purpose and become a burden? I can’t identify the day that happened, but I can identify the decade that it did. It has taken me 2 years of active self-care to get to a point of feeling well enough to start a new project.

Next thought, “Where do I want to go from here?” And I am just beginning to feel my way into the answer.

So while I am sheltering at home, I will continue to clean and lean into what comes.

Weird Place

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A spring scene at my mom’s house from last year.

Beloved readers,

I have not forgotten you. You find me in strange circumstances. Recently, we have had the confluence of two unusual events: my phone photo/video storage reached it’s capacity and then while I was working on that issue, my 88 year old mom fell and broke her knee.

So I have been hanging out at mom’s house to help her out. But she doesn’t have internet. (I know!!!) So blog responsibilities took a back seat to real life responsibilities. But I believe I can move forward in this way: I need to delete a bunch of photos that I am not likely to keep, but I think are beautiful, nonetheless. So I will share them with you all and then delete them from my phone, to make space for more photographs to share with you all! Sound okay?

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Lake Mendota outside my daughter’s apartment in 2018.

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A rainbow outside my bedroom window on 7/4/2019.

 

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One of the eastern facing windows from the St. Louis Friend’s Meeting House (the Quakers.) This building is in the middle of the city, mind you. I love worshiping here.

So the minimalist in me does not feel obligated to save these photos for eternity, though I did enjoy them for a moment or two.

Hopefully, I will have worked out the bugs in the system and mom will be upright on her own two knees soon.

Thanks for your patience.

Fawn

Clean Threshold

Beloved Readers-

I realized this is the second kind of lame post in a row. The bathroom tile/grouting project is time consuming and I can really only work on it when my son is visiting at his dad’s because there is no second bathroom to use while work is underway.

In the meantime, I amuse myself with small projects I can knock off in an hour our two. Here is one from this past week.

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Here is the threshold to our apartment with decades of grime in the crevasses.

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And here it is a couple hours later.

All that took was a bit of vinegar, a toothbrush and some elbow grease.

And it makes me happy every time I cross the threshold.

PS. I did not get the house that I made the offer on, so back to the property search.

Vacation Manifestations

I’m taking a brief vacation in Wisconsin to visit my daughter. We are doing typical vacation things: a visit to the art museum, renting a canoe and paddling around Lake Yahara, buying fruit, pastries and gifts at the local farmers’ market.

Yesterday, there were two manifestations from the vision board:

Staring at me from a greeting card in the art museum gift shop-the bunny in the center of my vision board.

The second manifestation was on Lake Yahara. It was a reflection of light and clouds on the waves. You will just have to trust me on this one as I did not take my camera on the boat.

Fun!!