You never really understand how exhausting it is to maintain your balance, until you lose it. A year ago, a terrific ear infection combined with several random factors that Those Who Know can't agree upon, damaged my vestibular system and left my sense of balance all out of whack. (Out of Whack being the technical term for "dizzy, swimmy, and unable to turn around quickly in the shower without wanting to hurl.") It's taken a year to get all of this figured, but now they've decided what I need is vestibular rehab. (For some reason, I find the thought of vestibular rehab completely hilarious. It calls to mind the little bones in my ear lifting weights or my ear sitting around in a group therapy session. Only funny to me? Well, ok.)
So today, I spent the morning in a diagnostic session at the vestibular rehab clinic, (they have a whole clinic for this!) showing them how I can and cannot keep my balance. I walked up and down stairs, had my head manipulated every which way by a very sweet therapist with disturbingly warm hands, stood on a platform that they moved all around to see when I could keep my balance and when I couldn't. Truly boring stuff. And now? Now I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. The effort to keep everything stable requires a coordination of body, mind, subconscious, imagination that is mind boggling. When things are out of whack, that coordination is a herculean effort made harder by the rising and falling panic that comes with the understanding that things aren't right.
So now I'm supposed to practice. I'm supposed to move around with my eyes closed and see if I can keep things right, see if I can stay balanced in the dark and while I move my head around, trying to see what's coming and what's gone. I'm supposed to practice seeing things and moving towards them without falling off balance. I'm supposed to practice telling myself that I'm on solid ground, that I'm not really falling, that I'm ok. But the truth is that I'm practicing that all of the time. We're all practicing that all of the time. We don't know how much of our day goes to keeping ourselves balanced until the balance in gone and we're not really ok any longer. Grad school makes this harder. It makes it harder to know where the lines are, what it means to balance a personal and professional life when so much of one is sewn into the other with tiny, tight stitches. But we're all doing it, and it's hard, and some days, we just can't do it any more and it all spirals out of control. Keeping things balanced is work, and it's a reminder of all the things we do, every day, all the time, that we don't think about, but that are part of keeping things afloat, juggling all the balls without dropping them, standing on our own two feet. Pick your cliche. We do these things because we have to, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Sometimes, the most basic things are the hardest.