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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder


I'm out of whack. Off-kilter. Keerflooey. Verklempt. It's as if I'm walking the tightrope between the two Twin Towers in New York with Phillipe Petit, and one misstep to the left or right and I'm toast. (BTW, I recommend Colum McCann's Let The Great World Spin, a fabulous book that begins with Petit's successful feat.)

Yes, it's a matter of balance, and my scales are leaning like the Tower of Pisa.

Funny, because as my stomach muscles--my core--have turned to mush and gone south, so has my physical and emotional balance. The mind/body connection is operating at warp speed, you should excuse the expression. For example, it's become a bit of a challenge to step on wet, slippery stones in my garden without taking a slide.

The same holds true when I least expect a pair of shoes placed haphazardly on the floor or a garden hose on the sidewalk or several books laid on top of each other. I blame my potential misfortune on cataracts but am sure that is not the root cause here. It's a question of balance.

What about the emotional imbalance? I've had my share. I got myself in a real tizzy when a neighbor determined to trim our trees that "invaded" his property. I did the same thing when the dance teacher who has led class for eight or nine years announced that she and her husband were moving to Florida. I stepped in to help find a new instructor and drove myself to the edge of a cliff because I couldn't gauge how the other dancers were feeling and whether they wanted to move ahead or let one of the other dancers fill in for an undetermined amount of time. Doesn't sound like a big deal, does it? But dance is an integral part of my life and without it, I am out of balance. (I haven't taken a dance class since the end of January 2020.)

My new therapist--the only one I've seen since I dragged my first husband to the doctor's office because I wanted out of the marriage but needed help in figuring out the most graceful way to leave. That was fifty-three years ago! Anyway, "my" new shrink says that I'm a storyteller. What's wrong with that? I asked. It serves you well in your writing, he said. Not so much when you're unsure of what someone is thinking or feeling or planning to do.

I was pleased to have him recognize my ability to spin a yarn but not so thrilled when he explained how I can get myself into trouble and lose my balance. You have a need to fill in the blanks, he said. You make up a story. It's important for you to have a beginning, middle, and end. When you can't tie the puzzle pieces together, you create your own and, in the process, usually get the story wrong and cause yourself all kinds of angst.

I hated to admit it, but he was right. I don't sit well with ambiguity. I want answers. When they are not evident, I make them up and then simmer by repeating the story over and over and over again in my head until I'm ready to deliver quite a speech, if and when the opportunity arises.

Most of the time, I never get the chance. Or when I do, I no longer care that much about the ending. (Maybe I should have been a playwright and written in Act One, Act Two, and Act Three.)

Getting back to the core. I'm trying to tighten and strengthen my physical core. Let's be honest: there ain't a heck of a lot that can be done at age seventy-six. However, the good news: there's a lot I can do to recenter myself when it comes to my emotions and how I choose to handle the ambiguities in my life.

I've been practicing. Little by little, poco a poco.

I'm saving all those imaginative story fillers for the page and not for the "real" world.


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