By Nicolle

To a fourth grader, recess is what a good nap is to a college student: It releases energy and gives you a little bit of freedom to choose to do what you want, instead of being told to do long division or memorize all the state capitals. As 8-year-olds, my friends and I took to spending our recesses atop a wooden, plank-like teeter-totter. It was big enough for my three best friends and me to sit on, if we balanced correctly. Once we got our sea legs on the wooden square, we’d decide on a popular, Top 40 hit. Then we’d sing it aloud in unison.

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Occasionally, as we were passionately belting the lyrics to “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls (yes, they were Top 40 artists then, trust me), one of us would unknowingly shift our weight, causing our singing to halt abruptly as we toppled off our pedestal. We eventually came to learn, through bumps, scrapes, bruises and skinned knees, that it was crucial to not completely lose ourselves in our live concerts, for when we did, we inevitably forgot to maintain our collective balance, the balance that would protect us.

Such balance is also a vital part of a relationship. Too much passionate belting can cause us to tip off our relational platforms. But, being too conscious of our relational interactions by trying to maintain a kind of control that prevents scrapes, bruises and bumps can be as detrimental. When we spend too much time worrying that we’re going to fall, we miss chances to develop strong relationships.

The key is to strike a balance between blind passion and controlled scrutiny. “There is always some madness in love,” said philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. “But there is also always some reason in madness.” While I don’t agree with his God-is-dead philosophy, Nietzsche’s love philosophy rings true. If we don’t allow a little haphazardness, some craziness and a bit of irrationality in our relationships, we’ll lose the chance to relate and interact on levels that can’t be forced. When we let a little madness in, we’re opening the door for relationships to naturally progress.

But too much madness and we lose our sense of reality. Jumping head first without caution can leave us falling too hard and too fast; we’re susceptible to making decisions based on whims and emotions, decisions we may come to regret later.

If we can learn to embrace madness without completely losing rationality, our relationships won’t just benefit – they’ll flourish. We’ll be giving them a chance to blossom without the fear of failure, while still understanding that it’s OK to endure a few bumps and bruises along the way.

My fourth-grade self learned the hard way that not maintaining a balance results in a gravel-filled skinned knee. To avoid repeating my history (and not disregard the wisdom of an 8-year-old), I’m remembering that belting out the Spice Girls with abandon is fine, as long as I also hold onto the teeter-totter.

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