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February 2015
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Calendars, Jumbled Thoughts, Journeys and Growth

Lately I’m spending a lot of time looking at my calendar. In theory I’m doing this to plan for the days ahead and to keep myself on track. That part is necessary, because I’m prone to distraction lately and I need my external reminders for what I hope to accomplish each day. But there is also something else that is driving this staring-at-the-calendar behavior. I’ve had trouble putting my finger on it, but it feels a little bit like waiting. It’s almost as if there is a coming deadline after which my life will clear of the minutia and leave me space for long and slow thoughts. I miss my long slow thoughts, the unrolling of words in my head. Everything feels jumbled up there and I’m not sure how to unjumble it.

This is one of the things I hope for from my trip to Chicago. I hope to get far enough outside my usual context that I can see clearly all the things I’ve been in the midst of doing.

I am fortunate to live in a network of friendships. I attend a church where the members are my neighbors. Most of us have lived here for many years. Many of the women here are kindred spirits, yet I often forget to talk to them. I forget to look outside the walls of my own house. When I do, my head is so full of unspoken thoughts that I’m a little afraid to start talking for fear that my avalanche of words will overwhelm my listener. So, I parcel things out. I talk of parenting to one friend. I talk of business to another. I talk writing with a third. There is some mixture in what I say, because it is hard for me to talk about any of these things without mentioning the others. Then when I’ve been talking for a while, my friend will say something like “Wow, you’ve got a lot going on.” These are affirming words. I need to hear them, because sometimes I wonder if I’m just being weak or silly when I’m being buried in the stress of my life. Surely I could have planned it better and not needed to dump on my friend. Then there is the other quiet thought in my head, the one that knows it is time for me to change the subject. Because I’ve only told part of my stories and my friend already thinks I have too much going on.

Used to know a family who always lived in emotional crisis. They were always fighting or recovering from fighting. They feuded with neighbors. They created drama everywhere they went. I would sit and talk with the mother of this family, trying to help her find peace and calmness for her household. Yet, without fail, any time peace began to be established, they would do something to create a new crisis. The family didn’t know how to exist without it. Crisis was familiar. Peace was uncomfortable and strange to them. I lost touch with this family long ago, but I expect they are still careening along, colliding with the world and being angry about it.

When I view my life and the endless stream of things I am managing, grieving, afraid of, or depressed about, I sometimes wonder if I am doing the same thing. Do I live in stress like a fish in water, so that if I’m ever at risk of emerging, I do something to plunge back in? I hope not. I want to believe that I’m helping my loved ones traverse a difficult but necessary passage. I want to believe that I am experiencing a period of stress and recalibration.

“Don’t worry Mom. It’s all going to be fine.” Link says these words to me often. Usually when I’m pushing at him to accomplish something because I am afraid of the future that I have pictured. I try to believe him and I try to stop pushing. My conversations with Link have changed in the past year. They work best when I manage to listen to Link instead of the clock ticking in my head. It is the ticking which tells me I’m running out of time to teach him the things he needs to know. As if I will have used up all my chances to teach on the dawn of his eighteenth birthday. Link says he feels like a seed, small and protected now, but ready to grow into something big and amazing. I believe that too (when the clock isn’t in my way.) I see the potential that is in him. Yet I am a gardener and I know that not all seeds reach their potential. Link is amazing, more amazing than he believes, and I want him to fulfill his desire to go out and make the world a better place.

My thoughts of seeds and gardening send me wandering out to my front flower beds, where I have pansies in bloom. We’ve had a strange, warm winter here in Utah. Most days are forty or fifty degrees. My pansies are little troopers, putting out bloom after bloom, even when the nights drop below freezing sometimes. I’m grateful for the bright color as I walk up to the house. It fools me into feeling like we’re in March, not February. March is when winter recedes and spring begins to make its presence known.

Perhaps that’s why I keep looking at the calendar. I’m waiting for spring to come, not just outside, but inside my heart. I’m waiting to see signs that the Link seed will sprout and grow. Or for green growth inside me. I am not so foolish as to think that my son is the only one with learning to do. On the calendar I look back to see how long ago we arranged for good growing conditions. I look ahead wondering when I can hope to see green. And I hope for hospitable growing weather. I have to believe it will come.

4 comments to Calendars, Jumbled Thoughts, Journeys and Growth

  • Do I live in stress like a fish in water, so that if I’m ever at risk of emerging, I do something to plunge back in?

    That’s a deeply insightful question, and one that deserves an honest answer.

    Honestly? Yeah, I think sometimes you do. I think sometimes we ALL do. Modern western culture is so full of Doing Things, and it can be hard to separate ourselves from the yardstick that says “If I’m not busy every single minute, then I am somehow failing.”

    I still remember reading Eli Goldratt’s THE GOAL in college, and boggling at the idea that it’s possible to get more work done by taking on fewer jobs.

  • No idea, but I’m totally adding that phrase to my vocabulary. Conservation of anxiety – ha!

  • Jen Jen

    Our elementary school principal in Michigan stressed the importance of daily routines at home so that kids could be more successful at school. She cited a study which found that kids who lived without routine felt uncomfortable at school and instead wanted to create chaos at school ( talking out of turn, moving around the classroom, poking their neighbor, etc.) so they would feel better. I made a conscious effort to start having better routines in my house and it was helpful.

    The unexpected result was that I started to notice my grown sister was someone who craved chaos. My husband says she likes to “stir the pot”. When things are happy or calm, she has to do something to stir things up a bit. Once we started to notice the pattern, it seemed so obvious but, for her, it is her painful reality.

    I think you’re both brave and wise to step back and examine yourself. It makes me think about my patterns and choices.