Eclipsed

I don’t have to tell you that everything in your life requires balance.

Your gym instructor could tell you that. Your waistline could tell you that. Your boss could tell you that. Your doctor could tell you that. Your sorority sisters/fraternity brothers? Well, not so much. (They’d rather party…all the time.) But for the most part, a lot of people are going to tell you “everything in moderation.” That seems to be the best piece of advice anyone can give.

But what does that mean? When you say balance, all I see in my head is a pair of scales. And I picture myself putting a salad in one and an ice cream sandwich in the other, and the whole thing tipping onto its side with the weight of the frozen treat.

I mean, really what does balance look like? And when do you know you’ve achieved it?

Well, I came up with a better metaphor than a pair of rusty scales. Think about balance like daylight and nighttime. For example, if you want to keep your work and social life balanced, focus on your work during the day time. When the sun is shining, that’s when you know that you have to be working. And then when night rolls around, you can play.

Now, remember that this is a metaphor. Just because you’re working at night doesn’t mean you should skip work the next day to even it all out. The point is that you are dedicating a specific amount of time to something with a set stopping point (the sun goes down, it comes back up).

The point is to not get eclipsed by something. That is, you shouldn’t allow the day time to be blocked out by the moving moon. Or, in other words, don’t get carried away by one thing in your life.

And really, that’s easier said than done. Because some things just call for our attention. Some things completely take over. Some things block us entirely from seeing what we need to see.

But if you at least attempt to separate your time equally enough, you may not be waiting to do the things you really want to do once every blue moon.

To Kill a Robin

I don’t exactly live in the wilderness, but I certainly don’t live in a concrete jungle. The most common creatures I see on a walk through my neighborhood are deer, songbirds, and the occasional Scottish terrier followed by the traditional senior, suburban citizen.

So, I wasn’t really surprised when walking with my mother recently to find a robin. What was rather intriguing was the fact that it was in the middle of a quiet road and that it let us get ridiculously close to it. Being the adventurers we are, we were thoroughly curious, but we knew that our proximity probably wasn’t a good sign. We knew something had to be wrong with it. Trying to inspect it, we didn’t see anything at first, but we weren’t convinced that it was a healthy omen of spring.

I should also mention at this point that in addition to being adventurers, we are also do-gooders. And we couldn’t let this poor robin sit in the middle of the road. Sure, it was a quiet street, but it was a street nonetheless. We had to figure out how to move the robin out of more danger’s way. It certainly wasn’t afraid of us, but it didn’t react to our incredibly convincing “shooing” gestures either. What could we do?

I finally decided that I would have to pick it up. But just shy of cupping him or her in my bare hands, I took off my shirt. (I had a shirt underneath, you dirty birds). I tried to swaddle him when he started to hop forward. When I went to attempt it again, he moved a couple more inches. By the time that I corralled him to the curb, without having to touch him, a car was patiently waiting for me to finish my half-hearted rescue mission. Time had run out, and this was all that we could do for the creature.

As we started to walk away, I heard my mother conclude that here was something wrong with its wing, so for better or worse, we had to leave it at the side of the road. Like a helicopter parent on the first day of kindergarten, we kept looking over our shoulder as we walked on. It didn’t comfort my nerves or my stomach that I saw plenty of hawks flying over my head as we trudged home, minds turned to the inevitable circle of life.

In addition to being  an adventurer and a do-gooder, I am apparently also a masochist. I returned the next day to the spot, with one eye squinting as if I had eaten something sour, not wanting to see what I thought I would see. No small robin carcass rotting in the sun, though. Once again, I was thoroughly surprised. But this time, I was also overjoyed. I started walking again, a spring in my step.

Until I realized that it could have been scooped up by a hungry, flying predator, with no evidence of a struggle to leave behind. (The reason for my masochism, of course). The thought made me cringe and lose any happiness I felt when I saw the absence of a small corpse.

But then, I slowly realized, as I kept walking, that my happiness was never hinged on whether the robin would survive. It was only about doing what I could to help it, however insignificant to the grand scheme of it all. And I knew that even though my second thought had been rather morbid, it was only my first expression of hope that truly mattered. It was only the fact that I had tried, even though it had been possibly in vain and what I hoped to be true.

Belief is all about what we can’t see. What you choose to believe is completely up to you, especially when there is very little evidence of a foregone conclusion. And so, you define your own happiness or your own sorrow in the very idea of what you believe in.

I didn’t want that robin to die, and I choose to believe that he or she didn’t. I could be wrong, and I could be right. But I can’t prove either. And isn’t that wonderful that it doesn’t matter at all?

Hold On, I Have to Pee

I’m so sorry about not posting yesterday, but when I have off from work, I take off from my entire life (including this blog).

However, I did go to the gym. And I realized something while I was there. No, I didn’t learn how painful it is to be twisted into a yoga pretzel. No, I didn’t learn how many drops of sweat could fall on a treadmill before it short-circuited. No, I didn’t learn whether people could actually see how long my leg hair was through my pants, especially since I forgot to shave.

I learned that it is really important to go to the bathroom before you start working out. I personally take a Zumba class, as I have noted before, and I learned that jumping, twisting, and twirling can take a toll on your muscles, as well as your bladder.

But this isn’t news. Anyone who has been to the gym directly after dinner can tell you that it is best to wait a bit before trying to burn off the calories.

Rather, it’s the crazy, metaphorical perspective that I gained from this ordinary experience that is really mind-blowing.

You see, after the fourth time I halfheartedly kicked my leg up in the air to dance along and try to escape the notice of the instructor while similarly hoping to quell the discomfort that was aching in my abdomen, I realized that I was purposefully holding myself back by not going to the bathroom.

And that, in a greater sense, is the same feeling that anyone might be having about his or her life. This urgency inside that simultaneously holds us back from what we want to be doing and yet pushes us forward toward something new so that we are stuck somewhere in between.

Real or not, most people view obstacles as excuses to not try as hard at something. Usually, we hold ourselves back because we are too scared or nervous for the future. So, we try to convince ourselves that we don’t deserve the opportunity that we might want or even that we are too good for it. We try to tell ourselves that we are right to get in our own way so that we won’t get hurt. For awhile last night, I didn’t mind that I had to pee because I didn’t have to work out as hard, and that, as anyone who exercises knows, was okay with me. It was an excuse that I maintained for myself that helped me in the moment, but also sabotaged my future (hopefully, fitter) self.

Because the truth is you’re only hurting yourself if you hold yourself back.

All you have to do (which is all I had to do, too) is release. I simply had to go to the bathroom to have full range of movement, if I had decided to do so. And since life is all about choices, you can apply to a new job, find a mate, or yes, even achieve your dreams if you simply choose to stop holding yourself back.

I agree that it can sometimes be painful, difficult, or downright uncomfortable to put your best foot forward, to invest your energy and effort into something. But it is even more so when you realize how much time you have wasted by not believing in yourself. Just like going to the bathroom, you are the only one standing (or sitting) in your way.