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on balance

Before I was a teenager, I was a bit of a “momma’s boy.” I was a pretty shy and sensitive little kid who loved the arts. My Mom said that when I was 5 years old, I could become utterly absorbed in the TV show "Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood" and that I could sit in my Dad’s office for hours reading books and listening to music. Even back then, I guess I was inquisitive and imaginative and perfectly at home playing by myself. (I also didn’t mind helping my Mom make peanut butter cookies in the kitchen either).

My life didn’t stay that way for long, however. When my Mom eventually had my little sister, I started to be drawn towards the activities of my Dad and my older brothers. As I attempted to keep up with them and assert myself in school, I learned to be a lot more competitive. In time, I won more than a few playground fights and turned into a pretty good athlete. When I played little league baseball, I became an all-star. In junior high, I placed second in the state wrestling tournament. And in high school, I played on the varsity golf team.

But, for some reason, as time went by and I went off to college, I started to get back into the arts. I signed up to be a DJ at the campus radio station, and I started hanging around the intellectuals and the activists. To my Dad’s horror, I ended up majoring in Philosophy; and when I eventually moved to Greensboro to get an MFA in printmaking and sculpture, I had essentially turned my back completely away from the more athletic side of my personality - the part of me that I had successfully developed as a teenager.

Which brings me to the reason why the past couple of years have felt so good. Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that living a good life is all about balance.

I think that for whatever reason, over the years, I’ve always thought that most things were either/or propositions. I’ve felt like I had to choose between being an athlete or being an artist. If I wanted to be a good athlete, then I had to set aside the creative and compassionate part of myself. And, if I wanted to be a serious artist, then I had to set aside the athletic competitive part. Consequently, due to my own limited internal dialogue, I’ve felt divided, anxious, and incomplete.

I’ve learned lately however, that if you manage your time well, you really can have it all. And, even more importantly, not only can you have it all, but when you embrace all aspects of your personality, no matter how different or opposite they may seem on the surface, it’s highly likely that each aspect will actually feed the other.

For example… as I’ve been spending a lot of time running and lifting weights these last couple of years, I think I’ve also been thinking more clearly. And, consequently, my writing and photography have improved. In fact, I think that most every part of my life has improved since I’ve re-embraced the more athletic side of myself.

I’ve also found that establishing a healthy balance between other aspects of my life has become important as well.

I’ve learned that sometimes it’s good to be forgiving and sometimes it’s better to just move on. Sometimes it’s good to be patient and gently encourage your friends, and sometimes, if they really need to break out of a rut, it’s good to give them a proper scolding.

It’s funny how a single approach to everything rarely works. I always thought that becoming a better writer meant having more time to write. But, as it turns out, I’ve been learning lately that writing well is more about living a better, more enriching life.

Maybe I’ve just been learning that it’s best to be well rounded. I’ve been learning it's OK to be part serious and part sarcastic. Part generous and part selfish. Part mental and part physical. Part solitary and part social. Part independent and part dependant. Part logical and part emotional. It really is all about striking the proper balance and embracing the parts of myself that didn’t seem to be consistent before.

In the end, we all have our contradictions and that’s what makes us unique – it’s what makes us ourselves.

So with that in mind… maybe one of these days…. after I crush some amateurs during a 10k run or the next time I kick my Dad’s ass in golf, I just might go back home and watch one of my favorite French films, or maybe I’ll help my Mom bake some peanut butter cookies. I always liked using a fork to make those little lines on top.