Holy Everything: We can be balanced people, even in tilted world
Back in Miss Silk's third-grade classroom of 1992, my classmates and I participated in a math unit using scales. The plastic devices were bright yellow and contained two pans on opposite sides with an axis in the middle. We were presented with cubes of various colors and weights: 1 gram, 5 grams and 10 grams. Then we put the cubes in various arrangements on the two pans following our teacher's guidance. We learned about balance, comparison and weight.
I learned another lesson about balance firsthand on the playground later that year while seesawing with a significantly lighter friend. It was just a typical recess until my pal unexpectedly lifted her feet off the ground leaving me face-planting forward into the seesaw.
A lack of balance can have unfortunate consequences.
I recently was forwarded a comic originally published in The New Yorker in 2012. Cartoonist David Sipress sketched two people walking down the sidewalk. One said to the other, "My desire to remain well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane."
Being well-informed and emotionally healthy is certainly a balancing act. Striking the right equilibrium seems especially challenging as of late. We're inundated everywhere we turn with emotionally charged news reports, conversations and social media posts.
I thought I was doing a fairly decent job of keeping it all balanced in my mind until I woke up Sunday morning gasping for air after a terrifying nightmare: one of violence and blood, guns and anger. Panicked, I couldn't stop crying even well after I woke up.
I spent the days prior to that moment the way many of us had — steeped in images and videos of news from around our state and country. It was important news. Very important news. But it also was heart-wrenching news riddled with pain and death and brokenness.
It's not surprising my subconscious would use those precious sleeping hours to try to untangle it all.The experience revealed to me that I'm not yet finding the right balance between being well-informed and taking care of my emotional well-being.
The American Psychological Association advises in a brochure on resilience that emotional health is about, "Letting yourself experience strong emotions and also realizing when you may need to avoid experiencing them at times in order to continue functioning."
It is important to nurture habits and patterns that allow for living out of this fruitful guidance. That will look different in every life, but perhaps it means limiting exposure to violent images, prioritizing time in nature, praying in community with others, finding ways to feel empowered instead of helpless and approaching all social media use with intention.
Being a globally conscious, well-informed, justice-oriented person is important to me, and I would imagine it's important to you, too. We all want to contribute to the building of peaceful communities. In order to do so, we can't ignore the world around us. However, that doesn't mean we need to saturate ourselves with incendiary media commentary every second of the day.
The scales tipped a bit in my world Sunday afternoon. Some extended family members were visiting from Colorado. We all huddled around my mom's iPad for a self-timed photo. One smiling picture led to a silly-face picture led to a stoic picture. We posed and posed; we laughed and laughed. It was like adding a few more cubes of joy to the scale.
Finding a healthy, sustainable balance between global awareness and personal peace never will be a one-time transaction. It always will be an ongoing effort. So we press forward one day, one hour, one minute at a time. We ask ourselves, "Will this balance my scales? Or lead me to a face-plummet?" And gram by gram we go.