In order to make articles and columns available to readers here, I am reprinting them as posts. This was first published in Mused: The Bella Online Literary Review, Fall, 2008.
Once again, the time has come to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox when the day and the night are each exactly twelve hours long. On only two days of the year—generally September 21 and March 21—is the earth and all who live on her in such perfect balance. The Winter Solstice, December 21, is the longest night of the year and the Summer Solstice, June 21, the longest day.
For millennia, the equinoxes and the solstices have been sacred; ancient monuments all over the globe were placed in alignment with them. On these days, I have always felt that I am somehow both living in my daily life and also connected to the movements of the cosmos. I love to contemplate what it means to be in balance and then also to be in great darkness or light. The solstices and equinoxes are moments shared by everyone on Earth, something that ties us all together four times a year. And so, this Equinox is a day for all of us to honor balance, but how?
For myself, and probably many women, the words “finding a balance” really mean juggling more things than any human being should have to. I wear myself out being and doing what bosses, clients, children, spouses, parents, houses, bank accounts, schools and teachers, and my community all want me to be and do to meet their needs. “Balance” is a burden, as if by constantly saying that I am working to achieve it I can somehow make all the pieces of my life work, even if they really never can.
But the equinox balance is different. It beckons us to step outside our everyday selves and look at our lives as a whole, as if viewing ourselves from the sky. And, when I do that, maybe I can find an answer to truly finding “balance.”
To me, the equinox means stepping first into the darkness and then into the light, being comfortable in both. “Darkness” has taken on the meaning in our culture of something bad and dangerous. Yet, in many times and places, darkness means the fertile black soil from which our food and shelter grow and where our bodies will eventually be buried to be part of the great cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Darkness rules the caves where people go to commune with our Creator and face our truest selves. When I go into the darkness through meditation or just lying in bed thinking early in the morning, I step outside the hubbub of my daily life and really contemplate who I am and want to be, what is important to me to achieve, and what I truly believe from my own life experiences.
When I have been in the darkness and have a better sense of the truth of myself and my life, I am ready to step out into the light. To me, “light” means expressing the truth that I have found for all to see, not hiding in the shadows. It means being myself and saying what I think and feel, even if it isn’t what everyone wants to hear. It is not doing or believing one thing when I am out of sight and pretending to go along with everyone else when I am in plain view.
How does honoring both the dark and the light help me be “balanced”? When I know who I am and am not afraid to live it, I can put my life in order. If my child is sick, but I have an important meeting at work, I no longer agonize. I am a mother first and the meeting will have to wait. If the lawn needs mowing and I have a poem pop into my mind, the poem gets written and maybe the lawn never gets mowed.
But, make no mistake. Finding my truth and bringing it out into the sunshine has sometimes gotten me in hot water. It led me to stop working full-time so that I could have more time at home while my child was young. Now that I am ready to take a full-time job and need the money, employers won’t believe that I can be a dedicated employee and I may never get a new job again. When I see injustice or unkindness, I feel guilty if I don’t speak up, even if that makes me a target, too. I have recently lost a close friend who was not able to accept that I wasn’t who she thought I was and that I could not try to change to suit her image.
Yet, as hard as it is to face myself in the dark and then show myself in the light, I found that once I began to live out who I truly am, I could not stop. To do otherwise is not only betraying myself, but also what I most truly believe: that all beings are sacred. I was made to be who I am and I truly think there is a purpose behind my creation. Only by being true to myself can I be where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do. Really, there is no other choice.
I love that the universe has given us not only these two equinox days and two solstice days each year, but that the whole year is a constant moving in and out of the light and darkness every day and night. Once I had hoped that I only needed to “find myself” once and I would be set for life. How wrong I was. I am not who I was yesterday and certainly not who I was a year ago or ten years ago. I have had new experiences, thoughts, perspectives on life. This stepping into the darkness and into the light again is a continuing process, a never ending adventure of self-discovery. As I get older, this stepping back and forth is becoming easier. I am becoming lighter on my feet as I become more comfortable in both worlds. Come, and we can all dance together.