Finding Your Balance

This is going to be a short post: today is my last day in Budapest, and I have packing to do. But I was thinking about the issue of balance. When I take a ballet class, we do each exercise on both sides, right then left. After the right side, the teacher always tells us to find our balance. There we are, en pointe, letting go of the barre and finding the center of our bodies, where we can balance: figuring out how we can stay en pointe, on two legs or sometimes just one. If you don’t find your balance, you can’t turn. You can’t do a pirouette.

We have to find our balance in life as well, of course. It’s from that balanced place that we can turn and move. We each find and maintain our balance differently, I think — just as we all have different bodies, different minds and spirits. For some people, it means living in the peace and quiet of the country, having a garden, keeping chickens. For some, it means living in the liveliness and bustle of the city. For almost everyone, I think, it means finding the work you feel as though you were meant to do.

I was thinking of this particularly because yesterday I was feeling a bit off balance. My friends Cavin and Sunshine were visiting, and we spent the day walking around the city. For lunch, we stopped at Gerbaud.

If you were wondering what Gerbaud looks like from the inside, here it is. The nineteenth century did coffee houses right, didn’t it?

At Gerbaud I had an enormous, sophisticated ice cream sundae, the Gerbaud Sundae. (This is how it’s described on the website: two scoops Gerbeaud “Valrhona” cake, three scoops chocolate ice-cream, apricot purée flavoured with apricot palinka and dried apricot, whipped cream, apricot foam, chocolate sauce, Gerbeaud bonbon.) It was absolutely delicious, but of course it was too much to eat. Still, I figured, it was the last day I would be walking around Budapest, and I could do something extravagant.

And then we went to St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Before going inside, we decided to climb up to the dome and look down on the city. Now, I’m not afraid of heights, exactly. But I am afraid of falling from them. The sign at the bottom said it was 302 steps up. When we got to the top, I stayed close to the wall. I think that may be a matter of balance as well: I always feel as though I’m going to plunge to the city below, despite the stone parapet that has surrounded the dome for more than a century. But I did take some pictures.

This is a picture of the stairs going down, with bits of Sunshine, Cavin, and Ophelia (who was much braver than I was, and held my hand walking around the entire dome). The lower stairs were stone. The upper stairs were cast iron, so you got a much clearer sense of how far you had climbed.

This is my last day in Budapest, and I feel very sad to be leaving. But I think that throughout this trip, I have gotten a much better sense of my balance. It’s often by being slightly off balance that you feel where your center of balance is. You have to test and feel your limits. I hope that knowledge will help me in the next year. It will be a year of transformations — among other things, the year in which I’m trying to finish the novel. I hope I’ll be able to find my balance, to maintain the place from which I move and turn.

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