“Balance, peace, and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them.” – Thomas Kinkade
This past Sunday, the boys and I woke up early and went for a paddle and a short hike. Greeted with brilliant, expansive blue skies and chattering birds, Norman and I first took to the waters (seen above). Followed by a walk with both the boys (Oscar is quite the avid swimmer and would prefer to jump off the board and swim to shore, thus happy to wait for our return), later that morning I shared a few videos of Norman walking about on my paddle board which prompted an observation by a reader, “Norman is able to maintain is balance quite well.”
And she was absolutely correct, but as I shared with her, he has four legs and has a lower center of gravity – both making the task of balance far simpler. But the truth is, what I was reminded of when I began paddling with my boys was the importance that I first find my balance on the board so that they will be able to trust and adjust as necessary to keep theirs.
The “aha” discovery I have had with this paddleboarding truth is that, just as it is important for the paddler to first find their balance so that the journey can be enjoyable and free of falling in to the water, so too must we find our balance in our lives in order to fully appreciate the life we are living. And while some would dismiss a life balance as impossible, I tend to agree with novelist Frank Herbert, “There is no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves.” In other words, our lives – each day, each year, each decade – are in constant flux, but so long as we are present, listening to ourselves, our needs and truly knowledgeable of who we are, we can adjust as necessary with each undulation to find the balance we seek.
Before I considered inviting my dogs onto my board with me, I first learned how to paddle well on my own. Yes, I fell in on my first try when I eased up, stood up too straight and didn’t engage my leg muscles. Just like that I fell over. And just to make sure I learned my lesson (and indeed I hadn’t yet), I promptly fell back in again. Needless to say (knocking on wood now), I haven’t fallen in since.
It was in 2015 that the boys finally joined me (I learned how to paddle in 2014 after wanting for a few years prior to find someone who would teach me), and while it took time for them to trust the board and the movements, the only time they have fallen in was when they stepped off the board (last year Norman becoming curious about a passing duck floating down the river as we paddled up – no buddy, you can’t walk on water): It was never because they lost their balance. They have always been able to keep their balance (and they have never caused me to lose my balance), thus, the trust between us has grown. (Note: Norman, because I was balanced, was quickly lifted back into the board and we kept paddling.)
Back to the life lesson. Often we ask of others to build something with us that we hope will last when we haven’t found our equilibrium in our own lives. Not having done this, we shouldn’t berate ourselves, but in hindsight, it’s important to recognize why we weren’t able to build a solid foundation if the relationship, the job, the project never blossomed as we had hoped.
When we know how to balance our own lives in a world that is in constant motion (and us along with it as we are growing and changing as well), we know how and why we need to put up certain boundaries and to do so tactfully but with certainty – letting any guilt that others may try to place upon us roll off our backs. When we know how to “feel the waves” that make up our lives, others can also come to depend upon us: to know when we say yes, we will show up; when we say no, there is a reason that isn’t personal, but necessary for reasons we do not have to explain unless we want to; and when we say this is what I can do, it’s not a negotiation, but an opportunity signaling we want to engage, but can only do so much in order to execute at our best. Therefore being dependable to others enables us to build stronger relationships, not least of which is with ourselves. And yet another plus to knowing how to balance our know lives: We can more easily recognize when others’ lives are out of balance and won’t work well with our own, or at least when we should step back and let them figure it out so that we don’t fall into the water with them.
The life we wish to live requires engagement on our part. A constant involvement and participation. And in order to engage, participate and get involved, we have to know what we want to create. Once we know what life we want to build for ourselves, achieving balance becomes far easier.
“Balance comes in the moments you stand up for the life you truly want, by making choices that align with that life.”
And just like a tranquil paddle up and down the Deschutes River with my dog Norman, you create moments and memories that enrich the everyday.
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