This I Believe

Linda - Strongsville, Ohio
Entered on May 26, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: hope, humility, work
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Living in Balance

As a tightrope walker in the kindergarten circus, I learned to believe in balance.

I chose the role of tightrope walker because of the costume. I considered being a lion because the lions got to roar and the curly brown paper manes they wore around their faces would potentially compliment my dark hair. I also thought about being the ring leader because that meant being in charge and having control. But when I learned that the tight rope walker would wear a short skirt and tights and carry a pink-ruffled parasol, I knew the part was for me. It wasn’t until later that the teacher told me I would have to hold the parasol over my head while pretending to walk across the room on the tightrope – really just a strip of masking tape on the linoleum floor. She coached me with the words, “Keep your eyes straight ahead, put one foot in front of the other, don’t look down and keep your balance.”

Kindergarten was a long time ago, but the lesson still serves me today. Much of life is a precarious balancing act. Balancing my work as a high school English teacher and my life with my husband and family. Balancing the energy I spend on my teenage students with the energy I save for my children at home. Balancing the responsibilities of reading AP essays with the relaxation of reading the latest novel or the Sunday morning New York Times. Getting enough exercise and getting enough sleep. Eating salads for lunch to save calories for Peanut Buster parfaits. Getting and spending, late and soon . . . as I try to balance my way through each day.

Lately, when I feel the need for balance, I turn to yoga, where balance is essential. Yoga blends mind, body and breath in a way that forces inward attention. Balance in yoga requires strength from the body’s core just as balance in living requires strength from core values, beliefs and principles.

So, back to the kindergarten circus. Had I been a lion, I would have just learned how to roar. Had I been the ring leader, I would have called the shots, but it still would have been a circus. But as tightrope walker I learned by keeping my eyes straight ahead I could avoid focusing too closely on the moment at hand. By putting one foot in front of the other, I can take small steps toward accomplishing large goals. And by not looking down, I keep my balance. This much I know for sure – some days I feel like I am fifty feet in the air and other days I know the tightrope I seem to be walking is merely a strip of masking tape across the linoleum floor.