I was at a church event a couple of months ago. It was a social and activity event for youth in the process of preparing for, or considering, confirmation. One of the activities for the youth was to blow up a balloon and see who could get it the biggest in a certain amount of time. Beyond the 13-year-old boys-with-13-year-old girls dynamic, it was interesting to watch each of their approaches to the balloon challenge.
Some kids blew up their balloon sort of big but didn’t want to pop it so they stopped early; they didn’t at all approach pushing the capacity of the balloon or using the time they had to work with; they blew air into it, tied it off, and then spent the rest of the time in awkward posturing the way 13-year-olds might do when in the presence of some of the opposite sex.
A couple of other kids went too far and too fast in blowing up their balloons; their balloons popped. And then there was The One Girl.
The One Girl blew her balloon up a good bit, and then stopped and entered a process. She caught her breath, and looked at the balloon, and then slowly, deliberately, unhurriedly, continued. She stayed in her own zone. She blew in air and then she stopped. She asked about time, considered her balloon, and then blew some more. She paused, got set again, considered again, asked how much time was left, and then continued yet a bit more. Finally, she paused, asked about time, looked at her balloon, and then decided she needed to tie it off due to time even while declaring that she thought she could have made it even a bit bigger.
It was time to judge the participants’ effort. Kids lined up. Balloons were measured. It wasn’t even close. The One Girl’s balloon was more than half-again as large as the next closest one. Same balloon, same time, different approach.
The One Girl was patient. She was measured. She was consistent. She was aware. She considered the time and she considered what she observed as her capacity. She saw the potential and seemed to have a vision of where she could go. She briefly considered what others were doing around her, and then returned to her own process.
As I’ve taken part in physical activity these last two or three years there’s a few different images that have formed in my head. Two prominent ones have to do with edges, boundaries, capacities and how we deal with them. Coincidentally, one of those images has been that of a balloon.
All the kids’ balloons were fresh and new, ready and able to be filled and stretched and expanded as big as they could be. Those kinds of balloons have a lot of potential capacity and can handle being stretched, even quickly, with big, hard, fast breaths. Only in a case of more extreme use or abuse might they pop or, if stretched too far for too long, never return to usual shape. That might be akin to the body of a teen or twenty-something-year-old, and how it can be used, treated, explored and pushed.
At the other extreme, I’ve pulled old balloons out of a drawer and they are so unused and dried out that they might even split while being handled before trying to blow it up. That is not the sixty-something year old body I want: old, unused, dried out, and fragile to the touch. Thankfully I’ve not become that because I’ve been filling the balloon I’ve been given each decade to some degree at least.
Then I think about the balloon I have right now. It’s not the twenty-something kind, it’s not even the fifty-something kind. I see how I might approach filling it much like The One Girl filled her balloon.
First, decide to fill it! Step one done. Get it out of the junk drawer.
Second, temper my initial enthusiasm with patience, observation, adjustment. Too much or too fast can mean: pop! Once there is some air being blown, my sixty-something balloon has to be treated respectfully, sensitively, patiently. and then . . .
Three, consistently keep puffing in, even very small, slow puffs, maybe to expand it, maybe to simply keep it full at its level; you know how balloons seem to leak and shrink over time if you just let it sit there? Keep blowing, a little at a time, stop before it might be too much, be happy to tie it off at some point, sooner than later just to be safe.
Four, do so with a direction, if not a vision of some goal point, in mind, or a why. The One Girl’s why was to win. Or, maybe, to simply get the most out of her balloon as possible. Her direction or vision was to go big! Yet even at her age, with her fresh balloon, she was very strategic and patient. Wise girl.
My why? To keep up with, if not impress over time, my grandson. Also to: have fun, enjoy the activity, feel fulfilled and content. To be happy. To be fit enough to live life and enjoy life, to be able to do the physical things I have to do and be able to try stuff that I might come across. To get the most out of what I have for capacity even if I don’t go to any big, impressive places with it. I’m still figuring it out; I’m coming to terms with stuff, trying to be honest with myself and Mr. Ego, yet still satisfy that dude a bit.
I’m trying to figure out my best approach to filling my balloon and keeping it full. Steps Two and Three as I explained them earlier are an exploration and I try to not trip on too many rocks, whack my head on too many low branches, or step into quicksand (which, when I was a kid, thought I might encounter on any given day, and which I’ve never encountered in my entire life. Hmmm.) I’m still trying to find the point of fully enough, but not too much, the point of being properly pushing (puffing) and patient and playful.
I’m not going to elaborate in detail here what this looks like in practice for me (well, some, in my wrap share at the end of this post). I’m just considering the metaphor. Maybe someone reading this will do the same. To me, metaphors matter.
I don’t know what kind of balloon I had at any given point in the past. I do think that I never filled any of my balloons anywhere near to their capacity, nor approached the process with the best strategy. Too many things got in the way, from life to ego to ignorance. Now I simply desire to find a place of contentment, and maybe fill up with a small bit of pride, in what I do with the balloon I have now. And impress my grandson someday! I am getting a better idea of how to get there. Thank you, The One Girl! #grandpamode #keepupwiththekids
Your turn: How do you handle your balloon? What about your process, your boundaries? What have you observed and how do you respond? How have you filled your balloon(s) in the past and what’s that mean for your balloon-filling now?
What I’ve Been Doing
I’ve been preparing for and just finished conducting a remote eight-day camp for blind and visually-impaired teens in our state. It’s been full occupation and preoccupation, including disjointed sleep. So . . . things change! Here is what the past two weeks have looked like:
Daily morning and evening dog walks-some-with-small-runs, with an added “finisher” exercise back at home maybe two out of three walks (there are five photos/videos total in that IG link share). Finishers have been one of six things: mixed-grip pullups, pushups, bear walk/frogger combination, hanging leg curl ups, unilateral dumbbell thrusters, and broad jumps. I do just one finisher after a walk, one to three sets depending on time or body circumstance. I’m paying careful attention to the puffs.
Yoga: simply some mobility and stretching at night or, during the camp days, doing and guiding the teens in twenty-minute post-lunch mobility, stretching and strengthening sessions for the teens, pretty much doing yoga flow elements and asana.