Although I perceive the lengthening of nights speeding up around the equinox, the event itself doesn’t register with me at an emotional level as an event. I know it happens, but I don’t feel it in the way I do the solstices. As far as I know there’s not much evidence for it being celebrated historically, but it does balance the calendar nicely, so – why not?
The idea of balance is an interesting one. It can, on the surface, look like a restful, peaceful if not downright static sort of state. Physical balance like any kind of balance in life is often more about having all the tension pulling just so in different directions so that the thing in the middle stays still. Walking is the fine art of not quite falling over, in a controlled way. Muscular strength vies with gravity. One slip, and gravity wins. We talk about work-life balance and that’s not passive either, it’s an active kind of juggling.
Is balance a good thing? Is it inherently unsustainable, underpinned as it so often is by opposing forces? There is the continual potential for one of those forces to gain dominance and drag that stability off in a sudden new direction. A bit like a guy rope going and the whole tent falling over. Does balance lull us into a false sense of security, making us blind to the emotional guy ropes pulling hard on us, keeping us in place?
Looking back, I had exactly that kind of balance in my twenties. I think most of the time I was able to put on a decent public face as a consequence of it. Being stretched almost to breaking to point, pulled in many directions, I somehow managed not to fall over. To a degree I created that situation, using other demands on my time and energy to offset things that were unbearable in my life. Using one tension to distract from another. Creating an illusion of stability that meant no one on the outside questioned what was going on with me. I was just very busy, to a casual glance. But I was stable, so that was fine. Except it wasn’t.
This last year I’ve mostly lost my balance. I have entirely lost all illusions of circumstantial stability, and all ability to maintain the relentlessly good face in public. No more stiff upper lip for me, and that’s probably a good thing. From the outside I don’t look terribly in control, or balanced any more. Some of the pulls and pressures in my life took control, and now where there was something a bit like stasis, there is instead a wild, chaotic rush of movement. It’s a bit like surfing. There are days when I am on top of the waves, and days when the waves are on top of me, and despite what I’d imagined such chaos to be like, I haven’t actually drowned yet.
Coping, is all about balance. Holding some kind of stillness in the midst of the storm, staying afloat, or however you choose to articulate it. Coping is the fine art of balancing all the tensions so that you stay upright, and don’t tear apart. It’s the tent metaphor all over again. But living and coping are not the same thing. Truly living, engaging with the world, doing new things, permitting yourself to feel and express – none of this lends itself to that perfect, centred balance. In much the same way that walking is the fine art of not quite falling over.
For a while this was all just happening to me, but like a child learning to walk, I’m getting a bit more choice in the process now. How fast to go, and when to lie down, rather than having lying down happening because I’d not mastered the ‘not quite’ bit of not quite falling over. It’s very different when you choose it. And pushing the metaphor out a little further, it also means I get to choose when to run, and why.
The kind of balance I had, was soul destroying. It was wrecking me in a way that was almost completely invisible. On the whole, I like this staggering about not quite falling over stuff better. It feels good to be moving. I have lost my balance, and found my feet, found the possibility of walking, and living.