Sunday, December 4, 2011

Acts of Balance

I'm having one of those tentative moments when I keep myself from writing because I feel like there is nothing to write. How many times do I feel this way and go ahead only to find that there is plenty to write about? I feel as though I could write the book on this subject. I'm the guy who knows that the key to writing is just writing. But I've written all that before.

I'm at Starbucks this morning on Syracuse University's hill, surrounded by people literally half my age. An odd feeling since I don't feel old. To feel old I would have to feel like I had accomplished more. Instead, I feel I'm just getting started.

So what am I getting started on and how do I balance that with living the life that is in front of me?

And then I started to panic because I didn't feel that I was writing well. And so I wrote:

This is dull. It's not going anywhere. What do I want to write about?

I was about to give it up, delete what I had written, maybe close up shop and call it a day. But then I looked at the room around me and went with the first thing I thought of. 

The woman sitting next my wife's and my table is wearing a red down-vest that looks great. I asked my wife, you want a down vest, right? She said, yes. I pointed out the woman's and my wife nodded. The woman sits three feet away and all I need to do is ask, "could you tell me where you got your vest?" but there is a gulf between us. She and I are strangers. She is a beautiful young woman. I am a man. It feels as though it would be all wrong to ask. In fact, it feels wrong to even contemplate it.

How absolutely silly.

Last week, on the radio a host and guest were talking about mental and emotional health, the host asked if Facebook and Twitter weren't connecting us more. The guest said that they give us the illusion of interpersonal connection and come at the price of our connections in the real world. I have to agree.

I had a Facebook account and occasionally lament no longer having it. I still have Twitter and Google+ and I check them all too often. I'm not totally out of control, but I use them sometimes to the exclusion of keeping in touch with people closer at hand. In many ways, interaction on the computer is just easier than keeping up in person.

Again, how absolutely silly.

My instinct is to swing to the extremes. Oh no, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are ruining me! I've got to dump them all at once! I must run my computer through a chipper-shredder! I must live with the animals in a cave and stop using electricity! Then and only then will I be a real and worthwhile human being!

Yeah, that sounds reasonable.

Then I calm down and ask questions about what I want and how I want to be. I want local friends. I want to see people, talk with them, go out to eat with them, and all the rest. I also want to know people far away and  share thoughts with them. I can do both and also have time for solitude. The secret word, the pass-phrase is balance.

So, let's go back to a couple of things here.

The writing. I struggled today and this 750-word entry went over 1000 words before I cut into it. I had to write long in order to get to the things I wanted to say. I've preserved some of the frustrations from the beginning to show balance. I have to allow bad with good, I have to live with frustration in order to have contentment. I have to court failure in order to have success. No surprises there. Balance includes accepting what comes and moving forward in order to transform what is into what will be.

The connections. I struggle to balance typing at the computer with walking in the world. The computer is a tool, it's not a way of life. It can be a danger, a black hole, or it can be a vehicle, a means of getting to where I want and need to go. Balance requires reflection and honesty. Balance means keeping track of what I'm doing and not simply doing because I'm doing.

And finally, the woman with the vest. I'll ask where she got her vest. It's silly not to ask, silly to think that we can no longer talk with strangers, silly to think that the world is that far out of balance.

Write on.