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A Balancing Act

“Desire urges me on, as fear bridles me.”

– Giordano Bruno (1548 – 1600)

I came across this quote in a book I was reading recently and the truth of it struck me.  It seems to describe almost every aspect of my life (and I’m betting I’m not the only one, although perhaps this is misplaced hope that I’m not the only one stuck in the mire).  Whether in my work, relationship, or personal ambitions, I always seem to be engaged in a constant back and forth dance between the desire for something I want to have, be, or create, and the fear that inhibits action.

My twenty-month-old niece came to visit recently and I spent the whole weekend watching her explore her world, envious of her unbridled zest for life and desire to do and discover whatever was in front of her.  At one point, in the pool in my neighborhood, my sister-in-law put her waist deep into the one- foot baby pool.  Instead of crying or cowering in fear at the new experience, she squealed with delight and began to walk, then run, through the water.  Even after she went headfirst under the water a few times because she got in front of her feet, she merely coughed, blinked the water from her eyes, and then begged to be put back into the water to continue her explorations.  When I lifted her out of the water and splashed her back in, she threw back her head in mid-air and screeched with what can only be described as the purest joy. 

Compare this to adult life, where, when one has fallen headfirst quite a few times into deep water (as I most certainly have), the tendency is to withdraw into yourself out of a fear of falling again rather than letting yourself experience life’s challenges with relish.  I wish I could bottle and sell some of the simple joy that radiated out of my niece all weekend over every new event or thing put in front of her — I’d be a rich woman.  Don’t get me wrong, there are most definitely moments in the life of a twenty-month-old that I would not describe as “radiating simple joy” and that in fact may be more accurately described using words like “exorcism.”  However, those moments are fodder for another post entirely.

I think my new mission will be to constantly remind myself to experience and live life like a twenty-month old; I’ll try to look at everything I see with wonder and attempt to let go of the fear to follow every one of my desires.  Then perhaps someday I’ll be able to master this life-long balancing act between desire and fear. I just might leave out the back to back episodes of Dora the Explorer.

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