It is 3:30am on Christmas Eve in 2020 and I am wide awake. My brain is in overdrive – probably from lack of homework. It is freaking out that there is no immediate demand for reading, memorizing, connecting, and assimilating new information.
Pretty understandable, really. It has been on warp speed for the last 6-7 months as I barrel through my medical assisting school. When I signed up for school about this time last year, my plan had been to start in the fall, after my 30th high school reunion slated for July and my oldest son’s 21st birthday in August.
What I thought would be the most difficult part of my “the kids are finally all done with school” life has turned out to be the easiest. Online school platforms, endless Zoom meetings, learning to do phlebotomy, injections, throat cultures (ugh) and more – all with fogged up glasses no matter what trick I employ to avoid it - and ruthless hand hygiene until my cuticles have split in rebellion has been a relative piece of cake in a year that has brought me some of my toughest challenges ever.
Those of you who know me personally, know that is not something I say lightly.
This year brought massive challenges for us as a family and for each one of us as individuals. Events and situations that have broken us and yet made each of us stronger. Joyous highs and heavy lows. We have come through much of them stronger and more united than ever before, but not without scars. We have made some hard decisions and we have set, and held, some exceedingly difficult but necessary boundaries. We have walked away from some situations that broke our hearts but, we finally realized, were not our situations to fix.
And I am not even talking about the riots, the plague, or the election.
For me, personally, the biggest lesson has been the importance of balance. A friend of mine, YEARS ago, once said that living in the extremes is easier than living in the balance, but the balance part is where we need to be. (Yes, Steve Winger, I still remember our bible studies… those lessons are still teaching me. 😊)
Life – MEANINGFUL and IMPACTFUL life - is a lot more about AND than it is OR.
For instance, … I can be scared AND hopeful. I can be vulnerable AND protective. Joyful AND heartbroken. Nervous AND courageous. Angry AND polite. Hurt AND diplomatic. Firm AND compassionate. Honest AND kind. I can love someone AND not enable them or be in a regular relationship with them. I can plan AND live in the moment. I can vote AND not share every political view I hold on social media. I can even be friends with people who do not have the same views as I do. But I digress…
All of these “ands” take work. A lot of work. A lot of work inside my mind and my heart. Looking at my own motivations, being willing to confront my own thought patterns and challenge my way of thinking sometimes. Teaching myself to really listen, not just hear. Compromising on what I can compromise AND ALSO standing up for myself or what I believe in in a way that does not devalue or hurt another.
It is an art, this balance thing. An art that takes practice. Because balance needs to exist both inside and out, it takes training. Training to change thought patterns on the inside and training to change behavior patterns on the outside. It takes commitment, discipline, and perseverance. It also takes grace and forgiveness… because… balance. I haven't mastered it by any means, but I am making some decent progress.
I have had to be willing to fail. To be bad at things. To push hard and challenge myself AND forgive myself when I stumble. To admit when I have been wrong and forgive myself. To truly forgive others and yet be wise about how much access they have to my heart and time.
As the year has worn on and the challenges have risen exponentially… Black Lives Matter, COVID, natural disasters, the election, the endless mask/no mask and vaccine/no vaccine debates and the relentless negative vomit in the media, finding that balance within has become even more critical.
If I do not have that balance within, I will be shoved about and blown around by the gusts of crazy extremes around me. If I do not want to be lost in those storms, I know I need to take the time and do the work to keep that balance within me. Balance work is different for everyone – for me it includes prayer, meditation, creating, connecting, breathing. For others, it may involve running, building, cooking… (By the way, I would be happy to take any extra balance work spoils any of you balance cookers might need to spread around… ha ha ha)
I guess I am not really surprised now that I am up before the sun today… I have not had much opportunity to do my balance work these last few months. So, here I am, sipping my coffee and writing, regaining my internal balance as my brain temporarily unfetters from the minutiae of body systems, HIPAA rules, vital signs, needle sizes and Latin terminology.
May you find some balance today, too.