I didn’t expect to write about balance. I didn’t know that I’d have to later search for the word and eliminate instances of it, plus synonyms, but sometimes the things that linger in our psyches find their way onto the page despite our best efforts to keep them bottled up and out of the way.
Rebecca Naomi Greenblatt is a Jewish main character in an urban fantasy, a rarity in and of itself, and she deals with fae creatures, demons, a mobster, and an evil warlock. Becs was born with a symbol on the inside of her wrist called the Kiss. It marks her as a summoner, a person who can call forth entities of power and negotiate with them on behalf of a client who needs answers to a problem or is requesting a favor. When a demon summoning goes south, she fixes it, but—because of balance—now owes the demon.
The demon spends the rest of the story trying to tilt the cosmic scales toward Hell, pushing Becs for information and threatening those she loves if she doesn’t comply with his demands. She must find a way to balance fulfilling the contract and protecting innocents.
The concept of balance seeped into other parts of the story as well. A Chinese herbalist says Becs is “unbalanced,” when she gets deathly ill. Becs tries to center herself before a summoning ritual, and a fae creature won’t help her without the promise of an equal favor in return. When she agrees, she feels the imbalance as an itch between her shoulder blades.
Becs has her job cut out for her. She must protect her family, but she can’t tell them why. She’s learning to bartend but doesn’t know the three ingredients in a gimlet. And things get more complicated when the sexy neighbor upstairs becomes more than the guy she steals wifi from, and a six-foot tall fairy with pink wings can’t find his way home.
Becs juggles these pressures, but not always well, because balancing the demands of a challenging job, paying bills, a new love interest, and being a good friend is just hard.
When I stepped back and reviewed Becs’ situation I realized it felt like mine, though hers is magical and mine is mundane. I essentially took the sage advice to write what you know and created a story about a woman trying to be everything to everyone, all the time, and to never fail at anything. This is my story, and the story of so many of my friends. Work at a job that pays you money, write books, parent kids, be a good sibling, maintain a healthy marriage. Do it all! Oh, and lose weight and exercise because self-care is important.
Becs is doing what all of us are doing, just in a different way.
The problem, whether in real-life or in fiction, is that it is impossible to keep all the balls in the air. Something’s gotta give. In Becs’ case, her demons, real and imagined, invade her sleep and her sister stops talking to her.
I do a lot of yoga, and even though I’m not strong or flexible, I appreciate the mindset of yoga practice. As Becs rushes headlong into danger, and it follows in her wake, I’m reminded of a yogic thought pattern of “starting by slowing down.” You’ll get where you’re going faster if you slow down first. It’s hard for Becs to grasp, but why shouldn’t it be? It’s hard for all of us. Even with lessons of balance all around us, centering ourselves and finding that quiet core where love, creativity, and clarity lie, is a constant battle.