I attended an elementary school with an asphalt playground. Where there once were teeter totters, now only the bare-boned metal pipes of the frame remained. No one ever told us what happened to the teeter totters, or if there were any plans to bring them back, but their plain skeleton provided us with a structure to climb on and use like a balance beam. Carefully applying my weight evenly, arms outstretched to each side so as not to lose my balance, I would walk the rounded edges of the pipe. I kept my eyes down and focused on putting one foot in front of the other deliberately, lest flesh come crashing down to meet black stone.
Balance was the art of finding the edge of in-between. It was keeping my eyes focused on one spot while still maintaining awareness of the world around me—without letting that world pull me one way or another. Even when my body was still and anchored, it was yet slightly in motion as each muscle worked to hold it steady.
I am still trying to find that sweet spot, that edge of in-between, without losing my focus.
Standing on my mat now and stepping forward with my right foot, I bend my knee. “Square your hips,” I think, before my instructor comes over to adjust me. My hips have a mind of their own, though, even with my incessant pulling to get them into a straighter line, facing forward. I smirk to myself, thinking how I always seem to be pushing and pulling myself one way or the other, while at the same time, trying to remain standing. Looking down at my feet, I carefully press into the soles, making sure that the weight falls upon them evenly—or at least somewhat evenly. I falter slightly and reach my fingertips toward the pale yellow wall to my right. I am still trying to find that sweet spot, that edge of in-between, without losing my focus.
This is an art I find myself putting into practice every day. Holding my tongue as frustration mounts during chaotic school-day mornings, when I’ve woken up with my head in a daze and the air outside is frigid and dark. Or when the day feels especially chaotic, trying to wedge a block of time in to take pause—pause, whether it be for an hour, a few minutes or even just a fraction of a moment. Finding a way to split my brain into as many sections as possible so that I can spell a word for my daughter as she does her homework, respond to an email I am typing for work, and simultaneously shush my dog whining at the door.
It is these daily balancing acts that propel me forward through real life, toward still greater feats of balance that shine as victories in the midst of a few too many defeats.
There are so many days when I must reach down with both hands and gather strength from all the tiny corners of myself.
Victories like sewing the edges of my spine back together when it has been pulled apart by words that left me broken open. Bringing forth my voice loudly, when I really want to stay quiet, or even silent, because I know I need to be heard. Standing firm, even when I really just want to sit back down. Letting go of all the things I thought I was, and all the things I told myself I was not, and moving forward anyway. There are so many days when I must reach down with both hands and gather strength from all the tiny corners of myself to keep from falling and losing sight of that place I have so intently held in my focus.
Knee bent, feet placed firmly on the floor, eyes gazing straight ahead, I lift my arms—one outstretched ahead in front and one directly behind me—and sink my hips down toward the floor. Spine firm—the spine I have sewn back together after being pulled apart, I raise my head up. It is here I am gathering my strength, little by little, drop by drop. It is here that I am learning the art of balance once again, the edge of in-between.
It is here that I am finding warrior.