Balancing Act

ocean photography, Ocean City NJOnce a year I allow myself the luxury of keeping completely in balance. The other 364 days of the year I falter at times: am I spending too much time reading instead of writing? Am I too shy, or do I share too much? Am I cooking the asparagus too long, or too short? Am I giving a prompt to my writing class that will make them dislike me, or thank me?       

Einstein said,

“Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

But in life, do we not move too much? Shouldn’t we stay still a bit more often, to hear the music of the walking the beach, blogging, birds; to see the leaves turn from bud to bloom to a bright orange goodbye; to feel our muscles burn from a walk on the beach or a push on a pedal?

Ah, yes, which brings me to this one perfect summer day, when I balance my body on a rented beach bike.

We all meet there – at the NJ seashore – every summer. We come from Boston and Maryland and D.C., and even further. We drop the nomenclature of sister and brother, of aunt and uncle, of grandmother and in-law, and instead, all become friends for the week. Together, we cook, sunbathe, go for long beach walks, and watch the children frolic in the surf and sand.

Ocean City NJ Boardwalk, bking on the boardwalkExcept one early morning, during this annual week, I sneak out and slide onto an old rusty bike and pedal on the flat smooth streets of the family-friendly beach town.

The years blow away with each block I pass. The sun shines down on me as if I’m an old friend who’s been away too long. My leg muscles chuckle and my rear end laughs at the hard rigid seat.

I’m 5 years old and my life is in front of me like a soft summer morning that never ends.

at the beach, ocean

HOW DO YOU STAY BALANCED IN YOUR LIFE?

137 thoughts on “Balancing Act

  1. Beautiful post, Pam. Just perfect.
    It makes me think of the summers we spent in that same NJ town with our little girls. We were only there for less than a week, but they were special days of relaxing and just being with each other. I always read a stack of novels in those few days, too. It’s funny that I shared a photo of my girls on the beach from that time on FB yesterday.
    I love that photo of your grandson caught midair.

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    • I think that’s why we enjoy spending time with kids – it helps us remember our own childhood imaginings and ability to just feel JOY. “In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” Friedrich Nietzsche

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  2. Last time I rode a bike, I fell off. Daughter I law rented a recumbent bike at the beach. I was placed in front like a hood ornament with no control scared to bits. Just unbalanced, help!

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    • Oh dear, sorry I’m laughing – but your “hood ornament” comment is pretty funny. I think few people could stay balanced as an ornament on a recumbent bike, Jeanette. Next time, go for your own ride! ;-0 🙂

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  3. “I’m 5 years old and my life is in front of me like a soft summer morning that never ends.” What a glorious image. I can remember that feeling too, Pam, except that I was 8 before I could ride a two-wheeler. My mom would drive my bike and me to Livingston High School where they had a circular drive and round and round I’d go until one day, I finally got it. You’ve brought back that one soft summer morning. And I thank you.

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    • Awwww, I could see that little girl (you) circling to catch the bike balance. It is a great grasp of freedom. When I was 11 and 12 I’d just take off on my bike and ride for MILES down long lonely southern New Jersey roads. My parents had no idea where I was, or even what I was doing. That was in the “old days” when kids just …. played…. on their own. To you, and me, and feeling those soft summer mornings within us.

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      • Oh yes, indeed. At my last high school reunion a few years ago, we regaled each other with stories of what we were allowed to do back then. I wonder if our descendants will ever get to recapture those halcyon days.

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  4. I can picture that rusty, squeaky bike and I know the feeling of the sun on your skin while you ride up and down the streets without a care (except traffic and pedestrians). Beach days are precious and memorable, so hold those in your heart.

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    • That rented bike was so squeaky that I felt protected in a sense – no one could miss me biking down those roads! 🙂 Also, I love the bike lane on Wesley Ave. Ocean City NJ is definitely a bike-friendly community. And yes, in the cold bleak days of winter here, I shall warm myself with the memories of our summer beach days.

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  5. I think balance is an illusive or even illusion, but no doubt we need to counter movement with rest, work with play, etc. Life is full of cycles and rhythms. A week at the beach and riding a bike both sound lovely Pamela. The beach was our go to place each summer when I was a kid. And riding a bike always brings out the kid in me. I’m glad you had this time to rest and play.

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  6. Sitting on the beach in St. Lucia with my honey. Life is certainly a balancing act. To swim or read a book??? The turquoise blue water is calling me!!! Book will
    Have to wait!!!

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    • Baking – an excellent way to relive (and even re-invent) our childhoods. The smells, the tastes, the action of putting together ingredients to make one amazing treat. You not only reconnect with your childhood, but you give your kids memories they’ll never forget with your own baking (and baking business!).

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  7. Your bike took me down the memory lane…I learnt this skill when I was 10, my bike was bigger and my arms smaller but in an effort to keep going, giraffe trick worked for me and now when I can reach the upper ledges with ease, I feel proud of not complaining about the big bike that I had to ride to school. 🙂 for almost 10 years as my college too was within biking distance.
    You won’t believe, I can’t ride the bike now…seem to have forgotten the skill and can’t balance but have learnt life-balancing quite well…another story!

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    • (1) Once your new knee is ready to go, I think you should pose on your beach cruiser and post on your blog! (2) Yes, asparagus is tricky. I like it steamed so it’s not too crunchy, but not soft either. A few more years, and I’ll have it down, I swear! 🙂

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  8. No beach for me when I was a kid but a working farm where every hand was needed during harvest time. I would find hiding places where nobody could find me and read a book. Now I have the beach every day and love walking in the wet sand . Another beautiful post Pam!

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    • I can just SEE you hiding behind a haystack and reading a book, Gerlinde, when you were a young girl. What a great image. And now to think that you can walk (or bike?) the beach any day you want. So jealous (but happy for you!) ❤

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  9. Love this post. I always believe we just have to find our own rhythm and pace. My husband calls me his “energizer bunny” but even us bunnies need to slow occasionally. Summer is always perfect 🙂

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    • I think it’s even harder for high-energy people who ride bikes like the wind and joyfully race around life, to learn to slow it down and savor that breeze now and then. Summer IS the perfect time to find a balance and learn that slowing-down skill. 🙂

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  10. Gorgeous writing, Pam, especially the paragraph that begins with “The years blow away with each block I pass . . . ”

    My brain is often in “editor” mode which keeps me off balance. too. You put a bright spot in my brain that says, “Take a walk on the beach,” with or without a bike. It’s less than 15 miles away, for heaven’s sake.

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    • For heaven’s sake, YES! Every time you get bogged down with the editing (of that book we’re all looking forward to), think of me and realize how special it is to have that beach just 15 miles away. ENJOY!

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    • A long walk on a beach is the ultimate way to find balance I believe, Darlene. But on a fun/funny note, at our NJ seashore town, people rent “surreys” in which an entire family can ride in it without worrying about balance, just everyone pedaling and steering between other surreys – and pedestrians – on the Boardwalk. Six of us tried it one sunny warm morning, and I’ll have to admit, I screamed a bit now and then “Turn left. LEFT! No, the OTHER left!!” 🙂

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  11. We spent our summer with many family times at the beach, including a week’s family reunion. I think I keep my balance by spending time with my grandchildren. They help me erase stress, which surely help erase at least a few years. 🙂 Your family adventure sounds absolutely delightful! I haven’t ridden a bike in a very long time!

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    • I’m ashamed to admit I only ride a bike once a year – at the shore. In the “regular world,’ cars seem so anxious to pass bicyclists that riding on a two-wheeler is anything but relaxing. But beach time – that seems to relax everyone, thus it’s a great place for family to gather. And to watch grandkids jump into the air and show us all how to experience joy. xo

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  12. What a lovely post, Pam. Just reading it brings me balance. 🙂 I love the photo of the 5-year-old! Oh to be so carefree again – like riding a bike. All I have to do to find balance is turn off technology… completely! Then all of a sudden I’m present to the day. ❤

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    • Here we are, writers and authors hoping to find readers, so we’re pushed into the age of technology, even though all we really want to do is find comfort and joy in the pages of our imagination. Sigh. I’m with you, Diana. Too much technology definitely can keep us off-balance.

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  13. Melbourne is technically ‘by the sea’, but I can’t remember the last time I spent any time on a beach. I’ve always been more of a mountain person. Give me green and I’m happy. Looking at your photos though, they do remind me of magical road trips we used to take when the kids were little. I kind of miss that. Enjoy!

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    • Yup, okay, I’m with you. Walking in the woods is a wonderful act of balance. Just listening to the bird song, the chipmunk chatter, the sway of the leaves. Ahhhhh. Can’t ride my bike in those rutted paths, though. :-0

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  14. It sounded like such a warm and fun getaway by the beach in NJ, and with great company too. It did sound like you felt like a kid again on that bike…flying on that bike and being reminded of how times do fly. Balance is hard to find, and I feel at some point in life we are more of this and at other times more of that. A lot of the time I feel I am spending too much time writing a book chapter for my book…have to remind myself that dwelling on it too long might not be the best thing…and that a getaway might be the best thing. Enjoy the rest of summer 🙂

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  15. Your grandson is like my grandson and like my nephew used to be before he lost the skill and grew up. Levitation must be an age thing because gravity definitely anchors me to the ground now.A true delight to hear about your special day riding the bike through town Pamela.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

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    • SO GREAT to hear from you David!!! Yes, I’m still trying to levitate but find it was easier a few (more than a few?) decades ago. 🙂 Hoping you’re feeling well, my friend. xoxoxohugehugstoyouxoxoxox

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  16. Sweet. And no, you are not too shy and you never share too much! As for throwing your writing students into angst over the prompts…..you bring out the best in us!

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    • I’m lucky, because I work with writing “students” who constantly teach ME with their words. But still, I do get groans now and then when I throw out a prompt :-), but then the scritch scratch of pen on paper assures me that I will be forgiven. ❤

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  17. Riding a bike is one a way to feel carefree and young. It might be good for all kinds of balance issues but it is for sure good for the soul. It warms my heart to know there are families that still enjoy getting together for relaxation and fellowship. I so admire this aspect of you life. I think many of us might be a bit envious.

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    • Being with family is a great joy AND a great challenge. We’re all different personalities, of course. Which is why I’m the only one getting up at 6:30 a.m. to walk with the sunrise, and the rest of the crew thinks I’m crazy as I set my alarm. 🙂 Many thanks for your comment, Yvonne. Getting all the family together is a commitment that’s not always easy, but for us, builds memories to last a lifetime.

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  18. What a perfect end of the summer post! How lovely you and your family get together for a week of relaxation and fun! Makes me want to head to the beach — which I will in October. Just being in the presence of a vast ocean is balancing for me, whether on a beach or sailing.

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  19. What a wonderful way to spend a week! Sun, sand, water and family. Sounds balanced to me. I use a cane to keep my balance. 🙂 Lost it entirely almost 8 years ago so no bicycles in my life. Walking is dangerous enough. 🙂 Love the photo of your grandson with so much joy in his face. What a great memory to keep your heart balanced too.

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  20. I am still learning to find balance consistently in my life. Sometimes there is more, sometimes less. Journaling every day provides part of my balance. Your trip to the shore sounds wonderful. Though I haven’t been in a while, I will always love the Jersey shore. Glad you got to relax and have a little “side-trip” on your own. ~ Jeanne

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    • Journaling is an EXCELLENT way to balance, and I should do that more. I think the posts I write for my blog are sort of a journal – to share with all. So glad to know you’ve experienced the Jersey shore also. I wonder if we were ever there the same time? For us, it’s always Ocean City, NJ – Atlantic City is not our style, and Wildwood a bit too — wild — for us. 🙂

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      • I grew up in Jersey, so we spent plenty of time at the shore over the summers. Then we frequented Brielle, Lavalette, and Asbury Park when it was pristine. (I know it’s gone through many changes since then.) My Dad taught me to swim in the ocean at 3 years old. 🙂 A few years ago, I spent a little time at Point Pleasant Beach where a friend has a year `round house. Not much time to get down since, sadly.

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  21. What a lovely post, Pam! It reminds me of summers riding bikes in the early morning before anyone else was up and out, lazing in the sun with a book, watching my children play in the waves, and walking the beach in the evening. It’s those days that kept me balanced as a mom of three rambunctious boys. Today, my sons and their families can’t always join us, but I still look forward to a getaway, whether to the beach or the mountains.

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    • Reflective, sunny memories, for sure. I actually remember staying at the beach with an infant and my parents, and my dad would insist on watching the baby so I could get a swim in the ocean. But then when the baby woke up crying to be fed, he’d ring this cow bell he had from the deck (overlooking the beach) and I’d run up to nurse. Ahhhh, the grand ole days. 🙂 Love hearing how you stayed balanced in the summers with three boys – good job! Here’s to new memories and getaways in the beach and/or the mountains.

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  22. It’s crazy how our minds titter about too much or not enough. Our minds are so often not satisfied, seeking that elusive balance. But I am learning that our bodies know balance a tad better than our minds. Getting on a bike and pedaling perhaps nudges the mind: do it like this; do it like this.

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  23. I stopped using the word “balance” to describe the daily grind or struggle in trying to get the things done as I need or want them to be. I use the word “harmony” instead, and it has brought a much more positive vibe into my day.

    Obviously, “balance” is appropriate for riding a bike or carrying a tray of food on your hand, but I got to the point where “balancing my life” pressured me into thinking I had to do everything equally–writing, socializing, housework, exercise–and I found that to be impossible. Harmony allows me the freedom to do what needs to be done, when I am ready or have the time to do it, and there is no burden of guilt riding me. 🙂

    As such, journaling and meditating are part of my daily harmony.

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    • Harmony is such a beautiful word, and for good reason. Thanks for your harmonious (and wise) comment here. May we always have harmony in our lives – with help from our writing and meditating. ❤

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  24. Well, I stay balanced in my life by going outside and connecting with the natural world. Walking on the beach or in the woods. Then I feel refreshed enough to tackle the indoor things in an energized mood. The heat and humidity are keeping me inside this summer. No wonder I’m so grumpy and in slow motion lately!

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    • I think ‘being in nature’ is the bottom line of learning to stay balanced. Totally agree, Barbara. And yes, this has been the hottest summer I can remember. I walk by 7 a.m., and then try to stay balanced the rest of the day. ;-0 Stay cool!

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    • ACK! Yes, I like Einstein’s quote much better. If I had to constantly swim (or constantly do ANYTHING), I’d not survive long. Speaking of survival, I’m looking forward to reading your latest book – moving up on my TBR list!

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  25. What a lovely post, Pam, and loved your photos, too. Knowing your leg muscles chuckled and your rear end laughed made me smile. 🙂 Time spent at the beach like yours reminds me of days in my youth at Newport Beach in southern California. Great times and memories. 🌻🐬🐟

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  26. Hi Pamela,

    great quote, I love it. I love to ride a bike and I like to move forward.Life in us demands from us to develop.We must move forward always, because when we stop we become dissatisfied.When you look at the plants when it stops giving fruit, the wood is dried.Great pictures !

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  27. What a lovely post, Pam! And that picture of your grandson caught mid-air is fabulous! Ahh, to be that young again and have so many endless summers and their joys and wonders in front of you! Makes me quite nostalgic really… 😊
    As to riding a bike to keep balanced – perfect strategy! Einstein was so right about the need to keep moving!

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  28. Beautiful thoughts and scene. It is a conundrum “always move but don’t move too much”. I am never balanced. I am either sitting too much or moving too much. I admire your ability to find at least one day. I should be so lucky! 😉

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  29. Riding a bike with the wind in my hair is such a lovely feeling, but just a country walk in the fresh air especially at this time of year in England has got to be one of the best ways to stay balanced. Then home for a sit by the fire with a warm mug of something lovely.

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