My high school baseball coach used to tell us “Balance is the key to life!” At the time we didn’t think much of it because he was surely instructing us on how to finish our swings, or square for a bunt, or position ourselves for a ground ball. Without balance, those things were going to fail. We were going to be out in front of a curveball, or pop up a bunt, or Buckner an easy play.
I suppose he was coaching us for life in those moments, as well, but when you’re 16 you don’t think about stuff like that. You think about girls, sports, girls, girls, parties, and girls. You don’t get deep with things like “balance is the key to life,” because it’s not the key to life at that age. It’s the key to baseball success.
Little did we know at that time that he may have been giving us the passport to happiness. Everybody wants to be happy, save for the occasional grumpy cat, but we don’t have much control over what makes us happy. We can’t just call it up any time we want and sustain that feeling, no matter how much we practice. At some point our happiness will fade. At some point our balance will be thrown off. We all want a satisfactory level of homeostasis (triple word score!) and that is when we can smile and feel at peace.
I’m not implying we can control the balance in our lives, either, but I think we have a greater influence over how smooth our lives can run day to day. I have friends whose calendars are full with soccer practice and drinks at Bill’s house and a doctor appointment at 4:45 on Thursday. Their lives are regimented and they’ll say that that’s the only way they can stay organized and accomplish everything they need to. I’m not arguing against that, but a hiccup throws it all off-kilter. There’s no room for something to go wrong.
On the other side of the spectrum are those people whose lives are taken as they come, which is essentially how I live. I live reactively and not proactively, and I use the feeling of being overwhelmed to justify it. I’ll deal with things when they get too big and not a moment before. I’ll run the dishwasher when the boys complain that there are no cups. I’ll vacuum when the dog hair starts to form into another mutt. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal way to live, because while I tend to have a fair amount of time for myself, I also tend to find myself lonely in a crowd, because I’ve not made plans, I’ve just hoped they would happen.
So what’s the answer? This is where I cop out on my post title. I’m not saying that balance isn’t what will bring happiness, but I am saying that I don’t know how to achieve it. It’s different for everyone. Balance will mean sometimes saying no to your kids so that sometimes you can say yes to your friends. It will mean losing some sleep so you can watch Game of Thrones. It will mean staying sober so you can enjoy the play the next morning.
We need to own our decisions. We need to call our choices good no matter how they turn out and not regret what we may miss because of it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because something has changed the way my mind has been working lately. I think I know what it may be, but I could be wrong, and I’m not going to share my theory on that. But things are different and unclear, and I feel almost carefree. Not carefree in a shitty, selfish way, but carefree in that the relatively minor issues that dominate my mind are easier to sweep off the plate. You could say that’s progress and I’m moving on, but I’m in a fog and insensitive to some of my actions. I’ll get my money’s worth in therapy tomorrow and hopefully start to understand it, but I think it’s all going to boil down to balance.
Give the little things the attention they deserve. Focus on myself and face my fears, especially as they relate to new things in life. Accept that which I cannot change, be there for my friends, and all the while relax and find the balance that brings me happiness. Everybody around me will be happier for it. And we heal.