“Iced coffee up at the bar.”
I heard my barista buddy Heather call out my order. She handed me the plastic cup with a smile on her face as I retreated to the patio outside the coffee shop. I sat down in the shade in the cool morning air and saw another man sit down across the way. He looked up from the newspaper he was skimming and said, “Good morning!” A complete stranger, but nonetheless interested. “Beautiful morning! It’s perfect!” I replied with a smug grin, I was feeling chipper. “Not too hot, not too cold…” Not too hot, not too cold. Not too hot…not too cold...why did that stick with me for eons after he said it? Why were those 6 words resonating with me so clearly this morning? And then it seemed to hit me like an NFL linebacker. This was the key, the answer to a greater question I’d been pondering for months and months.
The answer was balance. But not the balance that my coffee shop acquaintance and I had briefly discussed. Not the “not too hot, not too cold” method. Some people might call this the middle ground. As a matter of fact, a great thinker named Siddhartha once thought and preached the same thing (He would later be called “Buddha”). In the naive days of my early adulthood, I used to believe the same thing. Find the middle ground, find your way. But balance doesn’t exist in the perfect temperatures. Balance doesn’t even always exist in the middle ground. Because a crucial part of balance is understanding perspective, finding yours in the experiences that happen to you everyday, the moments that sand down the edges of your life and begin to bring shape to it.
I love using the metaphor of a surfboard. Most boards start as a “blank,” a piece of foam or wood large enough to saw off, sand down, and fine tune the edges to bring a particular shape and style to the blank. For cliche’s sake, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that life is a surfboard being constantly shaped, but what really strikes me here is how, within all the processes happening to this blank piece of foam, a shaper can find balance not only in the geometry and style of the board, but can add their own creative touch to it. They can leave their mark on this board and bring their perspective to it.
Back to balance, life has an outstanding way of building you up and tearing you down, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes over long periods of time. This. Sucks. But what would your perspective be without those peaks and valleys that life provides? Siddhartha was a prince before he reached enlightenment. As a matter of fact, he also lived as a wanderer with no possessions to his name before he discovered that the middle ground was the way. Without experiencing both ends of the spectrum, Siddhartha’s story would be null and void. Gaining that perspective is how he found his balance, and that is how we can find ours. The peaks and valleys of life don’t have to be positive/negative. Understand that these experiences will provide the perspective you need to find your middle ground, to find the balance in your life.
I looked back over at the man a few minutes later, just to check in. He was fused to the newspaper with a half empty mug in his hand. Perfectly content, enjoying himself in this simple moment. He wasn’t looking for anything spectacular, he was simply enjoying the balance in his life. I looked back over at my journal and saw the sun start to peek through the trees we sat under. A nod from the universe? Maybe. But I like to think it was a simple sign of balance. “Not too hot…not too cold.”
What a wonderful world :)