Points on a Pendulum's Path / by Michelle Cowan

Life is ebb and flow, contraction and stretching, pulling in and pushing out. It's many different forces all at once, and somehow we balance in the midst of all of them. At least, that's the goal.

I can go too far. I can stay too safe. I am a pendulum swinging sometimes, one moment in perfect rhythm, another moment at startling extremes. But everything is allowed.

How would I know what it feels like to feel steady if I didn't also know what it feels like to be out of synch? How would I know happiness without sadness or loneliness without social overwhelment. Hitting the extremes reminds me that the middle is excellent, if at times boring. It's a trade-off of sorts: live at the extremes for excitement and precarious or frightening emotions, or live in the middle for solidarity of mind but also eventual boredom. When the boredom hits, I'm out the door, stretching again.

For quite some time, I believed that one way had to be better than another or that I had to choose how I wanted to live my life. Was I the kind of person who wanted to live an exciting, spontaneous life full of fun, adventure, and ripped-to-shreds emotions? Or was I the type to choose a quiet life, reading and calm, resting in the cradle of nature and thought? Both options still appeal to me.

However, now, instead of choosing one or the other, I am beginning to see that I can choose both - and everything in the middle.

At times, I feel wild and crazy and want to go-go-go. I shift into social overdrive, my performance gear kicks in, and I fly high for days. Other times, I want the world to completely stop and suck me into a black hole. I barely leave my house. I may try to do music; I may go to the grocery store. In that space, I frequently feel sad for a while...and WANT to feel sad. Letting sorrow take over occasionally rejuvenates my spirit and enables me to leave my house with a smile on my face once more, or to stay in my house but be able to laugh with more joy than ever.

Other times, I feel the peace of resting in the middle. It will seem as though I have the right amount of social engagement and the right amount of alone time. I find a balance between work, exercise, thinking, music, and just being myself. I accept all things and feel incredibly loving.

In each of these states, I wonder if I should perhaps be another way. Do I need more alone time? Am I not going out enough? Am I getting bored with this "balanced living"?

Truth is, each state works for me in some way - and typically also works against me. None of them are all good or all bad. They are simply points along the trajectory of my pendulum, and I can embrace them all without fear that I am not doing enough.

I'm still learning this, learning to trust that I can enjoy my propensities in each individual moment and also that I will eventually have different propensities. Although it sometimes feels like I will be sad and socially reluctant forever, that stage has always passed, and I have entered many an extroverted stint. Perhaps my introverted phases last longer or are more numerous, but I am learning that this is just me. I like that.

I also regularly return to balance after toying with the extremes, slowly seeing that the middle is not necessarily better than the edges. The extremes teach me. The state of balance is where I enjoy the fruits of those lessons. I'm still learning. I'm still confused. I still distrust myself. But I am learning to love others and myself for all the different ways we think and feel at various points in our lives. None of us is one way all the time.

Knowing myself means, in part, knowing that one, static definition of me cannot encompass the many phases that make up who I am. I never stop growing. Forward is the only direction (even though it feels like backwards sometimes). And the essential nature of humanity defies permanent labels.

Hooray for change and acceptance!