Balance Point

balance

In a recent personal rejection from The New Quarterly, the editors noted that while they often publish work “engaged with the dark side of the human condition and family” those works typically have a “point of balance.”  It got me thinking about my tendency to gravitate towards that darkness, to the exclusion of the light. It’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember; there was a time where I was sure I wouldn’t have kids because how could I raise kids in a world I had no hope for? These feelings have been exaggerated lately, to the point where I actually feel paralyzed to write anything at all (I do, though, continue to write daily).

I feel like it’s disingenuous to write pretty things, all light and air, when the world is dark and getting darker. Even in the microcosm of family life, I feel like it’s a disservice to the truth if I don’t talk about my struggles. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. If we don’t talk about it, everyone continues to suffer in silence, alone in the dark. But it seems like my devotion to the hard truths of life has become an unhealthy obsession: if I’m not writing about hard, sad things, I’m not writing. I can remember this being a part of my writing life as early as my teens. I wrote in my journal most often when I was going through heartbreak, either romantically or with friends. Writing through the darkness was how I made, how I continue to make, sense of things. That is a part of my depressive nature, I suppose. So maybe a part of my practice must be to continually choose to turn towards the light. To document the neutral times, the happy times. To learn the language of levity.

In the days since Trump’s election, I’ve seen it suggested by a few different artists that to continue to make beautiful things is, in fact, a radical act. I feel this responsibility to the truth; to not look away from all of the horrific things happening in the world. I feel like, as artists, we must witness and document. But people need to rest, too. I write so often about self-care, and for me, self-care is sometimes turning away from the endless feed of news and towards something so beautiful it takes my breath away: a favourite poem, the light on the hillside at sunset, my kids holding hands as they play. This leads me to wonder if my power as a writer might be in creating things of beauty. Safe places to rest the mind for a while. Because we can’t afford to look away. We have to stay engaged in order to fight what is coming, what is already here and has been here beneath our notice for decades. But to look for the beauty in each day, to turn towards the light, is the balance point I need right now. It’s a gift I can offer, first to myself, and then to my kids, and then to the rest of the world.

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5 thoughts on “Balance Point”

  1. Oh Tara, I love that you write about the hard stuff (and I swear it’s not my own depressive nature talking). When I read your work, it always feels true. I do agree though, that during this dark time, we must actively seek the light. Such beautiful words here about the need, as artists, to document, but the need, too, to turn toward beauty. I feel this happening again and again in my daily life. I fall into the dark, the news loop, despair. But then there is my daughter’s laughter, the new fallen snow. Thank you for pointing me back toward the light!

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    1. Thank you for this, Sarah. I think it’s important to share the hard stuff, so we feel less alone. I’m so glad it feels true to you. I’m finding it helpful, though, to look for the balance! I feel like this is something you do regularly in your writing, a habit of noticing those small little points of light.

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  2. I’ve been trying to work through this in my book–balancing the dark details of my family history with some levity. How to remain true to the dark details, not gloss over or downplay them but also not get bogged down? I’m with you–it takes constant reappraisal!

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  3. Tara – what a beautiful piece. I struggle with this too. The point of balance. Part of me feels it is reckless and irresponsible to go along with everyday life/enjoy the moment type of posts when democracy is crumbling and the world is melting. Like today- supposed to be a beautiful day in the 60s, sunny, but knowing this is the hottest year on record after the hottest year on record after the hottest year on record – is it even okay to enjoy it? I’m so grateful for the perspective in your post. Offering these places to rest, helping people (and ourselves) catch our breath. Restore ourselves. We need that too, or we’ll never sustain the fight. Thank you.

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