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Elizabeth Dutton


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here’s the thing: balance

mostly sinner

I do not think I have it within my facilities to properly address the current socio/political clusterfuck we find developing in our fair country (“The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,”  wrote Walt Whitman and oh, how I want to believe it right now, but I fail to see the art in any of this). But the whole thing has me thinking of balance.

Each of us is looking for balance, or should be. But we often want the high end of the see-saw and to hell with the husky kid who has to keep us up there, dusty legs in the dirt and cursing nature’s inequity.

Lately I have been feeling at the top of the see-saw and feeling guilty for it. I attribute this to Irish Catholic guilt administered early and often from birth through formative years (it is still directed my way, but I choose now to be like Siddhartha when confronted with Mara’s seemingly unending taunts and challenges – I touch the earth and it promises to love me and speak for me. With a side of quinoa, please).

Things are going my way, and it feels awkward. I got a book deal. I adore where I live. I adore to infinity my family and friends. I laugh a lot. I fucking love my job. (Now here’s where an interesting bit comes in. Some of my colleagues, of whom I am in perpetual awe because of their serious brilliance and clear thoughts and graciousness, are not as content. And I get it. I’ve been there. Been there times ten. There’s a weird part of me that feels like I shouldn’t flove my job like I do out of some sick solidarity — Irish Catholic guilt + strong upbringing in the labor movement — but I can’t resist. I love it. It’s perfect for me. But is there a rather inconceivable larger person at the bottom of the see-saw allowing me to enjoy these heights?

Sometimes I have to fight to remind myself to see my past in balance. Not everyone was a saint nor a sinner. No one person destroyed me or made me amazing. I can’t place blame and I can’t give all credit. For example, I can’t say that the last man who broke my heart made me feel bad about my body because I already did. He just added to it — a lot. That’s balance, right?

What about societal balance? No one can argue that things are not right in our society. And when I start to think about this imbalance, I want to rise up and break some shit. I want to light the fire. I want to tear it all down. But that is the initial impulse. You gotta ride that out a bit and regroup.

Texas wants to effectively eliminate abortions (and, as an added bonus, consistent and equal access to women’s health providers) in that state. Nothing after 20 weeks they cry, which happens to be the time when parents find out whether their potential child may have life threatening/altering/damaging defects or simply not be viable and possibly a threat to the life of the mother. (I know, I said I wasn’t going to get into socio/political stuff, but I cannae help it. It’s in my blood). Much is proclaimed about the sanctity of life. I don’t want to get into understandings of when life begins, but if life is so sacred, why does Texas seem to put people to death faster than you can say “This salsa’s made in New York City!”? Often, those put to death possess only the cognitive abilities of a child. Life is sacred. Food stamps and programs for children get slashed or eliminated. Life is sacred. Man murders kid after being told to leave him alone and walks free. Life is sacred. The overwhelming majority of Americans want some sort of gun control or background checks to prevent or at least reduce public bloodbaths, but those with pockets lined by the non-grassroots gun lobby called the NRA deny their own constituents and reject measures to save lives. Life is sacred. We don’t want to live in fear, but we live in ignorance of the number of civilian lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Life is sacred.

You know what else is sacred? Balance. And balance is life.

For every negative thought that enters your gorgeous head (whether the thought is directed at another or yourself), counter it with a loving one. For every complaint, counter with gratitude. For every injustice, work to create equity in your own small, essential way. Make something right for someone. For every soul-crushing act you witness or read about or hear about, respond with an act of unconditional kindness and compassion of your own. It is our job to set the balance.

This is some serious hippy shit, but these times call for it.

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