My room is filled with piles. A stack of workbooks here, several binders in a corner, folders filled with handouts and small posters… and a grading grid, half finished, next to my bed.
I’m spending this summer teaching Chinese to 7th and 8th graders. Two sections of some of the most vibrant and enthusiastic middle schoolers I’ve ever met, students who surprise and inspire me with their curiosity and passion. Students who surprise and inspire me in so many ways. This is my very first time teaching, so every turn brings something new and intriguing around the bend. It’s definitely been an interesting experience for me, trying to write engaging lesson plans and carry them out in spirit while still saving a bit of energy to hop in the pool with the students during athletics at the end of the day. It’s been really exciting and invigorating.
But at the same time, it’s like a juggling act. One item, the new, large item – the teaching commitment – demands most of my constant attention. Then there are the familiar items, of various size, that have always been around – getting together with friends, keeping my room organized, sleeping…
And then there’s yoga. I wish it weren’t the case, but I admit, on several occasions, I’ve let the yoga ball drop a few times. Sometimes it sits on the ground for days, while I run around trying to keep the other items in the air and prevent them from falling, breaking. And then, one day, coming home late after spending many, many hours drafting lesson plans, I realized that I missed my yoga. Dearly. And as I trudged up the stairs, I realized that I was tired. Exhausted, in fact. I wondered if I would be able to ever reach a balance where I don’t feel like all my life items are up in the air, a balance where I can hold on, tightly, to my commitments, breathe assured knowing they are safely within my grasp.
Balance. We hear about it in yoga class all the time. We balance in poses, 50-50, kicking and stretching simultaneous, equal. We balance “kill your self” and “total relaxation.” And beyond the yoga mat, beyond the studio, we balance commitments in life. Balance. the concept of balance in my mind was like a pound on a drum, reverberating long after the initial strike. Sitting at the top of my stairs that night, I realized…
Maybe it – life – is not all about finding that place of ideal balance. Maybe it’s about finding the lopsided proportions that work for YOU. Just look outside – mother nature is pretty brilliant, arranging items untampered, as they were meant to be. Look at the rocks on the beach. at the bottom of the river. in the edges of the parking lot gravel pile. Never do you ever see perfectly round spheres that are completely smooth on the outside. Instead, the rocks are all different shapes – some are oval; some are completely unequally weighted. But together, all together, they mesh and form one rock body. And they fit well. Because where there is an empty space formed by two rocks, another rock can fill it in with what it has. This is diversity.
This is acceptance.
For the past few years, I’ve tried to find that ideal “balance” that everyone seems to be talking about – between school, friends, yoga, all of these commitments. Everyone seems to be striving for it, for this place of equilibrium… but really, what is it?
And in desperately trying to mold my commitments to fit that balance that is idealized, have I been untrue to myself and who I really am?
Because, really, if everyone were totally “balanced,” we would all be like spherical rocks. We’d all roll perfectly well on our own, but together, there’s a lot of empty space. Dump a jar of marbles on the floor and they disperse, roll away. But dump a jar of river rocks, those imbalanced river rocks with no uniform center of gravity?
Those rocks stay put. Their friction holds them closer together. And in the end, they’re a pile of river rocks, together, not apart.
Maybe we could take a lesson from those river rocks, from mother nature. It’s impossible to define the ideal “balanced lifestyle” because everyone, EVERYONE is different, and we need those differences to form a cohesive unit. Perfection individually is no use if, when put all together, there is no stability and everything separates.
Maybe, just maybe, the whole idea of “balance” was pushed so strongly by people who never really found balance themselves. Balance of the purest, deepest, most internal kind. Balance of self, of acceptance, of loving who you are for who you truly, naturally are, every curve and dimple in that river rock.
Because those curves, those dimples, that uniqueness…
They carry the greatest significance.