I can’t find a good balance in my life and it is – quite literally – messing with my mind and health.
For others, January is for setting resolutions. For me, it is for getting around to things I didn’t get done last year, like that doctor’s visit. My doctor, kindly asked me “Is your blood pressure always so high?” and “Is this a good weight for your lifestyle.” Neither questions had an answer that made me feel like I was on the right track. Oh, no, I hate making resolutions…but, it looks like they are needed here.
I rationalize that the pace of my work and the long, frustrating commute don’t leave much time for finding the right balance. Family, friends, work, play and reading…oh, and a good meal out every so often…that’s all I need. It shouldn’t be so hard to balance.
Luckily, some people and pieces that I need for balance have been floating around me lately. While I won’t go so far as to say they have come together, I am beginning to see a glimmer of what balance may look like. Balance needs to connect all the people and pieces of my life that are important to me.
I read Will Richardson’s beginning-of-the-new-year blog titled The Choices We Make. He talked about the “Twitter Effect”. It reminded me of the” eMail” effect of the early 2000’s. Then we would check our email incessantly to be in touch, in the know, tech cool. Now, we check our “news feeds” on Twitter for the very same reasons. It has more to do with short attentions spans (and let’s admit it, being tech cool) than about reading and thinking more deeply about important topics. I can get caught in a Twitter frenzy throughout the day following links– and it usually makes me feel scattered and disjointed. Often now, I find myself tweeting a link just so I can go back and find it again…if I ever do. Richardson does go on in this post to discuss the number of friends one has. “Friending” as a verb always makes me cringe. A real friend should be cherished – with time, thought and care - and I’m not sure being a friend in Facebook makes anyone feel special and important.
Using Twitter as my memory does allow me to go back and find articles that I want to read – like The Social Animal: How the New Sciences of Human Nature Can Make Sense of a Life by David Brooks.
Help comes from the strangest places. We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness. Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others have made great strides in understanding the inner working of the human mind. Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows. They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has least to say. Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.
Help comes from the strangest places… luckily for me it comes from words and music, thoughts and ideas. I had the opportunity to listen to a Faculty Round table discussion at The Catholic University of America and was reminded that “to engage in work is charity” and that we should think about putting the” emphasis on the process and not on the end results” and always that “inspiration fuels intellect.” Roger Rosenblatt’s essay And Then What Happened? captures for me the need to write and connect with our fellow human beings. Hence, this blog post and hopefully more frequent ones to come in this new year. (Oh, no that isn’t a resolution, is it?)
In a small way the inspiration that fuels my intellect and all of these connections came this weekend when I attended the National Symphony Orchestra’s performance at the Kennedy Center. Being at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC during the JFK Inauguration 50th Anniversary was inspiration enough. The concert experience was a once-in-a-lifetime event. I can’t do the music and the experience justice in words. Suffice it to say that we who attended knew we heard something extraordinary – and I was connected to my mother and mother-in-law in that space through that music - and I wept at the beauty of the connection. Please read about the performance.
National Symphony Orchestra
It was instructive to hear conductor Christoph Eschenbach, at Saturday’s National Symphony Orchestra program at the Kennedy Center, lavish the same attention to nuance and layered sonorities in Bernstein and Gershwin that he brings to the symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler. Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” received a reading of rare perception and tonal luster, with a string-heavy balance of almost Ravelian lushness in “Somewhere” and a bracing treatment of the Varese-like riot of percussion in the “Mambo.”
David Brooks uses a scientist character in his essay to remind his protagonist about science and being human.
“I guess I used to think of myself as a lone agent, who made certain choices and established certain alliances with colleagues and friends,” he said. “Now, though, I see things differently. I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past we call genetics. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family, and the information offered months ago we call education. But it is all information that flows through us. The brain is adapted to the river of knowledge and exists only as a creature in that river. Our thoughts are profoundly molded by this long historic flow, and none of us exists, self-made, in isolation from it.
“I’ve come to think that happiness isn’t really produced by conscious accomplishments. Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year.”
We didn’t travel this past holiday to see loved ones, but we did Skype family members. Face-to-face through technology is better than a plain phone call. But, when my son paid us a surprise visit in early January, I knew then that Skype could never replace real face-to-face; and you can’t hug on Skype. This age of 140-characters, “friending” from afar and and my work with information and technology can be isolating. Skype, no matter the length of the call, is never long enough and no substitution for face-to-face connection. Living with loved ones, forever or for a short visit, gives you time for the big thoughts and the little laughs. The daily connection is what makes us human and happy.
If I am not back to a good balance in my life right this minute, at least I know the pieces are within my grasp and the connections are limited only by miles, my lack of imagination, and my lack of sleep!
“Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year.”
NOTE: You will be able to hear the concert from the Kennedy Center: From the Washington Post NSO Gets Contract to Record JFK concerts, new work