Day 1 / October 1: The noble pursuit of balance (Sorting my shit out)

Today, I am alone.
    It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that; it’s been a while since it’s been true. Since I have been alone: it’s been too long. And I’ve been longing for it and dreading it in almost equal measure. Needing it and fearing it. Knowing it will come as both a shock and a relief; freedom and emptiness; loneliness and solitude; peace and quiet and guilt. And perhaps that schizophrenic seesaw of emotion is the closest I’ve come to balance – the pursuit of balance – in the almost three months since I have been alone. Perhaps I should give it credit for that, appreciate it for what it is – a mechanism always trying to level up, to find a stillness that is always being denied, to equalise two opposing forces of different sizes, different weights – but the truth is, a seesaw is a nauseating thing. It’s not designed for comfort, especially when you’re sitting on both sides. For all of its good intentions, a seesaw isn’t a thing of balance, but almost the opposite of that, its ups-and-downs a constant battle for dominance, for definition: which is the lighter load, which is the heavier, and is it better to be the former, suspended, legs dangling in mid-air, or the latter, feet planted, anchored to the ground? A seesaw creates more questions than it can answer. And despite its noble seeking of that ever-elusive horizontal, it will only ever truly come to rest on one side. Even when it’s empty, it’ll always settle on one side over the other. That is the nature of the seesaw, that is its destiny, if you want to be symbolic about it, which I do: to show us our purpose as it is constantly denied its own. Balance. Equilibrium. And it is not about perching in the middle – there is certainly more stillness there, as the laws of physics dictate, but no one can hold that position for too long. Nor is it about assigning equal weight to all the stuff – people, things, situations, desires and fears and emotions – that tip your seesaw this way and that. You cannot force balance; you can only settle into it by acknowledging the different weights of things, accepting them, so you can push off the ground when you’re stuck, or lean back and enjoy the pause your weight can give you; so you can recognise lightness as the absence of heaviness, not weight, and dangle happily for a while, or get off the seesaw altogether if heights aren’t your thing. But if you take a spirit level to your life, you’ll always find yourself askew; that’s not the way to go about it.

I’m mixing my metaphors here, but that is what I do: I mix everything up, and then I feel nauseous. In my pursuit of clarity, I create confusion; in my pursuit of peace, contention. I place myself on both ends of the seesaw and I don’t know if I’m up or if I’m down. But I think, perhaps, that is the nature of the beast: life on this planet, as conscious, autonomous beings and inextricable parts of the universe, both, subject to the same laws as the dust that makes up our cells and the trees and the oceans and the stars. I think, perhaps, it isn’t balance in itself but its pursuit that we are programmed for. Always striving for that ever-elusive horizontal, for the middle ground where the pull of the forces is gentler, yet none of us really want to spend too long in those positions. Try it: perch in the middle of the seesaw and see how long it takes before you’re itching for the ups and downs. And neutral may seem easy, it may sound restful, but think about it: neutral is not a quality in itself, but merely the result of two opposing forces cancelling each other out. Think about how much effort it takes to maintain such a state: that’s not the way to go about it, either.

At rest, at peace, in balance, in the context of our conscious human lives: this is where physics takes a step back and, with a smirk, lets us sort our own shit out. We may be subject to its laws on a molecular level, but some things matter more than matter, when we are basically ruled by emotions and desires. We have created the seesaw and the spirit level, just like we’ve created all of our problems and all of the solutions they demand, all of the standards we measure ourselves against to find that we are askew or lacking or incomplete. How do we go about righting ourselves? How do we go about claiming the wholeness that has always been ours? How do we find balance in a world that’s constantly tipping us this way and that? Ha – that was a trick question, that last one. Because the world isn’t doing anything to any of us. The world doesn’t give a fuck, nor do physics or the oceans or the universe or the twinkly stars above. Or any other force you care to name. They just go about their business, as should we. Striving for equilibrium, but learning to find comfort and stillness and peace and balance in the only place that matters, in the only place where it can be found: within.

Today, I am alone. As in: I alone can sort my shit out. For all my noble pursuits, that is my purpose, if I want to be a whole part of the whole. And I don’t know exactly how to go about it yet, but I think I’ll start by jumping off the seesaw and smashing the spirit level to bits. And learn to recognise my own weight, and find peace on whichever side I come to rest.

This is the first instalment of a tentative new project, provisionally titled 100 days of sorting my shit out. Which will probably take a lot longer than 100 days, but fuck it – it’s a start.