A balanced life is knowing that most of it is over, without morose or dwelling in the useless land of regrets. “A Balanced Life” is the name of a Pilates website I follow. Young Robin Long, the mother of four babies under four, has figured out how to sit on the Santa Barbara beach teaching snippets of Pilates: five minutes and eleven seconds stretching, eleven minutes of a full-body workout; seven minutes to strengthen your pelvic floor.
And it will all matter, says this exuberant mother of four. At her age I didn’t realize that short spurts of exercise would change my life, that I needed to not work so hard at OZ Books, that my then husband and I should have reserved a few weekends for ourselves?
A balanced life matters in old age, too. Maybe even more so. We’re all going to die. Prior to the grim reaper kidnapping me I intend to live. Do my happiest days lie ahead? Perhaps.
Here’s what I mean: My dear friend Claire made a quick visit from Maine to my new home in Minneapolis last week. Claire and I are a lot alike. A few years ago we traveled to Southern France together. Go, go, go was our mantra. Agog with the scenery, the weird twisted trees, the luscious baguettes, nature walks down old dirt roads, we had to do it all.
Exhausted, we returned to our room at Bastide St. Didier, stumbled onto our respective twin beds (the French are so smart, king-size beds can be maneuvered apart for singles like us). It was quiet time, with velvety breezes crossing the room through an open window above an ancient vineyard.
Go, go, go was our mantra in Minneapolis last week, too. Walk around Lake of the Isles, mesmerized by the gold and orange leaves on the turning trees. Dinner that first night at Spoon and Stable, one of Minneapolis’s finest restaurants. Just the beginning of lots of laughter and fun with our third companion, Marc, an old friend of Claire and Jay’s and a new friend of mine.
The day before heading home Claire said, “I’ve got to go to George Floyd Plaza. Can’t visit Minneapolis without doing that.”
“Let’s do it,” I say.
Walking down Chicago Avenue I recalled the same sad stroll with my son, Ethan, and grandson, Foss, a few months ago. Staring at eighty names of Black individuals who were killed by the Minneapolis police, Foss asked, “What do all those words written in chalk say?”
Nothing has changed since then. Last week Claire and I quietly hung out at the George Floyd memorial, strewn with flowers and notes in front of Cup Foods, where Floyd’s life was squeezed out of him. I started chatting with a young Black woman about Emmett Till’s grotesque murder for glancing — at age fourteen, in 1955 — at a white woman. That set me off on my typical U.S. History rant, the theme being: “What happened to truth?” I felt sad and angry.
Claire and I left the scene. Returning to my car I posed in front of the statue, raising my fist in the Black Power stance. Hoping it might reduce the stress of all those unnecessary killings.
When we drove by Cup Foods I notice that beautiful young Black woman. Raising her fist. I felt better.
Claire and I needed a balancing act. We headed toward StevenBe’s knitting shop down Chicago Avenue. I loved the place, run by two wacky gay guys. Knitting is meditative. Making warm, cheerful hats and scarves for people I care about can only help.