17 November 2016

Dance, Star, Dance

My maternal grandmother grew up in the Missouri Ozarks. She married at 15 and had four children by the time she was 20. Her husband shot small game (squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs...) for the family to eat. There was no indoor plumbing until my mother was a junior in high school. It was a hard way to live.

As an adult...and a parent...my mother asked my grandmother how they had managed it all. Her reply was simply, "We were angry a lot of the time." Perfectly understandable. She elaborated later that it also wasn't easy to have four children under the age of five. They would work on helping one child learn to walk and then remember they hadn't helped another to sit up yet. It was a juggling act in terms of traditional milestones.

I often think of this story as a metaphor for my life, both at home and at work. There are so many things I'm supposed to stay on top of...and just when I get one area all tidied up, I realize that some other area is precariously close to being out of control. No matter how well-organized I am, there is just more and more to take on. It can feel futile, but I've started keeping a sort of log book this year. I have a little journal that I carry with me at all times. I record all the meeting notes each day, capture the steps of projects I'm working on, or even ideas from articles I read. When I look back, it's still an overwhelming amount of information, but at least I can see that it is all leading to small changes.

If I play out the metaphor of my grandmother and her family, I realize that all of her children (including my mother) graduated from high school---something neither my grandmother or her husband achieved. Out of the five children, two served in the military and four attended college all the way through earning a Masters degree. They may have had less than optimal conditions going in, but something greater emerged later.

It's kind of a Nietzche'ian end to the story: Out of chaos, comes order. Or, more poetically, You must carry a chaos inside you to give birth to a dancing star.

Just once I'd like to feel like everything is caught up and as it should be. That may never happen, but it doesn't mean I can't make something great in the process. Time to find the rhythm and dance.

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