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The Teeter Totter

Today is an oddity. It’s still technically summer here in southern California and the past week has seen temperatures in the 90’s, but today is dreary and ashen. The sun was out for less than an hour before being banished behind a thick layer of muted grey clouds, and my open door ushers in a chill wind rather than a warm breeze. And I’m sitting in silence. The chirps and carols of neighborhood birds have been shut out by an invisible blanket of silence, and the splash of color usually seen among my garden from curious butterflies has all but disappeared. Even the spiders have vanished. It’s like the world is falling asleep, but I’m still fighting to stay awake and finish my obscenely long list of things-to-do. 

But the pull of the bleak outdoors is sucking me in, and I swear nature is telling me to stop, look around, and pounder the strange ways of the world. Or maybe it’s the inherent oppositeness of the day – me being productive in the fast-paced world of my business, while the weather slows down to a quiet stillness – that draws me toward the idea of balance…

After all, isn’t the world comprised of checks and balances? Doesn’t everything have an opposite; a balance to its extremeness? I can remember sitting in science class as a young boy being told everything has an equal and opposite reaction. Can’t that be applied to everything in life?

Fundamentally, in the ways of the world, we know this reaction to be true. Dark has light, life has death, fire has water…etc. But can’t we also use this law in our personal worlds? If the world is comprised of opposites, shouldn’t the concept also be fundamental in our emotional lives?

For example, in the most basic sense, there are certain times when we’re overbooked in work and things are hectic and crazy; and then there are moments of pure serenity and relaxation. Such things don’t happen in conjunction, but eventually the chaotic world of work is balanced by a vacation.  Sure, this is a cause of our actions and choices, but it works in opposites. There are days of laziness, followed by days of productiveness; moments of pain, replaced by the power of healing, etc. Even our emotions are held in check. Selfishness is balanced by kindness, truthfulness fights lying, love combats hate… etc. The list is endless. Like Newton said, everything has an equal and opposite reaction.

So how does this work in our reaction to terrible events that completely alter our worlds? What is the opposite of the emptiness and darkness you feel after you lose someone you hold dear? You can’t simply fill the void with someone else. The people you love hold a part of your heart and that part dies with their death. Is there any way to fix the blackness that remains?

In all honesty, I don’t know what the equal reaction would be. I know death is balanced by new life, but new life can’t eliminate what was taken from you. If anything, it patches a small portion of the hole ripped from your heart. But the void remains. Sure, over the years the pain subsides and the gut wrenching agony simmers to a dull throb, but nothing makes it go away forever. The best you can hope for is for the mend of the time, and to balance the tears of loss with the smiles of good memories. 

I guess in the sense of hopeless loss there is no equalizer, no opposite fix. And in a way we remain broken, with patches of new life, time and memories holding us together…


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