After years of therapy and an especially intensive year that’s just passed, I found something had happened both marvelous and frightening: I have learned about balance. I finally, fully and completely understand that these years of work, of endless effort, of emotional pain and the struggle against it have brought about a visualization.
That visualization is nothing less than the establishment of a working framework for the remainder of my days.
“He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass.”
– Edgar R. Fiedler
There must be no more attempting to see the future in a crystal ball, no more endless negative expectation of outcome, no more working from an unworkable point of view of inevitable failure.
The future I had seen in my past has nothing to do with the one that’s about to begin. The future I see on the horizon has nothing to do with past pain or past fear. To be sure, strong negative emotions will most certainly come again and likely will be difficult to deal with when they do. Anxiety and its attendant ball of confusing and conflicting signals will certainly rear its ugly head. But now things have changed; I have a new and definitely better perspective on how to discourage and prevent negative states of mind.
“People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try to see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?”
– Nhat Hanh
Over the last couple of months a kernel of thought began to germinate. In the forefront of my thinking was a future staring me right in the face. That future’s most important feature, the very element in its creation, is a thing many people don’t think about very much, something that some people do with frightful ease and others never achieve: balance.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
– Thomas Merton
When I was first struck down by bipolar disorder I did not recognize it. I had by then fallen into an almost vegetative state at times or was hyper and out of control. Death was a real option in order to stop the pain. Life had lost everything: joy, love, my home, my things, my friends and indeed my entire world as I knew it. Once I was correctly diagnosed and had access to the proper medication and better, more effective therapy, I was presented with the tools with which to begin rebuilding my life.
But I couldn’t really make that rebuilding happen until I understood that I needed balance in my life.
Balance, so it seems, is what makes a healthy life possible. But I am a stubborn and willful creature; someone can show me a path toward a balanced life but without an internal understanding of what balance is, what it does and where it leads, I was determined to wait. I wanted to begin treading that path with assurance and not fear.
I waited for far too long to take the first steps into a meaningful future, an attainable future; I waited for the thing, the idea, the impetus that would allow me to take that first step toward rebuilding happiness. But waiting wasn’t the answer, and doing was.
I had to actively accept a concept of balance that I might understand. And it’s happened.
I needed to accept the point of view that this cartoon dog has: move on, accept the past, forget the pain, stop blaming myself and move forward with purpose and meaning. Understanding Radical Acceptance has helped me see that goal; I believe that I have finally stopped fighting reality and as a result have dropped self-loathing as a regular emotional menu item. I now understand that if there is to be a future, the pain and failure I was mistakenly cultivating had to stop.
I needed to believe in the path forward. That’s not as easy as it sounds; in order to accept and move toward the path and take those first steps into a better future, there’s a price to pay.
That price is to put a foot forward and take a risk.
“Living with fear stops us taking risks, and if you don’t go out on the branch, you’re never going to get the best fruit.”
– Sarah Parish
The path is full of risk and facing the unknown, but to tread the path there must be bravery forged by commitment. I must truly learn to live in the moment and allow and accept the moment for what it is. Most importantly I must forge ahead with a view of where to end up, and that view, place, construct for which I reach is a framework of how I wish to live life.
Only recently have I come to an understanding of that framework; it takes into account all the elements of who I am, of what I love. That framework accepts and embraces my abilities and talents so that they can be meaningfully expressed. Now that I see these elements in their priority of importance I believe I better understand the balance I am reaching to achieve.
It has taken a great deal of work to reach the point where I can finally make those first steps. Oddly, there were plenty of signs that I was approaching the decision: the desire for companionship, the new-found joy of loving family and putting into motion the doing of things that I thought lost.
For me, reaching a real decision isn’t a simple process but one where my heart and my head must align in full agreement. When that happens I am able to make an important decision with both logical and emotional clarity. I have made the decision to learn bravery in the face of fear, to bring myself toward happiness and joy in a full, realistic and wholesome way. My past might have been shaped by who I was, but it is new and upright decisions and my action upon them that will determine who I will become.
I believe in myself again. That belief resurfaced only after I made it happen; I did not wait for some magical moment to make that belief reappear out of thin air. I relied on others to teach me how to use the tools to bring that belief to life and then I used those tools to part the veil of fear and pain so that I could see the direction in which I am headed.
“Happiness is not a brilliant climax to years of grim struggle and anxiety. It is a long succession of little decisions simply to be happy in the moment.”
– J. Donald Walters
Yet it is only just now that I see a balanced life. It is only now that I can make the choices in real understanding.
So it’s time to make the first step happen. I am about to launch myself into a future where uncertainties can be met with mettle, where the tools I have adopted can be fully deployed when needed and where life can offer joys again whether large or small.
But it’s only a beginning. I know now that I had been seeing the world from a point of view of inevitable, expected failure, and no one can move forward toward a meaningful life, a reasonable life when the focus is in the past.
The right path? Well, we’ll see. The balance I envision will guide me toward a life where things work out in the end, for better or worse. I certainly hope it is a balance between the two. And I’m certain that along the way will be an occasional dragon that will require slaying. That’s all right; I’ve slain more than a few dragons in my time and have managed to live to tell the tale.
Wish me luck. And here I go.