Perfect balance is not only overrated, it’s not necessarily desirable. The only perfectly balanced pot is one with a flat bottom. And flat bottoms are good for pots, but not for people.
Balance. We know it’s a good thing. When it comes to our bodies, our professional and personal goals, our relationships, perfect balance is a good thing to strive for, right?
Well…some concepts about balance are good for you. And some aren’t.
Balance regarding bodies makes an excellent metaphor, so let’s take a look.
Balance as parity can save us a few tricks to the doc.
It’s widely accepted that we all have one leg that’s longer than the other. Right?
Wrong. Our legs are petty close to being equal lengths. What happens is we tend to favor one side or the other. We tend to use our “strong” leg, and end up standing more on our “weaker” leg.
Try it yourself. Stand up, then assume a relaxed position, as if you were in for a long conversation with someone. What leg are you standing on?
For me, I put my weight on my left leg. It might be because my right knee has sustained a lot of injuries over the year, and it feels less “solid”.
But standing on my left leg also frees up my right leg, which is still stronger and faster for kicking. (Taekwondo, folks, not randomly kicking people in the street.)
Over the years, this gradually led to a shortening of the muscles in my left leg. It isn’t really shorter, I’ve squashed it!
I found this article on your golf swing as an excellent description of this.
This kind of “non-parity” also leads to more than a bad golf swing. It can aggravate problems with your back, shoulders, wrists. My husband makes a point of shoveling snow and raking leaves by switching his “lead” from time to time. It’s dramatically reduced his back problems.
It’s good to mix it up!
Just as lack of physical parity slowly creates big problems out of tiny choices over time, the search for perfect balance can, too.
People who should know–physical therapists, etc.–tell us that walking is a process of regularly losing–and finding–our balance.
We need that constant process to move forward. Perfect balance–when we stand only equally on both feet–is standing still.
Think about when we strike a tree pose, a great balance stance in yoga. We aren’t ever really being still. Our first efforts may result in widely flailing arms and torso. But even when we can hold that position for five minutes, our bodies aren’t actually static and immovable. Muscles in our feet and ankles are constantly constantly making tiny adjustments to keep everything in alignment. We just need tinier movements. How do you know those muscles are working? Think how exhausting it would be to stand in that pose all day.
How does this relate to our art, and to the business of exhibiting/marketing/selling/teaching our art?
Well, one way is how we think about a “perfect balance” in our art. We think there’s a perfect blend of art/business/family/other work/community, etc.
Some artists struggle to balance work, family, art. Sometimes they give up. There’s no way to make it work!. Sometimes all they need is permission to their art on the back burner–on “simmer”–for awhile. (But don’t forget to come back and turn the heat up someday!)
Some of us struggle to find the right balance in our art biz. Sometimes the business of getting our art “out there” more grueling and less exciting that actually making art. We force ourselves to do the inventory thing, the invoice thing, we apply to shows or write the press releases or whatever, grumbling as we go.
But if we aren’t careful, we lose that beautifully precious, joyful synergy that comes from making. There’s no way to “balance” that. It’s the spring from which everything else flows.
Some of us even find the balance of “making” to be difficult. Some days I come in my studio determined to make stuff and can’t decide where to start. Make more little horses? Cut some leather strips for necklaces? Mix some colors? Do more sculptures? I feel torn in eight different directions. Even when I start in on something, I feel guilty that I haven’t answered that email, or updated my store, or gotten those postcards out.
Yes, our art has to eventually be out in the world.
But we have to make it–bring it into being–first.
What sparked this post was a comment I heard of made by a 2-D artist. He said there was a discipline to his craft. He made sure he drew, even if just a little bit, every single day.
I was in awe of that. He’s absolutely right, in many ways. We need to make even tiny little spaces for our art. Because pushing it entirely out of our lives is never a good thing.
At the same time, I see he has a simpler life right now. Retired, no partner, no young children, a small apartment. He is able to make more balanced choices at this point in his life.
Like our bodies, the balance we seek in our art, and in the pattern of our lives, perhaps will never exist. Waiting for it before we make art is a trap. Even if you have to let your art “simmer”, think of ways to keep it in your heart. And never miss an opportunity to add a few carrots to the pot.
There will be periods where we are on fire with our creativity, and nothing can pull us out of studios. There will be periods where our children, our partners and spouses, simply need us profoundly, and time spent with them is not wasted. There will be times when we need to put down the brush or the blow torch and simply get outside and move.
Whatever your particular “blend” of life is right now, embrace it. Know that in a day, a month, a season, the demands will change.
And your greatest blessing–and peace of mind–will be knowing that you will change your particular balance right along with it.
P.S. How am I making myself lose my balance today? I wanted to write this post so desperately. I have so much to do today, I’m not letting myself do that series of final edits. I’m just publishing it!