Published on July 30th, 2013 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles0
A Life in Balance
by Teddy Witherington
“If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing to excess,” was my jet-propelled mantra for hyper-indulgence. It seemed like a good idea when the lid blew off my sheltered puritan upbringing and I erupted onto the pheromone-drenched gay scene of London c.1980. Unsurprisingly, the seeds of disaster didn’t take long to sprout.
Before long I became the credit for my credit card, living way beyond my means and the tolerance of my mind and body. I became dead on the inside, working like a dog to earn the money to finance my endless party. There was no time for downtime, cultivating meaningful relationships, nurturing the soul or slowing down. I lived the crazy life, what the Hopi call Koyannisqatsi.
So what the hell am I doing talking to you about a life in balance?
Well, to know balance I must know myself, my propensity for excess and my limitations. I do not occupy any moral high ground.
Truth is, I still have a scant acquaintance with balance, but what I do have is a sense of contentment, ease and abundance that allows me to appreciate my surroundings. For me, this takes effort. My mind, left to its own devices, is a puppy straining at the leash.
So, for me, my quest for a life in balance starts with quiet time in the morning. That means getting up earlier than I have to, taking my time making tea and breakfast for my husband and I. It means watering the plants, practicing a simple spiritual ritual that consists of a few minutes of meditation, some reading and then a shower. The entire process from waking to leaving the house takes about 75 minutes. It’s the most important 75 minutes of my day and sets the tone for the remaining 13 hours.
When I do this I adjust to the tempo of life and float in its stream: neither pushing nor pulling. Scuba divers experience a similar sensation on a “drift dive” – when the diver is transported by only the currents of a tide or a river. I went on a drift dive in the Maldives in 1989 and it was an amazing experience: observing what came into view and letting it go. Unfortunately I also drank that particular island dry of Port and had started on its stocks of Sherry before I left and so the acquaintance with peace was fleeting, if memorable.
On a good day, my day starts in the way I described above in a state of equilibrium with the currents of the universe. My walk to the train stop at around 8:15am is a journey of wonder. The glorious show of creation explodes around me. Thus invigorated, I subside into my novel of the moment on the short train ride to work.
Yes, I still “work,” if it can be called that, and I love it. I serve a non-profit the mission of which vibrates at the same frequency of my heartbeat. What’s not to love about that?
Arriving around 15 minutes early most days, I make a cup of Orange Pekoe tea on arrival and allow myself to dunk a Carr’s Lemon and Ginger Cream Cookie into the malty elixir as I launch into work.
As the day progresses it’s easy to want to paddle in different directions as other currents swirl. The most treacherous is my own ego and I have to remind myself if how I can contribute to the stream rather than trying to direct it.
Come lunchtime, I eat. I am never too busy to eat these days, and I eat at regular Intervals. A good breakfast of oatmeal around 7am a reasonable lunch around 12:15pm of 50% veggies, 25% starch and 25% protein and early dinner in the same proportions around 6:30pm mean that I am always well-fueled.
Sometime between 5pm and 6:30pm I head home, again taking a refreshing plunge into my novel on the short train ride. On the walk home I usually check out what’s good and fresh at the local store and cleanse my mind in the meditative practice of cooking the evening meal.
My husband clears the dishes and we play with the cats and decide how to spend our evening.
On weekends I lie in, sometimes. Doing nothing, pottering around, allowing the universe to drop a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow is how I prefer to spend those days. It’s a lovely feeling.
I no longer have desires I can’t satisfy. The word “enough” has meaning. I was born into a generation of gay men that were conditioned by society to think less of themselves. I felt the need to try harder to achieve status, success, wealth and love. Such things are not, of themselves necessarily bad things, but coupled with the culture of hedonism that pervaded the gay scene I grew up in, the cocktail was toxic.
Of course, not every day is as serene as the one have described here. There are days when work takes over, days when my volunteer commitments swell and days when they shrink. My quest for balance continues and I live in the certain comfortable knowledge that my quest will outlive me. I wish you well with yours.
The truth that I have discovered and come to adore is a simple one. I don’t have to ‘find the time” anymore because it is here. All I have to do is wake up.
Teddy Witherington currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer at Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. www.outandequal.org