When I worked my after-retirement, parttime bank teller job, my branch was located in a Denver neighborhood with a large Russian immigrant population.
Immigrant as in displaced Russian Jews who came to America decades ago; who are certainly in the last decade of their lives; who live on a monthly disability, Social Security or displacement settlement stipend administered by the US government and automatically deposited into their bank accounts.
On the last Friday of every month, a steady parade of 4’5″-5’0″ tall Jewish men and women – widows, widowers or married couples – marched into the bank on aged, stiff joints wearing their heavy overcoats, warm ear-covering hats and sensible walking shoes. Many used canes, and all were so squarely built nothing could topple them.
Each waited patiently in the interminably long teller line holding a small square of white paper in one hand. They’d approach my teller window one by one, push that small square of paper across the marble counter, and say in a deep, gutteral voice,
On the paper was a scribbled account number. I’d look up the account balance, write it on the paper, and turn the paper towards them.
They’d study the paper – if they were a couple, they’d whisper to each other in a language I couldn’t name – then painstakingly print a dollar sign and a 3-digit number on the paper. That was the amount – always in NEW hundred dollar bills – they wanted to withdraw from their account.
Quietly in English, I would slowly and deliberately count the bills to them as I laid each bill on the counter.
They would slowly – in Russian or an Eastern European language – count the bills a second time to themselves or each other. After methodically placing the bills in a black purse or trouser pocket, they would push the piece of white paper back to me a final time.
I’d mentally subtract the withdrawal amount from the balance I’d previously written, and write the new balance. They’d study the paper; whisper to each other, pick up the paper and pocket it.
A few would nod or thank me; others just turned and shuffled out the door.
Don’t we all – when life goes sideways or priorities get out-of-whack – wish we could stride to the Counter of Life and shout,
“HEY! May I get a little balance, please?!?”
If there’d been such a Counter during my earlier decades, I would have been tempted to stand in line. Now I have the benefit of hindsight, and I view ‘balance’ from a different perspective.
I’ve concluded that well-meaning Life Coaches and ubiquitous ‘Healthy Life’ articles exhorting the necessity of balance in your daily life are just a current-trend version of the ‘You CAN Have It All’ myth.
I was in my early 30’s when I rejected the ‘You CAN Have It All’ harpies.
You can’t. I couldn’t. No one does.
Is it possible we’re stressing ourselves more by reminding ourselves how out-of-balance our lives are during any given week, year, crisis, or life event?
Marriage, divorce, birth, death, job change/loss/overtime, weather calamities, accidents, injuries, illness …
You name it; life brings it. Generally not in a balanced pattern.
Life is uneven.
That’s not to say your life, in its totality, can’t be balanced. If we lessen the emphasis on evaluating balance in any given time capsule and accept that – for most of us over our lifetime – our ebbs and flows average out, we might stop pining for the Counter where we can plead,