When I think about my life, there are few things that seem more important than balance. Should I fight to be heard or sacrifice myself to serve others? Should I focus on responsibility and security or on taking the risk to chase my dreams? Should I set boundaries or live in freedom?
My best life is not one or the other. Life is not about the one right answer but about finding balance among the complicated possibilities.
The Perfect Metaphor
I was getting ready to take a shower today and I went through the familiar dance of trying to get the water the right temperature. A millimeter too far to the right and I’m under an icy waterfall. A millimeter too far to the left and I’m in acid rain. There’s a magic sweet spot somewhere in between – it really does seem about a millimeter – where the temperature is just right.
I realized as I tested the water for the sixth time that this is the perfect metaphor for life. We try things one way. It doesn’t work, so we try the other. We realize we’ve over-corrected and so we spin back the other way. There are delays in consequences and then sudden flashes of pain. There is expectancy and hope. And in the end, there is a balance found.
I spend way too much time over-correcting. I said something and was hurt by the response I got. Fine, I’m never saying anything again. I trusted a friend and they betrayed me. Fine, I’ll never be vulnerable again.
As silly as it sounds, this is what we do. We over-correct. We launch ourselves into the opposite spectrum of the pain, only to discover there is pain of a different variety at that end as well.
What is scary is that we sometimes give up and become accustomed to the pain. We start to think the shower has to be scalding. so we let it sting and turn our skin pink. We start to settle for a version of life that is not true, not properly balanced. In order to avoid some pains, we become complacent about the existence of others.
I saw a documentary on a tightrope walker who traveled on a tiny thread of wire between the two World Trade Center Towers. He also walked over Niagara Falls. From a moderate distance, it looks impossible. The wire looks invisible. The sound of the Falls or the wind at those heights would surely blow the man down. But it doesn’t.
We settle for extremes because we do not think balance is possible. We allow ourselves to be abused or we allow ourselves to be tyrants, and we don’t see room for anything in between.
Our best life and our best relationships are in the in-betweens. The in between is what makes us human. In between hurt and joy, self-discovery and self-sacrifice, identity and community. These are not parallel paths. The lines do intersect. We have to be patient and humble and courageous enough to find them.