Balance is good for the soul

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 2, 2013

Have you ever made a decision you felt sure was right, only to end up wondering later: What was I thinking?
Second-guessing. I hate it.
Recently, I left my home and my husband and the life that I love to spend some time alone working on a novel on a lake in the mountains where I grew up.
When I made that decision, and most days since, I felt good about it. But there are moments when I have my doubts.
This is one of them.

I blame my grandmothers. You’d be hard-pressed to find two women with less in common, apart from the facts that they both married, raised children and loved their grandchildren. Especially me.
But at some point in their later years — the point at which, to my utter amazement, I now seem to find myself — they chose vastly different lifestyles.
One lived alone in the quiet of a mountain where she took great delight in birds and books and sunsets and seasons and the occasional visits from her family. Especially me.
The other lived on the main street of town in a never-ending drama of nine grown daughters, where she knew everybody’s business and how much they paid for it, and doted on her grandchildren. Especially me.
The best moments of my childhood were spent in the care of those two women. I will forever be in their debt.
And somehow I ended up with the nature of each. I mean, two distinctly different characters, like the flip sides of one coin.
I like spending time alone.
But I like, just as much, to be absolutely in the thick of things.
I feel equally at home on a city street or a pig trail on the back of a mountain. Preferably a pig trail with an all-night diner.
I love having my house full of people, cooking for a crowd, watching them eat, listening to the music of their laughter.
And after they’re gone, I’m happy to be alone again, to take a deep breath and clean up the mess and give thanks for the good times we shared.
The problem is this: I don’t want just one or the other; I want both — to be alone, and to be with the people I love.
Too much of one leaves me homesick for the other.
The key, I suppose, as with most things in life, is balance.
This evening, I stood staring into a half-empty fridge, hoping to find something to eat without having to drive into town.

I was getting hungrier by the minute, for more than just food. I missed my husband. My kids. My grandkids. I even missed their dogs. And for what? To sit alone on a lake, trying to finish a book that would probably never matter to any living soul but me? What was I thinking?
Why do we always have to choose one love over another?
That last question — spoken aloud to a refrigerator — is one I’ve been asking most of my life.
The first time was when I was 4 years old, soon after my parents divorced.
My mountain grandmother dried my eyes with her apron and tried to explain why I could no longer live with both my mother and my dad in the same house together.
“We can’t always have things both ways,” she said. “But we can enjoy them one at a time.”
Her meaning might’ve been lost on me back then, but today, somehow, it found me.
So I took whatever I had on hand — potatoes, carrots, onions and kale — and roasted it in the oven with a little olive oil and a lot of garlic. And I ate it on the porch overlooking the lake in the waning, golden light of a perfect autumn day.
It was good.
Then I went back inside and sat down to write.
Sometimes the best meal, the one we truly hunger for, is the one that feeds our soul.
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