Keeping an Even Keel

I’ve had a friend of mine email me, concerned that my cup runneth over, and it is true, my life — as you, my readers, has seen over the past year or so — has been a balancing act. There’s the usual things: 1) work — teaching six sections in which TuTh are my hell days, 2) savate — trying to increase my wind, trying to learn how to fight as a lefty, trying not to hurt my fellow classmates, 3) school — working on my dissertation when I can.

Those are the big threes anchors of which my daily life revolves, and on good days I feel mighty competent about doing all three of them, and on bad days I feel as if I’m deluding myself and what-the-hell-was-I-thinking.

It’s like I’m on this roller-coaster sine curve, going up and down, up and down, but if I average out all of that movement, I get — I think, I think — something like balance. Maybe. Sorta. Or at least a semblance thereof that I don’t just wake up one day, walk silently into my truck, and disappear, never to be seen by anybody who knows me again.

So — keeping an even keel. Everybody has different ways of doing that. Some are just generally laid back and cheerful *all the freakin’ time.* I admire that; have no clue how to maintain that without feeling phony. Some have their own version of the up-and-down, of which they’re really good about dealing with the down by remembering the up, like the Romantic poets Blake and Wordsworth. I try to do that, but sometimes all I can do is drink warm milk, take an antihistamine and painkiller (because I tend to tense up, even while asleep), and go to sleep, hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Like Annie Dillard, I’d like to live without bias and motive, but, as a couple of people I love have told me, I don’t play; I mean, they tell me that I don’t know how to play, and I must admit that they’re right. Don’t get me wrong — I like having fun: I enjoy my hobbies, my in-class teaching moments, being with my friends — but I don’t choose to be whimsical, simply playful, just for whimsy’s sake. I’m too competitive, too driven, too ambitious, too proud, what-have-you. All of what I’ve said right now would probably surprise my students, since my in-class persona is different from my out-of-class personality.

But, as I have written back to my concerned friend, I’ve learned — still learning — to ride out the ups-and-downs, to build in structures where the three anchors of my life don’t conflict but — fingers crossed — actually complement each other. It doesn’t mean that I’ll suddenly become calm, cool, and collected; it just means that the little boat that is my sanity will keep an even keel, come fare or foul weather. And that’s pretty good, ain’t it?

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