Tag Archives: life is about balance

Lessons Learned: 2013 Edition


This year, I slow danced to the rhythm of two eulogies and shimmied into black lace dresses and bow-topped heels.

I passed easy on the Interstate and headed straight for arduous. I dipped my knees into rough carpet when being new felt like a curse.

It was hard. It was painful. It was unexpected almost every week.

Nobody sashayed up to me with a roadmap and said, “You are here. Where do you want to be?” I had to ask myself that question: Where did I want to be?

Happy. I wanted to be happy.

The weight of loss will drown you if you let it. Sorrow will envelop you. Wonder will destroy you.

He might’ve come storming into my kitchen with a shy apology and laugh thick with missing me, but he never did. She might have learned to smile under dull streetlamps but she hasn’t. They might’ve stopped pushing piles of guilt my way for moving too far from home but they haven’t.

I had to step outside and grab onto my own little slice of happiness. I had to build a life that felt good inside first, then outside.

I lost a lot. I don’t know if we think we’ll win just because we want it badly enough, but we don’t. We were set up to find the things we most fear losing, and then, eventually, setting them free.

Last October, I shared 32 lessons from 2012. And then, as so often happens, my life unraveled dramatically in November and December. I spent Thanksgiving giving thanks to timing. Because if you’re going to lose somebody you once loved like fresh cut grass and mint chocolate chip ice cream, it’s better you’re with family. It’s better to have a warm fleece blanket and pay-per-view and frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles.

It doesn’t hurt any less. But the loneliness is not just yours.

In these last months, I’ve learned so much. So in honor of last October’s tradition, here is the 2013 edition:

  1. Surprise yourself every day by taking well-deserved risks. The risk is in doing what frightens you. The reward is in realizing it wasn’t quite so deserving of your fear.
  2. If you want to make a change, make it. Don’t wait for someone else to take your hand and pull you forward. Do it today and commit to it wholly. I spent too many months wavering over major decisions that, once I jumped, didn’t feel so major.
  3. Justify your time only to yourself. If you have to tell your friends and family why you do what you do, either they don’t understand or you need to reevaluate your decisions.
  4. Hold close old friends. You will stretch your heart across this country like a canvas. And it won’t always feel good. But when you find your feet in front of familiar territory, remember how to say hello and embrace the people you’ve always loved. They’re waiting for your hand on their doorknob, even if they haven’t said so.
  5. Balance your life. It’s not easy. There is no guidebook. You’ll wonder if you’re doing it right. But with any luck, you’ll get better at it each year. Find time for work and play and don’t worry about one in the midst of another. Get to that point and treasure it.

What has 2013 taught you?

He is patient. He is wise. He is still alive. And he does not own a pair of New Balance sneakers.

via weheartit.com

It’s been quite a while since my last conversation with Albert Einstein.

I’m guessing that has something to do with the fact that he was tremendously busy digesting theories of relativity and died thirty-five years before I was born. No matter that I’ve been to Princeton, New Jersey. Have driven past it at least on Route 1 each week for ten weeks straight.

We would get along well. After all, he shares a birthday with my best friend, a girl who in no way inherited a talent for math and physics.

She sticks to drama, the performing arts. And so, I believe, did Einstein. Einstein was a thespian. I am sticking to that.

“There are two ways to live,” he said. “You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Part of me wants to believe Albert whispered that sentiment into my father’s ear before taking one last breath in a hospital bed in Princeton. My father grew up just twenty-four miles away in a small suburban town clustered with dead end streets and cul-de-sacs rimmed with ranch houses.

The facts are there: this did not happen. But it might as well have. It is the single-most important lesson my dad’s ever taught me.

And maybe he jumbled up the words and mixed around the nouns, maybe he took a second to flip through the hefty navy blue hardcover thesaurus that sits in my bedroom to find the perfect translation for such a profound statement.

Every time I lose my head, every time it comes tumbling off my tired shoulders and rolls under my bed, he says the same word.


“It’s all about balance, Kaleigh.”

Not balance in my sneakers but balance in my heart.

I shake my head, often on the other end of a phone line, and wait for him to elaborate.

By now, you would think I’d have his whole speech memorized like the theories for which Einstein was famous. But I don’t.

“It’s about perspective,” he’d say. “Never letting anything bring you too high up or too far down.”

My father’s hair is thinning and sticks up on occasion, but not like Einstein’s. Not in the way a man’s hair sticks up when he forgets to shower or shave or shove some soup down his throat once in a while to keep the blood flowing, the ideas raging inside his brain. My father is a passionate man, but he is level headed.

Unlike Einstein, he has found the gray sea in a black and white photograph. He knows about hues and shades and tints, about giving a little and getting a little and tweaking things until they fall into place. He is patient. He is wise. He is still alive.

We have a tendency to say things because they sound wonderful. They light up our eyes on rainy afternoons. They seduce us with a sense of calm to power through the storm.

My father’s words aren’t like that. I do not remember the last time I spoke to Einstein, but I remember the last time I spoke to my father.

I remember the words spilling out of his mouth, the careful considerations he asked me to embark on as I chose a destination for a long-awaited vacation in the middle of March.

I remember his words because when he speaks, they do not sound like unlivable phrases, like warm and fuzzy sentiments that grow cold and mushy over time. They sound like the building blocks of a human race, strung together to weather his almost fifty years on this earth.

Those words have served him well.