The Tightrope Artist Touches Earth

 A question of balance…

Blog-tightrope-Michel-MeninI don’t have a good sense of balance. The year I was ten I grew eight inches, to my full 5’5″ height, and after that nothing was where I had left it. The lower edges of upper kitchen cupboards. Streets as I stepped off curbs. My feet. Even now after all these decades, it’s as if the world tilts and throws objects sideways. How did the coffee maker get so close to the edge of the counter? Where did that bruise on my knee come from? That bump on my head?

Like many physical realities, this one seems to be a metaphor for so much else. Life balance? What’s that? I excel at projects, which I throw myself into. Maintenance after the project is completed, not so much. Preserving the precarious equilibrium between making art and making a life feels like a tightrope act to me. And if the balance pole tips even slightly the wrong way, I might fall off. Over one edge, friendlessness and squalor. Over the other, no art at all. I cling to the edge with the art on it and when I step away from that edge, I grab for connection. Often even ordinary upkeep seems impossible.

But on Sunday I cleaned the basement.

It was sorely needed, but it wasn’t on my list. Not now, anyway. Maybe in the mysterious future when I have this scheduling thing figured out. It’s a cellar-ish place at best down there, so I throw stuff in that I can’t quite deal with. Which makes it worse. By now it was about as bad as it could be. Then on Saturday night, late, I discovered that one of the heating ducts had come dis-attached from itself and was heating the world, not the house. Because of my long-standing aversion to seeing housekeeping as reality, I couldn’t even reach the duct break without a major organize, scrub-up and chuck-out. The situation had reached embarrassing. Sunday I went to work.

For almost seven hours I moved things, swept, re-arranged, wiped, threw out, recycled, vacuumed, made decisions. I even labelled. By early evening my lungs were full of dust and my back hurt. And the space was beautiful. Well, not beautiful; it’s still a basement. The space is functional. Functional is a huge improvement. On Monday my neighbour came over and repaired the heating system. Even he was impressed. It feels great.

But what does it all mean? Have I conquered the balance of maintenance problem? As much as I would like to think so, probably not. This wasn’t maintenance. This was a project. I excel at projects.

The whole question needs more thought. How can maintenance be manageable?

Meantime, let me just grab that pole.

How do you create balance?

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8 Responses to The Tightrope Artist Touches Earth

  1. Penelope Marshall February 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    That was done out of necessity, you were cold and needed the heat! If you had discovered the problem in July it would have been easy to put off until it started to get cold – even if you scheduled it for early September. 🙂

  2. Laureen February 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm #


  3. Minnie Joldersma March 1, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    I’ve learned to embrace my preference for projects, rather than chastise myself for that. I also “time” my work on maintenance things – e.g. “I’ll work for a half hour on …” – and I actually set the timer; or I set myself the number of threads I will work into a very large embroidery project on a particular day. Floating in my mind are also two adages my Dutch grandmother used to say as motivation to tackle a particular project (and I translate, which does lose the flavour of especially her dialect): ‘Getting to it is half the work’ and ‘getting to it is all it will take’. Congrats on organizing your basement, though – that must feel very satisfying! (now don’t throw more stuff down…).

  4. Laureen March 1, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

    You made me laugh – and thank you 🙂

  5. Elaine March 19, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    I am bad at scheduling maintenance type stuff in and doing it. Like you I excel at projects. I have gotten a little better as life as gone on at making some projects into routine recurring ones but I dearly wish the others would follow suit without trauma!

  6. Laureen March 19, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if the all the projects would figure this out for themselves! I wonder if there’s a way to gently encourage them.

  7. Cyndi March 19, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    Now I’m beginning to understand why I wait so long to clean closets and my office 🙂 I like projects, too! But I think I’d be happier if my projects involved creating instead of cleaning! Maybe if I could get the cleaning and organizing to be a daily habit then my big project energy could go towards creating instead of reorganizing in order to have space to create in.

  8. Laureen March 20, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    Maybe cleaning up could be part of the project rather than a separate one. I’ll probably be working on this issue forever!