August 9, 2011

Staying On the Roof

Please welcome guest author Heather Cashman, sharing her thoughts on balance and life. I haven't been  touched by such thoughtful observations and ideas in quite sometime. Enjoy!

The word “balance” makes me think of many things. I think of teeter-totters where, because I was five feet tall in kindergarten, three other classmates could pile on the other side to even out my weight. On the occasions where it was only my cousin, I had to use my legs to push her up and down with little benefit for me, but I made it work. Another childhood memory of incredible balance was the Weeble-Wobble. No matter how hard I punched, kicked, laid on, or even dropped it on its head, the thing always righted itself. It was marvelous and frustrating at the same time.

As a writer, I often feel like the Weeble-Wobble. Fists and kicks and drops from marketing, publicity, family requirements, social networking, blogs, church, humanitarian service, eating, and the endless list of demands (never in any order) continue to knock me sideways. 

The question is: How do I keep getting back up? Or better still: How do I choreograph the fight? While I admit I’ve never stayed down for long, I also acknowledge that I rarely rebound as quickly as that Weeble-Wobble would.

This concept of balancing my life made me think of other characters that never seemed to lose their balance. Those in the beloved musical, Fiddler on the Roof. Teyve, the protagonist, begins his story by explaining:

“In our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, why do we stay up here if it’s so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word—tradition!”

For the people of Anatevka, their physical homes were a representation of the real meaning of home: the things that you love, that ground you, that give you sanity, and that you might even die for. 

I have many homes. One home is my family, regardless of the location, size, or value of our current house. Another is writing; when I am in a world I’ve created with characters I know almost better than myself, I am home—even if I am in an auto shop typing on my laptop while I wait for the car to be serviced. I also attend a church where I feel at home with the people I worship with. I also consider my country a home and feel a deep sense of belonging when I contemplate the founding fathers, those who serve to maintain our freedom and my rights as a citizen.

Finding our homes, or what matters most to us, is essential in finding balance. The main source of regret in life is looking back and realizing you’ve spent your time doing something worthless or perhaps even destructive. Soul-searching is required. Honest self-assessment will be the only thing that can aid in deciphering what matters to you, what your homes are.

This discovery process is also in a constant state of change. Our priorities will shift. An example of this is when I first began to write. I was a clean-freak. I would never sacrifice a clean home for five hundred words. At that time in my life, a clean house was required for me to feel at home. Slowly, as I began to write more, I eventually thought about publishing. Only then did I consider the fact that a clean house meant more to me than publishing a novel. If I wanted to write full-time, I would have to sacrifice the priority of a perfectly clean house for writing.

My children are still a priority that takes precedence over writing because they are more important to me. So we must also prioritize these homes, like our year-round home and a vacation home. Some may seem like a mansion that take hours to maintain while others are a cottage in the woods that take only minutes. That’s not to say that the small things in life are not as important. Sometimes taking the vacation is essential to one’s sanity. Only you can judge what is wanted, important, or essential for your own perfectly balanced world.

Like the teeter-totter of my youth, there are times where you have enough people to help you balance, but there will be times where you end up doing most of the work to compensate for the deficit. In those more difficult times, try to watch the face of the person across from you on the teeter-totter. Find joy in the service you render and realize that can be a home, too.

Once we find the things in our life that matter most, we must form traditions centered on them. By traditions, I mean things that make us feel grounded, that make us feel at home. If one of your priorities in life is your physical health, then your traditions might be as simple as brushing your teeth every morning and night or exercising every day. If family is a priority, your traditions might include having dinner together or having turkey on Thanksgiving. For some people, having balance means going to church every week. For others it may be a day spent in nature.

In our busy lives of certain uncertainty, we must find places of normalcy and meaning that will offer a foundation of refuge and renewal. Just as the teeter-totter and Weeble-Wobble need hard ground to stay upright, we must have that sure footing so that as we juggle the curve-balls of life, we don’t have to worry about watching our steps. They will come naturally.

~Heather Cashman, Author of PERCEPTION
Your perception will sharpen once you see through a tiger’s eyes.
More than five hundred years after the apocalypse, the survivors of off-grid genetic experimentation have refined their mixed DNA to the point that humans and their animal counterparts share physical and mental links. Varying species have divided into districts, living in a tenuous peace under the President of Calem.
Ardana and her tiger ingenium Rijan leave their life of exile and abuse in the Outskirts, setting out with their twin brothers to redeem themselves and become citizens of the Center. But shedding their past isn’t as easy as they had hoped. When the system that shunned them becomes embroiled in political conflict and treachery, their unique abilities and experiences from the Outskirts make them invaluable to every faction. The runaways become pawns to friends as well as enemies, and with every step it becomes more difficult to tell which is which.

Author Bio:
Heather Cashman graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry but has always loved to write, winning her first contest in the second grade. Married since 1992, she has three unique children and has moved from Arizona to New York to Kansas. She loves to kayak and canoe down the windiest rivers she can find. She welcomes opportunities to visit schools, libraries, and book groups in person or via Skype. Born in Tucson, Arizona, Heather currently lives near Wichita, Kansas with her husband and three children.


Heather Cashman said...

Thanks to Danielle for being such a gracious host. I have appreciated the advice I have found on this blog and was honored to contribute.

Best O' Books said...

Nice interview! Ms. Cashman was very forthcoming re: her family life and writing life. Thanks, Rae

Jordana said...

Thanks for posting this article. I really liked the advice here; it's true that prioritizing is important.

Great article. This fits perfectly on "Tha Balanced Writer."

Danielle Thorne said...

I agree, Jordana. I think Heather hit the nail on the head about what balancing our lives really means and is for. And I loved how she tied tradition in with that. Tradition really is who we are--so we need to make wise choices as we live our lives.

Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

Great advice. I'm your newest follower. You have a fabulous blog! I’m an author and illustrator and I made some awards to give to fellow bloggers whose sites I enjoy. I want to award you with one of my homemade awards: Powerful Woman Writer Award for all the hard work you do!

Go to and pick up your award.
~Deirdra said...

My wife would love the reference to Fiddler on the Roof. (I liked it, too, but she's a much bigger fan).

With an 18 month old daughter, I am looking at all new "traditions." Good way of putting perspective on it.

Paul D. Dail A horror writer's not necessarily horrific blog

Danielle Thorne said...

Thx for swinging by the blog, Deirdra and Paul. I got something out of this post, too. Never thought how the traditions we choose will be a factor in how we balance our lives.

Heather Cashman said...

Thanks again for hosting me. This was fun to write. I probably needed it more than anyone.