Striking a Balance Take 1

Someone asked me recently: "Why did you choose the name "Striking a Balance" for your exhibit?

Have you thought much about the balance in your own life? As I live my way through a day, I find myself at the nexus of many continuums: action/inaction, giving/receiving, cleaning up/making a mess, teaching and learning. I'm always in search of the balance, and like the see-saws of my childhood, I seek the miraculous middle.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a young woman of 20 who had been in treatment for cancer a good part of her life.  She was referred to me with the thought that I could offer her ways of expressing all of those inexpressible wishes that fill the heart and mind of one with such a diagnosis. When I receive a request like this one, I rely heavily upon the balance between my intuition and my years of training, trusting that both are there to support me.

An article I'd read in the latest Oprah on Vision Boards sprang to mind. I explained the concept to Sarah (not her real name), and talked about how to look for pictures that could paint a picture of her deepest desires. It was absolutely alright to hope.

As Martha Beck noted in her article " To really work, a vision board has to come not from your culture but from your primordial, nonsocial self - the genetically unique animal/angel that contains your innate preferences." I explained that by choosing images and creating a collage, her choices would impress themselves in her mind, helping to guide future choices.

She understood all this and quickly went to work. I scoured the pediatric floor, collecting magazines for her inspection. With the help of several volunteers her own age who supplied companionship, she created a board beyond my imagining.

Framed by a narrow border of leopard print which she had painstakingly drawn and painted, lived the images of a future life: a rose garden, a husband, her present and future family and the words "Love the Divine Life."

The board astonished many of us including her doctor. There is always a delicate balance in these rooms. Will the treatment work? Is it o.k. to talk about one's dreams?  How do you strike a balance between the turbulent voyage of treatment and the possible outcomes? How do you create value and meaning, when to the person in the hospital, their room seems to contain anything but that? This last question often means uncharted territory, but the board broke that wide open. For all of us who work with Sarah, the collage became a doorway into her soul. And, for that moment, she had helped all of us strike a balance.

Balanced Rocks Photo courtesy of: Michelle Meikeljohn,
Photo of Red Rose courtesy of: Image: