It’s a French saying, about moderation in all things. It’s something I need to remember from time to time, as I’m sometimes prone to extremes. I can devote myself entirely to Little Red, but then the house suffers, or I can completely lose myself in managing our household (dishes and those endless phone calls – if only Earthlink was the only one!) and go days without spending quality time with Little Red. As I’m trying to refocus on finding balance in my life I’ve been thinking back on times in my life when I had very little balance, and when I’ve seen the same in others.
My first piano exam was a very exciting time. The edjudicator was coming all the way out from Toronto, and we got to play in the auditorium of Okanagan College. As you may well expect from a professional pianist employed (or at least contracted) by the Conservatory, he was well-dressed and very brilliant. He had shaggy Beethoven-esque hair, which seemed fitting for him and not unkempt. When it came to our performances he was painfully perceptive for someone whom we’d never before met. He was fairly congenial, too. There was one thing, however, that was just a little off. He had body odor.
I was fairly young at the time, probably about 12, and was living in Southern Canada. I hadn’t yet been to Italy and I didn’t remember the lumberjacks, so he was probably the stinkiest man I had met. (My standards have since changed and I wonder if he would even register on my radar now.)
My friends who had their exams before me had warned me, and I, in turn, warned my friends behind me. When it was over I brought it up in my lesson and my teacher kindly explained that when someone is a focused as he on music, he usually isn’t bothered and doesn’t notice the little things. I was of a dual mind that day on the bench. On the one I hand I admire his genius and wondered if I had it in me to be so brilliant (I didn’t wonder too hard, I always knew I didn’t.) On the other hand I resolved to never be so busy with something that I would not wear deodorant.
For a small school in the middle of nowhere, our high school had a decent amount of foreign exchange students. I think it’s because the Rotary Program was strong. In addition to the exchange students, who came and went from year to year, stamping themselves on our collective memory, changing what we thought on things, and disappearing, promising to keep in touch but never doing so, there was also Ondrej. Ondrej wasn’t an exchange student. Ondrej actually lived in Whitehorse. He was Czech, and fairly new to Canada, but I never asked the situation of his departure. I had known some Czechs earlier in my life, and while I knew their story to be exciting and dangerous I knew it was not the sort of thing you brought up in polite conversationg. Besides, Ondrej only ever wanted to talk about music. With the exception of our graduation ceremonies, I don’t remember ever seeing him outside of a music setting.
Ondrej was a devoted musical excentric. He was a proficient performer on the bassoon, and capable with most other instruments, and he was a fervent composer/arranger. He didn’t comb his hair, he didn’t dress in any semblance of current style, and he, too, didn’t usually wear deodorant, not did he seem to care about any of those things. He was a very nice guy who never said a negative thing about anyone, that I can remember. Yet he was ostracized by most of our school’s population. Without a common bond of music and the opportunity to know who he was, he just appeared wierd and smelly.
(Since moving to the States I have had a new regard for Ondrej. He never talked of himself, but I’m sure he felt so lonely and isolated and misunderstood. No one in Whitehorse spoke Czech. To us he was a novelty, to him he was an outsider. The alienation I have felt at times must be nothing to what he lived on a daily basis. I have so much compassion for him and I hope that wherever he is now he is accepted and happy.)
My pregnant, bionic nose will never allow me to skip deodorant, but I am known for only brushing my hair and wearing make up on certain days of the week, not because of my own genius (ha!) but because of my lack of balance in my life. I’m too focused on other things. I have only lately begun to realize that if I’m not careful, I’m going to be that lady, the poor, unkempt, stay at home mother, who has completely let herself go. I need to remember that finding balance includes making time for myself.