We talk a lot about failing and succeeding, about balancing and juggling, balls dropped or kept aloft. I just wish there was another way. Can’t we just meet each challenge as it comes? Decide what is the most important thing to do right now and do it? Hold on to what we have and move forward?
I don’t want to feel as if I’m falling, like I’m going to hit the ground. I don’t want to fear that hurt, that abruptness of finding that I’m not able to stand on my own two feet. I don’t want to have to worry that I’m going to drop something and that everything else will fall in the scramble to prevent chaos — only to find that the chaos is inevitable.
But I don’t often get to choose. It’s not my life I’m carrying. I never know what things should be left, and what I should scramble to hold onto. Sometimes the things I think can be left behind or wait until I get back to them turn out to be someone’s most urgent priority, their most beloved possession.
So that is where I get tripped up: what is worth risking the twisted ankle and bruised shoulder for — because everything matters to someone. I may think it would be crushing if I didn’t go to the musical performance, write the napkin joke, sing the bedtime song. But, really, it would only be crushing to me. Someone else could live without it, might not even notice it’s absence.
But then, when I absent-mindedly push the precious, coveted elevator button, or add the last cup of oats to the granola mix, I sometimes tip the scales and set off a reaction that cannot be contained. The tears, the sadness, the anger spill out with unexpected power. They flow through the apartment, the day, and my own spirit. I try to keep a level head, maintain perspective, be understanding, and clean things up, make them better. But still. They seep and leech and before I know it I am covered inside and out with guilt, disappointment, confusion.
How did this happen? How did I get so off balance that I could cause such a devastating blow? How did everything change moods and directions so suddenly? Will I ever be able to wash out the stain from this particular spill entirely? Will I carry it with me, a sad reminder of my inability to be aware of everyone else’s feelings and prioritize them appropriately? Will I be able to purge it and start over again, clean, happy, pure . . . naieve?
Or am I destined to be sadder but wiser again and again and again, until I am burdened — and balanced — with that sadness and wisdom.
I guess that’s why we talk of juggling, of balancing. We worry about falling, and dropping things because we carry everyone’s feelings in our hands, and everyone wants to be on top sometimes. And the risk we take for trying to make that happen is that sometimes, they all fall down. Even our feelings. Especially our feelings.