As of two years ago, the first week in April has become quite possibly my least favorite week of each year.
More than tax season, "well woman" exams, or my annual fear-factor challenge (aka dentist visit), the emotional and mental parts of me dislike the week of April 1st with an intensity that is unmatched elsewhere in my life...or calendar.
Two years ago during this week, I made a difficult - very difficult - decision that resulted in a huge shift in my circumstances. It was the right decision, and for the other 11 months and 3 weeks out of each year, I am mindful of that and grateful I had the strength to make the right choice for all concerned. But during this one week it is now tradition for me to waver, to doubt, to grieve.
Two years ago during this week, I lost a dear friend. This being the first time I had lost a loved one who was not only a relative but also a close personal friend, I grieved deeply. The fact that the loss occurred in the same week I was making and acting on the difficult decision compounded the impact it had on me. During the other 11 months and 3 weeks out of the year, I am grateful that my friend is in a better place, safe, free from pain, and clearly having a good time (every so often I can still feel him tap me on the shoulder and say, "hey - no worries, okay? life is short - so lighten up and LIVE.")
But in these six days at the start of each April, once again it is time not to sing, not to dance, but to mourn...even if just a little or sometimes a lot....for my loss of a friend. Death is always so much harder for those who are left behind.
Interestingly, for these last few weeks leading up to April 1st this year, I have been blogging on the subject of balance for another project and consequently it has been on my mind. In fact, as I'm blogging about it today, it occurs to me that in the past, my rather inaccurate definition of balance has been "finally!, the total absence of unpleasant thoughts, emotions, memories, or behaviors."
In other words, my perfectionistic tendencies, courtesy of years of hanging out with my eating disorder, have systematically corrupted my experience of balance about as subtly as an alien spaceship crashing on top of my house, complete with warning sirens and neon headlights.
And with my keen powers of perception, it has only taken me two years to notice.
So today I looked up the definition of balance, recognizing at least that right now I'm not feeling any, and discovered that the only dictionary definition that does not insist on droning on about dull descriptions of weights and measures is one in which balance is defined as "a state of equilibrium". Short, simple, to the point - and a state which my own mentor might describe as one in which the pendulum swings back (dark side) and forth (light side) and eventually evens out.
But I am now realizing that she never told me that the swings would STOP. Even if she had, the physics folks might have taken offense at that assertion - after all, they have spent years of time and research and expense to teach us that what goes up, must come down; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; light matter has an equal and opposite "hidden" dark matter, and all that good stuff.
So here we are, physics and all, and here I am having my own very personal and accurate experience of, er, balance - possibly for the first time ever in my life.
And what I am learning is that balance, for me at least, arrives most tangibly every April 1st when the generalized feelings of well-made choices and well-processed grief that I carry around with me throughout the rest of the year suddenly collide with the unwelcome and as-yet-unresolved feelings of loss, sadness, indecision, and regret that also yet reside within me. In other words, the largely "light" side of the pendulum swing I have been enjoying meets its other half - the heavy oomph of the "dark" backswing.
So my experience of "balance" actually feels more like, well, imbalance. Which is dictionary-defined as "a lack of balance (duh) as in distribution or functioning...as in emphasis, proportion."
This tells me that experiencing balance actually means experiencing the pendulum as it is swinging...gently sometimes, not so gently at other times. And since the word experience means to "live through", this in effect means that, when I am experiencing "balance", I probably won't feel "balanced" at all. Rather, I will instead most likely feel imbalanced as I am gently or not-so-gently swinging first in one direction, and then in the other.
This also means that the only saving grace I can rely on to retain any sense of balance in the midst of experiencing (im)balance is perspective - even while in the midst of having the experience, I can step outside and remember the good physics folks, observe the pendulum as it swings back and forth, and serve as my own witness to the presence of overall balance in my life even as I live through the temporarily imbalanced moments that any one day...or week...may bring.
In my book Beating Ana, I talk about how powerfully learning to feel my feelings, no matter what they may be on given day, has affected me for the better. In one of the Life Affirmation Celebrations, I write:
I feel. I can feel. I have the capacity and the right to feel when I am sad, when I am happy, and every feeling in between. “Fat” is not a feeling, and it is not good enough for the new me—the me who craves the fullness of life the way a bird craves bigger, stronger wings to fly ever higher. I don’t have to settle for "fat" anymore. I know better. I deserve better. I am better. I give myself safe passage through each page of the dictionary, the thesaurus, and my own heart, until I find the absolute perfect word to describe how I am really feeling in each situation. And then I honor myself by feeling it!
In other words, even while experiencing (im)balance, I can retain the awareness that I am in perfect balance, IF I will just keep feeling, living...and repeating, as often as necessary.