When I was twenty-one, I spent six months working in the business office of one of the best Off-Broadway theaters in New York City, the now defunct Circle Repertory Company. One of the most valuable lessons I learned there was in basic accounting. I’d chosen to work in the business office on the premise that everything runs on money, and I’d be able to learn the entire workings of the theater from that perspective. I didn’t, however, expect a book on accounting to be required reading for the gig. I’m not good at complex math, and I struggled to understand the theories in the book. When I finally grasped the fundamentals, I felt like Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. One of the accounting theories has remained a driving force in my life: For every debit there’s a credit, and vice versa.
Over the years, I’ve come to love budgeting and what I call “idiot math.” My family often tells me I’m good with money, I think because I’ve always found the balance represented by that basic accounting theory. I recently ran into a neighbor who is an accountant. We discussed our love of budgeting and our embracement of the yin/yang of it. Budgeting involves both rigidity and fluidity, usually manifested by a steady income and fluctuating expenses. One might assume that, given my need for stability, this fluidity would drive me nuts, but in fact I love it. I see the effort to balance between these two principles as art, like a beautiful pas de deux. My neighbor and I understood each other perfectly, and we beamed at each other as we parted ways.
I use this principle in my approach to health challenges. Some things are stable, while others are in flux or unpredictable. The goal is fluidity and balance, not rigidity. When I embrace these dualities and strive for the same balance I seek with my budget, I always end up with less stress and improved health.