I was getting ready for a shower yesterday when the spirit overtook me. Without stopping to question the impulse, I grabbed a pair of scissors from the side table and, five minutes later, I had a new and fairly adorable hair cut.
I had a realization this week that when faced with a decision between (a) something that is good for me and (b) something that will make a good story, I always choose (b). I don’t know if that’s a helpful approach to life.
I had a dream a few nights ago that told me to move back to New York. Given that my dreams usually resemble an acid trip on mushrooms, I don’t generally give them much weight. But this one was fairly convincing.
My friend Clay wrote an article a few days ago called When Crazy Isn’t Crazy Anymore: Life Balance and Insanity. In it, he discusses the concept of ‘life balance’ and posits that ‘balance’ might not be about having a balanced day, but is instead about having a balanced life– a life that may be composed of many imbalanced days that, when taken together, add up to some kind of overall rhythm.
It got me thinking about the past year, which I have spent lamenting the supreme lack of balance in my life.
Last spring was spent in what had become (but had not always been) a mind-numbing, soul-sucking, 9-to-5 office job that involved too little mental stimulation and too much travel. I was unhealthy and bored, out of sync with my friends, and out of sync with my city. I felt lost and restless and was desperate for an escape. I learned that this is what I do not want.
Last summer was spent traveling alone, living out of a backpack, and learning so much about the world that I thought my head might explode. Every minute of every day was an adventure, an obstacle, and an opportunity. It was the most exhausting two months of my life. My days were spent mostly alone and entirely unscheduled and speaking to another human being in my native tongue became a cherished luxury. I took up smoking in Paris, I ate nothing but cheese in Eastern Europe, and I walked everywhere all the time. I learned that I have a hell of a lot to learn.
Last fall was spent working my ass off in law school, partying way too hard, and learning to navigate a city of over ten million people. I lived a life of decadent luxury in New York; my days were spent reading brain-cell-killing case briefs and my nights were spent drinking far too many high-priced martinis. I learned that I can not only survive in a buzzing metropolis, but that I can thrive there. I learned how to have fun again.
This winter was spent hip-deep in Wisconsin snow; writing, making music, and watching the seasons change inch by inch through my living room window. It was spent composting, practicing yoga, and learning how to be a functioning part of a community of farmers, artists, activists, musicians, and other freewheeling flower children. I learned how to get back in touch with myself, with my community, and with nature.
Each of these seasons felt something like a failure to me. My life felt extreme and imbalanced and I couldn’t see where all of this was leading. But looking back on the past year as a whole, I can see how it has cumulatively led to an incredible amount of growth. It’s taught me a lot about what I want and what I don’t.
And I wonder if I’m even capable of the kind of daily life balance that most of us seek. My life has been composed of oscillating extremes since I was a kid. As a child, my choices were confined within a smaller world, but I reinvented myself as much as I was able– constantly changing schools and picking up new hobbies (and dropping them just as quickly). But as an adult, my options are considerably broader and my decisions have further-reaching repercussions.
In my next venture (and one is certainly forthcoming), will I seek a life of balanced days– a sustainable “happily ever after” in which I can invest myself and ground myself? Or will I just flare up and burn out like a roman candle in another season of extremes?
Oh, who cares, right?
Categories: my life in words