by Kate Todd

The trick to tightrope-walking is balance. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

But not *that* kind of balance, where the fibres of your feet – muscles, tendons, ligaments – meet the rope and grab hold down to the smallest toe. The introduction of flesh to fibres is strange, cautious, as almost all first meetings are. Gradually though, the relationship warms, becoming more familiar until it is intimate.

You might think that there’s absolute security in this relationship you’ve built step after step. After all, you’ve put so much time into honing your technique and you can picture the results in the taut line stretching out in front of you. Surely, you deserve to feel atop the world from this point on. Sadly, no – and this is where that all-important other balance comes into play.

The mental equilibrium that complements the physical is as fine, as situationally dependent. There are times when you are full, buoyed by a particularly masterful movement, like bathing in a warm spotlight. However, a warning: turn your gaze inwards on that one sequence and you will lose sight of where your rope is anchored in the distance.

“I hope what you say instead is ‘I tightrope-walk in my spare time’ spoken clearly so there can be no mistaking what you’ve said.”

Other times, you practice for days or weeks, sometimes even longer, only to put the entire series of movements to the side. All of that time spent, you think, you groan, you moan and all it’s good for is to be considered as sound practice. No one will appreciate all of that time and attention now. It’s so tempting to keep the sequence in your routine – after all, you put it there for good reason, didn’t you? – but deep in your gut you know it’s not up to scratch, or maybe it is, but it’s not right for here or now.

So now you’re developing a sense of where to rein your mind in and how to stop it getting too far ahead of your body, but achieving this fragile balance is not only an exercise in limitations. You need to start amassing before you can set your limits.

What do you say when someone asks how you fill your hours? Perhaps you come out with a shy admission, something a little vague and apologetic, where you cringe as the words leave your mouth, waiting for incredulity, further questioning, or mocking that is unlikely to come. But I hope what you say instead is “I tightrope-walk in my spare time” spoken clearly so there can be no mistaking what you’ve said.

What your inquisitor hears doesn’t actually matter. They may understand you clearly or they may not. Unlike the ability to grasp what is under your feet, you don’t control the reception of your words. What is important is how you approach answering the question, for if you don’t gather the force of your honed muscles and the hours spent getting them in shape and use that energy to propel this statement of your identity out into the world, how can you ever expect your shaking foot to take that first step out onto the empty rope, high above all that is stable and grounded?

And so it goes, each time you put pen to paper, fingers to keys. But, oh – what it feels like when you’ve stated your intention, taken that first step out into the void and, in your own time, made it to the end of this rope, the next already in sight.

Kate Todd | @KTodd_Writes

By day, Kate Todd is a business analyst for an art and tech firm. In every other spare minute, she is a reader and writer. She is represented by Carly Watters of P.S. Literary and is embarking on a new novel in 2018.

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