Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Looking, Leaping & Longing

Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky has a beautiful post about the encouragement given to a young girl as she crouched at the edge of the high dive. She walked down off the board, returned later to take the leap, and propelled herself off the board into the cold water below. (But you should still read the blog post - the writing is wonderful and I promise I haven't ruined the story.)
My father in law grew up playing stickball on the streets of New York City. Someone hit the ball onto an apartment building rooftop, and he went after it. He got as close as he could - the rooftop of the neighboring building. As he stood there, looking across the chasm between the rooftop he could climb and the rooftop that held the small rubber ball, so close yet out of reach, his friends shouted - JUMP! JUMP! You can make it in TWO JUMPS!   
The little boy had climbed, surveyed, considered the advice, and reconsidered his original plan. He came empty handed to his friends who had counted on him to retrieve the ball and save the game. I don't know if they played another game that day, but the history of stickball in New York suggests that eventually they found a new ball and played more games.
I'm glad for the little girl who listened to her gut, respected herself enough to back away from the edge, reconsider, return, and leap into blue skies and cold water. I'm glad for the little boy who thought better of advice given by people who couldn't see the flaw in their plan, glad that he didn't feel compelled to sacrifice himself in order to save face with his friends. 
Kudos to the people that cheered on the little girl, who shouted encouragement when they could have shouted anything - could have soured the opportunity with taunts or jeers, or left her alone with her fears in deafening silence. I tip my hat to those long-ago children who gave their best advice and welcomed back the little boy who didn't take it and came back empty handed. 
How many times do I say "tell me what to do to get this to work out" when what I really need is: tell me that I can come back empty handed and still be okay with you, remind me that I can still play with you. Help me turn down the howling wind of this fear so I can better listen to my gut, sort out my own mind, consider feedback and the options and not feel rushed to step back from the best and scariest vantage point here at this edge.  "Leap, and the net will appear."


I've had a Rumi quote taped first to my kitchen wall and then to my office wall for more years than I can remember: 

"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

For years his words landed with me as a re-minder to have my prayers be my practices. I got the gratitude part, but I knew I was missing something. 

Tonight in a moment of otherwise unremarkable ceiling-gazing, the meaning of the quote slipped into focus. 

"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
It has been easy for me to know what needs to be done - pay bills, fix squeaky wheels, answer emails, vote, feed the cats - but I have been dragging around this idea that there is Something Significant I am supposed to do with my life, to make my life worthwhile and to have my time on the planet amount to Something. Significant.

And I have been counting on some powerful feeling or sign from the Universe to tell me The Thing.

As if. As if there was only one big Something. And I would know what it is. And I have to do it, and when I do it my life will have Turned Out.

I've been trying to do The Right Thing for The Right Reasons in The Right Order and in Good Time.


There is so much love, so much that moves me, so much unruly potential. So much possible. 

I've just been worrying about getting it wrong, missing the window. Like that scene in I Love Lucy when Lucy and Ethel work at the chocolate factory. They set out to wrap individual pieces of chocolate candy in paper as they move down a conveyor belt, but the belt runs fast, their timing is off, they wind up shoving candy hand to mouth rather than let a piece slip by unwrapped - there's candy flying everywhere and it is mayhem.

Lucy says to Ethel, "I think we're fighting a losing game!"

Ethel can't say anything, because her mouth is full of chocolate. You couldn't hear her anyway, because the audience is laughing loudly at the spectacle of these women being overwhelmed by having so much chocolate in such a short span of time.

Sometimes life is like a box of chocolates, and those chocolates are flying past you faster than you can neatly wrap them for public consumption.

I want to work my best, side by side with people I am proud to call "friend," shove chocolates in my mouth, laugh with the glee of freedom, and marvel that there are so many opportunities that some slip by untouched. 

I am going to pursue what calls to me and watch the results shake out in their own good time, worry less about doing in the right order, the right time frame, or whether I get to do it all - because there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Food For Thought

I recently moved to the metro D.C. area to expand my career opportunities and work with people from all over the world. I have a home and a spouse in Pittsburgh. I am married to a massage therapist who moonlights as a professional space organizer. This is every bit as awesome as you might imagine. I live in a lovely, light filled efficiency apartment where the person who knows all my quirks and proclivities has helped me arrange all 500 square feet to meet my needs, and everything I need is only a few steps away. Which is why I was surprised this morning to see that I am still gravitating toward working on my dining room table, instead of at my desk in my home office all of twenty feet away. 
I sat down to the dining room table with my morning cup of coffee and put pen to a remnant of white packing paper that had been wrapped around some new purchase for the apartment. My day and week unfurled across one side of the sheet and then over to the other. People, places, tasks; part idea parking lot, part compilation of to-do lists. I took a couple of phone calls, scheduled a lunch date, and noticed that my desk was a repository for papers and a holder of pens, but the real work was getting done at the dining room table, the space in which so many endeavors - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - come to fruition to be savored sometimes alone, but more memorably with friends and family.
I think it is those memories that season the space of the dining room table. With memories of friends and family I feel fortified even after hours with my head bowed low and fingers flying or faltering over the keyboard. The jar of oatmeal bars and the bowl of fruit within arms' reach don't hurt either. Journeys of the mind are made solo, whether inward for writing or outward for job hunting, bill paying, or into the treacherous waters of requesting customer service. I take heart beginning and ending each journey at the place where memories of my kindred spirits will find me, in time for dinner.