I went for an actual run on the road yesterday. After my self-imposed two-week running hiatus, I cannot begin to tell you how good it felt to run outside in the sunshine and brisk, December air, rather than staring at a monitor on the elliptical machine. My steps were a little bit tentative at first, testing out my hip to see how it would hold up.
I consulted a running guru several weeks ago to see what I could learn from her. My friend, one of the most accomplished runners I know, and several years older than me, told me to work on strengthening my ankles and calves.
My problem is in my hip, I protested. “I know“, she said. That ended the conversation. When this woman talks, I listen, so I have been working on strengthening my ankles and calves. She was right. As I aged, my gait developed into more of a shuffle than a stride. I wasn’t rolling my foot, pushing off with my toes. I was running flat-footed. My hip suffered as a result.
After my run, as I sat in the locker room preparing for my shower, I was so thankful and relieved, I almost cried. No pain in my hip as I ran and no pain today. It pays to listen.
I wrote a post several months ago about a new practice I began. Every morning I sit quietly for 10 minutes and listen with an open heart and open mind. I don’t know what I am listening for, but still, I listen.
In all the months of practice, I had not heard anything earth-shattering, just my own breathing. The 10 minutes of peace and quiet, where I silence my ever-present internal narrator, has been its own reward.
Last week, I made a plea before I meditated, “Give me something to focus on for the coming year, something to think about, something to work on, a word, a phrase, something.” I must have sounded desperate because my plea was answered, but not in the way I expected.
I was expecting to hear something, instead, an image popped into my mind. Yes, that image. It was a plank of wood teetering on the tip of a triangle. “What in the world…?” I thought, but within seconds I answered my own question. It was a one-word answer: “Balance“.
“Balance” is my word, my topic, my focus. To say that I was underwhelmed is not an exaggeration. I was hoping for something exciting and sexy, like “Grit” or “Fortitude” or even “Exuberance“.
“Balance” reminded me of that cereal that looks and tastes like sawdust. You eat it because it’s good for you. “Balance” is cottage cheese, turnips, plain white bread, boring.
I was never very good at balance. I am subject to wild flights of fancy, either feverishly enthusiastic about a project or not interested at all. Hot or cold.
In yoga, my friend will not place her mat next to mine if we take a class together. When the instructor calls balance poses such as tree pose or dancer pose, I constantly wiggle, wobble, and eventually tip to one side or the other. I am a contagious distraction when it comes to balance.
Why, I wondered, would I be asked to focus on a topic in which I am so obviously lacking proficiency? Then I got it…why would I work on something at which I am already competent? Balance is a challenge.
The more I thought about it, the more passion I developed for the topic of balance. Life is full of many push-pull dilemmas. Even something as simple as maintaining a healthy weight involves balance – the calories you take in must equal the calories you expend, or your weight is out of balance.
Finding a balance between professional and family life is important. Many families have fallen apart because one or both spouses could not find that balance. We want to do a thorough job, without becoming consumed with our career. This middle ground was difficult for me to find when I taught. I often worked 60 or 70 hour weeks, putting stress not only on myself but my family too.
When we give love, we must discover balance between obsession and indifference. When our children are young, they depend on us for everything – food, shelter, safety, transportation, entertainment. As they get older, they need us less, and we must learn how to let go. When we hold on too tightly, our relationships are out of balance.
The same principle holds true for romantic love. We must give our loved ones room to breathe. Not every second can be spent together, looking into each others’ eyes and proclaiming our love for one another, but too many relationships have succumbed to apathy. We must let our loved ones know just how valued they are.
Finally, we must seek balance in how we practice our faith. Many of us look to faith as the source of our values. It gives our lives meaning and purpose. We look forward to “a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells“, but right now, we live on this imperfect earth. It is our responsibility to bring God’s light to this world.
We are called to treat our fellow humans with dignity, compassion, respect, and kindness. It is our holy obligation to protect and defend the most vulnerable members of society. We must be good stewards of our earth and all its denizens. We must practice balance.
So…balance. It is my focus for the coming year. I still don’t think that it will be an easy undertaking, especially with my hip on the mend as it seems to be. Balance in my running life may be overcome by exhilaration.
Balance is, however, sounding just a little bit sexier.
I am linking up with Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Fairytales and Fitness for Friday 5, Susan B Mead for Dancing With Jesus, Spiritual Sundays for Welcome, Embracing the Unexpected for Grace and Truth, and The Blended Blog for Friday Loves,.