Life is a balancing act.
Yes yes, here I go again, pointing out the bloody obvious, but it’s true.
Your life, and the way you choose to live it, is a tightrope. Sometimes, you feel precariously placed; when your car skids off the road, as you choke on a hazelnut and your life flashes before your eyes, when you remember that time you got blackout drunk in a strange city and lost your phone, money and shoes and somehow survived to sheepishly tell the tale, and on which you sometimes feel as supported as if you were standing on solid ground; as your friends rally around you to bitch about your ex, the guys at the garage test the breaks in you car for free, when your mum sends you home with a hug, a homemade lasagne and a reminder to wear a coat because there is rain on the forecast.
Sometimes our calves are in cramp as we do all we can to remain upright, and sometimes we’re able to approach the whole thing with such ease you’d think our centre of gravity was in our ankles.
We take it for granted most the time, thankfully, but the art of just staying alive is a carefully orchestrated balancing act that humankind have damn near perfected after 2000 years or so on this planet.
Eating enough to stay alive, sleeping enough to have proper brain function, getting out the sun before we go loopy, drinking enough water that we don’t collapse, moisturising so our skin doesn’t flake off. Although there are complaints made, studies done and ‘archaic’ practises called into question, on the most part we’ve got it down.
The fundamental balances critical to our survival are, for the most part, second nature. And that’s great.
But what of the rest of it?
The stuff that we don’t just do because we want to stay alive, but that we do because we want to be happy, or to be fit, or successful, or busy, or not busy. What of the balances that it’s up to us to organise?
We’re shoved out into the world as young adults, usually by exhausted parents who have been balancing everybody’s everything for way too long, and we’re kind of left just to crack on with it.
Without too much thought, we bulldoze our way into adulthood, usually bingeing on the exciting freedom of it all (I’ll have sixteen jaegerbombs, a portion of chips, a doughnut and a cab for 4am ‘cos there’s no one here to tell me any different, please and thanks), before we’re riddled with mouth-ulcers, too short on money and ready to go into work on a Wednesday without a hangover, and we find ourselves settling into a pattern that at some point becomes our life. Thus begins the balancing act.
Now I know that to go from talking about humanity’s ability to evolve to the point that we have, to finding a correlation between having abs and having pizza feels fantastically shallow, even by my standards, but if I’m honest, this is what all this preamble has been about.
I wanted to talk about balance, and balancing, in the world as it is at the moment, and actually, how hard it has all become. Because ironically, but not at all surprisingly, the thing that makes walking confidently across our own tightropes more difficult than anything else, is how easily we get distracted by the speed and precision with which everyone else is walking across theirs.
I was never one for gymnastics. One glimpse of me as a child, and I reckon you’d understand it. I didn’t have one leg shorter than the other, I wasn’t totally rotund, and actually, physically, I looked capable enough I think, but there was something about me that just screamed DON’T PUT THIS GIRL ON A TIGHTROPE.
I’m sure it had everything to do with the second helping of self doubt that I must have ingested as a child, and that, sadly, is something that I think followed me into adulthood. Although I’ve become braver, better able to ‘balance’ if you like, I still don’t think anyone would rush to give me the job of not falling out of the sky. If there’s a drink to be spilled at the table, it will have been me that spilled it.
They would have found a role for me in the circus, but it would have been more ‘clowny’ than ‘trapezey’ I think.
And as tragic as that sounds, it suited me fine. I’m happy enough with my inability to not sleep through my first alarm, with the fact that there will usually be something spilled down the front of my shirt, and with my ‘quite nice’, but I wouldn’t add a photo of it to my Pinterest Board for inspiration, hair.
I wasn’t, and I don’t think I ever will be the ‘how does she do it???’ girl, but god, have I known a few.
There were my friends at school who would eat slices of toast at a time but would never get fat; I’d watch them, furiously, as I attempted every diet recommended by whatever ‘grownup’ magazine I’d been able to smuggle into my mum’s shopping basket, and wonder how they were managing,
There are the influencers I follow now who I just think are amazing but who seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in their beds, somehow earning loads of money and I find myself riddled with a burning curiosity, how can I do that???
I’ll bump into this girl at the pub who is out pretty much every night of the week and she knows everyone, and everyone owes her a drink, and she’s always fun and up for a laugh and all I can think is: how the hell do you still have a job, or good skin, or any money left???
It’s not as simple as “jealousy”. I don’t want these people’s lives, as such, merely, their ability to balance things as well as they do.
To put it bluntly: I have always wanted to know how there are women out there who can eat pizza and not get fat. Who can sleep in late and still earn loads of money. Who can go out and get pissed and still function the next day.
I have watched on, usually by means of the highlight reel that is social media, and I have selected pearls of wisdom, nuggets of inspiration that I have desperately tried to squish into my own life.
And it’s been like trying to get square shapes into circle holes, for the most part.
At some point ‘balancing’ stopped being something that humans just ‘do’, and it become a buzz word, a hashtag, a thing that Victoria’s Secret Angel’s said when they put photos of hamburgers onto their Instagram stories.
And it’s been tiring and difficult for not-a-natural-gymnast to watch, and even harder to try and adopt for myself.
For the simple reason that I’m spending so much of my sodding time watching the finesse with which everyone around me is apparently navigating their tightropes, that I keep forgetting to keep an eye on my own.
And what’s the only thing harder than walking a tightrope? Doing it without looking! Yes, good guess!
For ages and ages I resented the Victoria’s Secret Angels, the sleeping beauty instagrammers, the fast-matabolismed toast eaters, the look-gorgeous on a hangover people of the world. I resented their ability to be so fantastic at balancing shit.
And I was a fool.
Because, for someone that was always too scared to cheat in a test, should they get caught, I have spent a huge proportion of my adult life copying the “answers” of those around me.
Whether it was a pair of jeans or a hairstyle or a holiday destination or a gym programme; I have always lacked any initiative of my own in the self-improvement department.
And that has done me sweet fuck all in the favour department.
The obstacles thrown at me, on my tightrope, are unlike any thrown at anyone else. My ability to orchestrate my life as I do? Well, given my naturally adversity to anything balance-related, I think it’s fabulous.
I think I might have flogged the metaphor a bit too far at this point, so I’ll finish on this: it is impossible to live your (hashtag) best life, if you spend too much time trying to adopt the pass times of others.
Listen to your body and listen to your brain. They are telling you what they need. They know what balance should be struck. And truthfully and honestly, the happiness that comes with a bit of equilibrium internally is more than you’ll ever get from your quest to have both abs and pizza at the same time…