I’m more aware of the precarious nature of physical balance as I’ve gotten older. The need to be more mindful while climbing and descending stairs is more apparent. I have a pair of walking shoes that feature a very tall sole that are especially comfortable on those days when my neuropathy acts up. The disadvantage of the tall structure of the shoes also means more danger of twisting an ankle. Stairs and irregular surfaces are also more hazardous when wearing such shoes.
I got to thinking about balance yesterday while walking down the street wearing the tall sneakers. I pondered some of the ways society utilizes the word “balance”.
“My dad’s a beautiful man, but like a lot of Mexican men, or men in general, a lot of men have a problem with the balance of masculinity and femininity–intuition and compassion and tenderness–and get overboard with the macho thing. It took him a while to become more, I would say, conscious, evolved.”–-Carlos Santana
I’m one of those gay guys who effortlessly passes as straight. Most new acquaintances don’t know my true nature unless they ask or if they spend a lot of time around me or if they read my blog. There is a certain balance between femme and butch that has been present since my late teens. When I was younger, the feminine aspect was apparent to my peers. I was unaware of it to the point that I never understood why kids picked on me. Sometime around the age of 15, I had an epiphany and understood what was going on with my personality. I did what most teenage boys would do in such a situation–I built up a macho façade.
The false front began to work as intended. Instances of bullying decreased and I more easily fit in with classmates. However, not being able to be myself caused my grades to slip. Also, I felt less joy. At the time, fitting in seemed like it was worth the cost of some happiness. Later in life, keeping up the straight façade made it easier to find employment. The act also made it easier to remain in the closet.
Then I accidentally discovered balance. It happened after I was outed at one of my jobs. The boss said he had always suspected my true nature, but he didn’t mind. Aside from a couple of hostile outliers, the rest of the crew couldn’t have cared less. In effect, the boss implied that I had permission to be myself. This was a wise move on his part. In so far as I didn’t have to hide who I am, my morale increased exponentially. The upside for the company was that my performance and productivity improved because of this newfound balance.
Being able to strive for honest balance morphed into a fun, personal game. It was like going through a delayed stage of adolescence in my twenties, but happier. Exploring the fluidity of my personality liberated me from the prison of the façade. Life felt more in balance with reality. I no longer worried about “being found out”. The mind was freed up to help me sort through the other day to day situations everybody faces.
Part of striving towards balance is giving oneself permission to address all sides of our thoughts. There is a social taboo about expressing doubt and negativity. There is the implication that it is smart to repress those types of thoughts and attitudes. Actually, this is a recipe for continued unhappiness. It’s better to acknowledge those thoughts as valid; accept them; and then move on without obsessing over them.
There are times when repression of emotions, and feelings cause a quagmire of problems. That’s why there are licensed therapists and other certified mental health professionals. Today, there is less social stigma regarding mental health issues. This has allowed more folks to feel better about seeking professional assistance.
As we go about our daily lives, we are made aware of imbalances in many things that affect us. It often seems that we are living a balancing act to find the delicate balance between the freedom “to” and the freedom “from”. There is that struggle to balance our hearts and our heads. There is the parallel social need to balance our own individual façades with our true, inner natures.
When we discover that our lives have gotten out of balance, it’s good to give ourselves a little nudge to lean into another direction.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes one of his favorite film and entertainment producers, Mel Brooks. “A brush-stroke of vanity is good to add into the mix, to balance your timidity. We’re all blessed with a lot of timidity and a lot of worry and anxiety, and vanity is a good antidote.”