As I celebrate my 29th birthday and a move to yet another country in less than a year, I find myself once again contemplating the concept of balance, which was my true inspiration for this blog. While I initially thought of balance in terms of incorporating various activities in my life in just the right proportion such as a healthy diet, exercise, spirituality and service (which I still consider to be fundamental pillars that bring equilibrium to my life), I am realizing that balance also extends to the more existential and philosophical domains.
Hal and Sidra Stone, two PhD psychologists and practicing therapists, developed a concept called Voice Dialogue (http://voicedialogueinternational.com/FAQ-index/What_is_Voice_Dialogue.htm) whose premise is that each of us “contains multitudes” of selves, some of which we identify with and others that we reject. They postulate that this over-identification with some selves and the loss of wholeness that comes from the rejection of others can create imbalances and blind spots. Their work is about embracing all the selves in order to see the dynamics of the world around us shift as our internal world changes.
After living in Buenos Aires for 6 months and being presented with a new professional and personal challenge that involves a move to Mexico, I am suddenly hyper-aware of one of these “selves”, which has dominated my personality and my last 29(ish) years. I would characterize this side of me as a “pusher,” and while it has driven me to accomplish numerous goals I’ve set for myself, I cannot help but feel like something else – some other force – is yearning for an outlet. I push myself constantly, and although in many ways it has served me well, I am starting to wonder what the purpose of it all is when I rarely stop and truly enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Psychologists certainly were not the first to conceive of the concept of balanced personalities or qualities as fundamental to a healthy existence. Dionysis is the god of fertility and wine in Greek mythology, depicted as embodying a dual nature. On the one hand he brings joy and divine ecstasy. On the other hand, he brings brutal, unthinking, rage, thus reflecting both sides of wine’s nature. It’s no coincidence that the god of wine is also a heart figure and symbol of enjoyment of the present. Perhaps that has always been my subconscious draw to wine (not just that I enjoy drinking it!)…I consider the entire process from the grape’s fermentation to the actual development of the wine as a miraculous fusion of favorable conditions and the winemaker’s sense of when to seize the day. Additionally, appreciating wine truly requires tuning into and engaging all of one’s senses. However, when taken too far, wine consumption may cause uncontrolled emotions or conversely, a numbing of all emotions, in addition to a massive headache. Dionysis represents a lesson in balance and serves as a reminder that anything taken to an extreme becomes a detriment, even if it’s a drive for success.
So what’s my ultimate goal to achieve balance in this next year, which is sure to bring more changes and unknown adventures? Ultimately, I would like to learn to tune into these competing internal dialogues and acknowledge them through my actions and lifestyle. Currently, I have a voice inside that is calling me to relax a little more, embrace the moments and accept that it is not a weakness, but rather a critical aspect to a more balanced life. Ironically, I’ve been surrounded by these messages all along, as I have observed that for Argentinians the real key to a balanced life is a general absence of hurriedness and total enjoyment of the moment. It’s a wonder they can even operate because they are so engaged in the present that even sleep is commonly an afterthought. While I live absorbed by what’s next and find myself mentally exhausted by the end of the day, Argentinians have an admirable ability to function fully immersed in today, often to a maddening degree for my impatient personality. I look forward to exploring how the Mexican culture defines and leads a balance life, and in the meantime, I hope to take a little piece of what I’ve learned here in Argentina and allow it to release that other voice inside, urging me to become the best self I can be. Now if only I could bring the Argentinian wine along with me…