It’s the equinox today, and also the first anniversary of the national apology to those affected by the practice of forced adoption. This day last year, I was in the Great Hall of Parliament, bawling my eyes out. As ‘years’ go, it has been tumultuous, marked by the theme of balance. However I only realise this retrospectively, because I have been so unbalanced.
What is balance anyway? Taking nature as the guide, taking today as the guide, its when opposing forces are equal to each other. Day and night are equivalent to each other in length. One does not dominate the other. We can look at the qualities of each and appreciate their complementarity. Day and night are meaningless without each other.
When I grew up, we did not observe days like these. We observed (as opposed to celebrate) the customs of Christmas and Easter, New Year and Anzac Day. That was about it. So I have come to my appreciation of these solar points of the year as an adult. And I’ve especially come to love the equinoxes, precisely because of the imagery of balance. Everyone’s idea of balance is different, and I can only speak with authority on my own experience of it.
In this year, that experience has been slender. Firstly there was the apology, itself an offering of balance as the government, on behalf of the people, apologised to me the impacts of discriminatory attitudes. Bits of my armour fell off, a good but deeply disturbing experience. I came to understand a little bit more how much of an armadillo I have learnt to be. Maybe an echidna. Either way, some animal that is heavily armoured on the outside.
Secondly, I reached breaking point at work and resigned. No plan, no job to go to. Just an explosion that had been building for a long time. The wreckage has been substantial, but I was so overwhelmed with relief that I didn’t initially notice. I was anticipating my first trip to Europe, something I’d been anticipating since I was about seventeen. Anxiety, fear and money had stood in my way till then. It was the highlight of the year. An excursion into wonder. So wondrous that returning to a Canberra winter felt like suffocation.
I was also free, for the first time in my life. Free of deadlines, obligations, rules, expectations. I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself. We are not raised for freedom. We’re raised like cage hens, our lives tightly regimented and associating only with other cage hens. So that when it comes, I hovered at the doorway of the barn, daunted by the loss of all I had known. I have not coped at all well. Instead of fun and freedom, I’ve been romancing my shadow.
I’ve lived this last year, and indeed my whole life, like I am trapped between the solstices. Summer one day, winter the next. It’s been the solstice pingpong championships, and I’m exhausted. I crave a balanced life and it seems as elusive as a natural blue rose. I don’t want an all or nothing life any more. When I live like that, I’m not very nice. I’m self absorbed and selfish, angry and inflexible. I’m not so available to my friends and family. I’m less interested in the broader environment. I don’t think this is healthy in the long run, either for me or for the planet. In short, when I am being all or nothing, I am less kind, less creative and I can’t see the beauty. This is not how I want to proceed through the adventure of the world. Right now I am unclear on how to change this deeply ingrained habit of a lifetime. In the meanwhile, it’s a calm, clear autumn day. I’m going to get up appreciate it.