There was a theme in my life in the months that followed her death.
A word that seemed to follow me; a feeling I could not escape. Everywhere I turned, I was met with this idea of balance. It was almost audible at times.
It’s something that does not come naturally to me. In fact, I’ve often longed for more balance in my life. Even before I could really articulate it as such, there was a desire for balance.
In the beginning, it was about survival. It was about remembering to breathe between the sobs. About forcing down a piece of toast and granting myself permission to smile. It was about going the hell to sleep and it was about getting out of bed. At that point, balance was crucial to my survival.
When I returned to work after maternity leave, this need for balance followed. Only this time, it was about sanity. It was about stepping out of a meeting when I started to cry. It was about seeing my therapist on my lunch break. It was about drinking coffee quietly at my desk, before browsing trivial emails. And it was about leaving work again, this time on personal leave, when I couldn’t keep it together. I learned when to speak up, when to ask for help, and when to bow out. Balance was crucial to my sanity.
This theme has lingered quietly lately. Waiting in the wings while I have gone through various stages of “Screw balance, I’m getting drunk/eating all the cookies/staying in bed!” The need for balance has remained, while my sensitivity to it has not.
It is simply easier to live an unbalanced life. Society enables it. My own issues support it. My grief justifies it and my pain thrives in it. It’s a perfect storm.
But the truth remains that both my survival and my sanity depend upon me finding or creating or even imagining some kind of balance. And that’s not all. My family depends upon it too. My son needs me to wipe my tears and tuck him in. But he also needs me to teach him why we cry. My husband needs me to be honest about where I am. And he also needs me to be sensitive to where he is. My friends need me to talk to them about my life and genuinely invest in theirs. I need to drink and not drink. I need to eat the cookies and put them away. I need to go the hell to sleep and get out of bed. I need to be free and I need a map. I need balance. It’s not a luxury for me. It’s not a want or a maybe I should or a one day I will. It is a need. And that need has never been more prevalent or more critical than in grief.
So I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to be true to my grief and true to my life. Running back and forth, trying to “balance” the two as if they are opposing forces. Living this double life where I have either a) checked out emotionally, doing life on auto pilot or b) checked out of life, staying enmeshed in my pain and anger. Both are crappy options, trust me. Both are alienating. Both are painful. Both are unnecessary.
Thus my recent revelation: Grief and life are not separate. Grief is part of my life. Life is part of my grief. And neither of them is going anywhere.
Life will continue to have demands. Work, home, family, friends, needs, needs, needs.
Greif will remain equally as demanding. Pain,
love, action, fear, needs, needs, needs.
My job is not to balance my grief and my life at all. My job is to balance me.
To be aware and willing to make change where change is needed.
To be forgiving of self and others. To slow down and enjoy this beautiful (although really hard) life.
To be sad and angry, and happy and grateful. To be and do things I can’t yet imagine.
Of course the pendulum will always swing. Sometimes I’m less aware or less able or less motivated to seek balance. Some days I will get drunk, eat all the cookies, and stay in bed.
But I will seek to seek balance. When I feel that word firmly whispered in my spirit, I will remember that there is purpose. I will not stress over balance, ironic as that is. No. Instead, I will pause and I will smile.
After all, I’ve often longed for more balance in my life. Even before I could really articulate it as such, there was a desire for balance.
Balance. Perhaps a long awaited gift from an amazing little girl.