Monday, March 5, 2012

The inconceivability of balance

As a kid I loved to try to balance stuff on my head. I would put a book atop my cranium and walk across the room, pretending I was a princess in cotillion lessons. Sometimes I'd be particularly adventurous and try something that wasn't flat. Maybe an apple or a toy. It was a weird fascination.

Now I don't as often try to balance books atop my head as I try to balance them in my mind. I study coursework, read for fun (rarely now) and consume news (also rarely now). Everything has become internal whereas it used to be external.

And it's strange how the intellectual labor feels so much harder than the playful physical labor.

When I'm sitting in classes, half of my mind is always somewhere else. Whether or not I have my laptop in front of me, I'm inevitably considering the various other things that I have to worry about on that particular day. When is that paper due? Did I do the right readings? Do I have an article to write tonight? What's for dinner? Is that kid staring at me? Why are my doodles so ugly?

Even the inconsequential takes the front seat to the demoted present concerns. I'll be in the middle of a fairly important lecture and instead be focused on something I saw on Facebook earlier that day. It's nonsensical what takes precedence in my mind.

And it makes me think back on how I balanced things when I was a kid.

Was I the same discombobulated nerd who was considering whether she wanted ravioli or a sandwich for lunch? Or was I more focused on the task at hand, concerned only with the book atop my skull?

I'd guess the latter.

Nowadays even when there is something pressing that I have to consider, I still find myself extending my mind in so many different directions that the most important factor takes the backseat to minutia. I'm sitting here right now thinking about how desperately I need to study for an exam tomorrow - my final exam of the quarter (all I have after this are a few papers) - yet in the same instant that I thought "Wow, maybe I should look over the scientific names of the medicinal plants again," I was also thinking "I haven't written a blog yet" and "I wonder what so-and-so is up to" and "What's for dinner tomorrow?"

Why is dinner always a consideration?

Regardless, it reminds me of one of the major factors on a very long list of reasons why I was so much more functional when I was younger. Aside from the fact that I was virtually carefree, a momma's and a daddy's girl simultaneously and a friendly, upbeat and dorky little kid, I was also focused.

When I took tests in kindergarten (yes, I had tests in kindergarten - private school, pfft), I was only thinking about the answers. Alternatively, when I was on the swings or playing on the jungle gym, I was thinking about playing, about friends, about why Halls cough drops tasted like candy (note: I had a friend who would bring them to school and eat them to her heart's content, I soon learned that this candy was not so tasty after all and it stunk up the classroom).

We think when we're in high school or college or even middle school that we're absolutely mature and terrific at segmenting our lives into social, academic and personal sectors. Other than the select few who complain that they just don't have time for one of those things (usually it's social or academic and it's rare that anyone who says this is actually being honest with themselves), we all seem to be under this delusion that we're doing a wonderful job at keeping the portions of our lives well-considered and well-cared for.

But the truth is, all of these segments now overlap for me. I'm no longer able to compartmentalize my school and my playtime into different groups. Because while I'm doing one I'm always thinking about the other. It ends up taking away from all of them.

It makes me long for those years when the only thing I had to think about was the book that was on my head.

I wasn't considering the contents of the book. It could have been anything from Harry Potter to a Biology textbook and it would not have bothered me either way. All there was was the concept of walking across the room, the physical act of doing something and being entertained by it.

Sometimes I still try to balance things on my head. I'll be carrying a newspaper or a library tome or even something random like a toy and let it sit on my head as I pace or walk around. It's not that it is a hobby or a weird eccentricity. It's just a way to put all the focus back into one physical moment, one place and time and not the plethora of other considerations that are beating my brain to a pulp.

Balance is something that needs physical embodiment for me. It's not something I can achieve simply by actively wanting it or pursuing it. I need it to be manifested through my actions. And I guess looking back at my youth and practicing those same weird cotillion strides is the only way I know how.

As I step into my final exam tomorrow, I might decide to take my notes out of my hands and put them on top of my head. While there is value in trying to focus in other ways, the real focus for me is in centering myself in the confidence of balance.

No comments:

Post a Comment