I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend and fellow Booktrope author Gale Martin. Gale is the author of DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA and the soon to be released, THE SHAKER PROPOSAL. Gale and I met before our novels were released and I was immediately attracted to her kindness, humor, and poignant words. For this post, I asked her to answer the Autumn Essay from Write For The Fight: A Collection of Seasonal EssaysWhat, at this point in your life, do you want, wish and dream of for your life going forward?

Striving for balance in a world of mortal coils

Some people want to make their mark on the world while others work tirelessly to leave no carbon footprint.

As for me, I want more balance. Between my work and home life. Between achieving success in the world and realizing inner satisfaction. Between receiving blessings and giving them. Between seeking beauty in the world and being the source of it.

Have you ever encountered someone who seems to have been born wiser than you? I have one friend who exemplifies the old soul—one who has this “balance thing” down as if she’s used several life times to perfect it. I’m inclined to believe human beings only have one shot at life’s balancing act. However, I wasn’t born as wise and discerning as my friend, so I’m still figuring out how it works. But I’ll share with you what I’ve come to learn through years of trial and error. I hope it will help you realize the difference between getting what you want out of life moving forward or getting wound up in your own mortal coil.

Don’t expect too much of people
Have you ever known people who carry their heart hurts around like they’re dragging a sack behind them? It’s not easy for me or anyone else for that matter to let go of that precious bag of hard-earned woes. But if you don’t learn to work through or let go of some of the pain others have caused you, you’ll be toting a bag as burdensome as if lashed to a beached white whale. As one malapropos public official once said, you’ll be wearing “an Alcatraz around your neck.”

Let me give you an example. After I published my first book, I thought some very good friends—avid readers both— would read it and embrace it. We’ve shared many book titles over the years at gatherings and the wife’s first question to me, regardless of setting, is usually, “So, what are you reading?” I expected to see them at my book signings, cheering me on. Neither of them has taken any interest in my book or showed up at an event. While this has been painful, had I allowed myself to be weighed down by what I initially perceived as a grievous slight, I wouldn’t have been able to lift my head to see many other wonderful overtures occurring right in front of me from people I didn’t expect or rarely knew.

Don’t revel in your heart hurts
People don’t admire others burdened by troubles. Everyone alive has more troubles than she can name, not even if she blogged about them every day. It’s how you carry on despite your heart hurts that deserves notice and merits respect.

Expect more from yourself
Have you acknowledged a kindness with the same amount of life energy used to bestow it? Why not? Have you set a few goals for yourself and checked in on them at pre-determined intervals to gauge your progress? If not, why not? People who constantly complain about others remind me of politicians who rail about their opponents’ records without putting forth their own solutions to society’s ills. So many choices in life aren’t predetermined for us. Outside of the commitments we must make to our jobs and our families or the directives heaped upon us, there are many, many more decisions in between that are totally up to us. Are you going through the motions of those choices that are yours alone to make? Are you being intentional? Have you stretched yourself to be more kind or thoughtful or dutiful or creative than the circumstance permits? If not, why not? Such choices are entirely up to you.

Take time to listen, especially if you love to talk
As an extrovert by personality type, I admit that I love talking. If you’re like me, then you need to listen more. Period. As Will Rogers once said, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Don’t listen with the expectation that you are waiting for your turn to talk either. Listen to people. Really listen. Force yourself to do it. Try to push away filters that prevent you from listening such as he’s a (fill in the blank) and I’m a (fill in the blank), so he’s saying nothing I want to hear.

Look for moments of stillness
Life isn’t made up of milestones, not really. It’s made up of moments. Don’t allow time—life—to slip through your fingers without experiencing it fully from second to second, at least some of the time. If you slog through your days without building in times for stillness, you’ll miss chances to take in the beauty that life offers in its smallest moments. You’ll also miss chances to contribute to the beauty collective, which is really a cooperative. We all own a piece of what is beautiful whether we know it or not. We need to pause over a word or linger on an idea before we create that graceful turn of phrase that others savor. Sometimes, we need to examine all the blooms in our gardens before picking and pressing one flower to attach to that card for a friend.

I’m sure there are individuals who intuitively know and practice what I’ve just shared. But if you’re like me, knowing and doing are two different things. This post is a gentle reminder to myself and others that realizing life’s all-important balance, which can lead to more contentment day to day and moment to moment, is a matter of knowing and doing.

Gale Martin has been writing creatively since 2005. She published her first novel, DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA, in December of 2011, which is available in print and e-book.

Her work has appeared online and in print in various publications such as The Christian Science Monitor, Sirens Magazine, Duck & Herring Company’s Pocket Field Guide, and The Giggle Water Review and in several anthologies. She hosts a writing blog called “Scrivengale.”

She hosts an opera blog, “Operatoonity,” and is an accredited opera reviewer for Bachtrack, an online site featuring classical performance. She lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which serves as a rich source of inspiration for her writing. She has a master of arts in creative writing from Wilkes University.