Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Center's Not Holding

I’m having a hard time staying on course lately.  The community organization that has been a large part of my life in the last few years is in crisis—yet again—and I’m getting drawn in.  I’m not sure whether I’m attending a prolonged wake, or handing instruments to roadside surgeons.  The field is definitely contaminated.

Personally, I am presently engaged in the process of reconstructing my routines, and refocusing my efforts.  This is a project I know too well, having spent most of my adult life living semester to semester, as a student, an instructor, a parent of students, and a professor’s wife.  I have also juggled part-time and full-time work with mothering, which has required me to restyle my days on a regular basis.  I know that I am not alone in this but, at least among my friends and acquaintances, I seem to have experienced more than my share of flux.  So I’m a little off balance to begin with, these days.

I’m giving myself a little talking-to this morning, consisting of the advice I would give a friend who found herself or himself in similar circumstances.  And I am telling myself to give some thought to how much flexibility and responsiveness I can afford, as I react to the new demands and opportunities created by my organization’s death rattle.  And my answer needs to be, not so much. 

It has taken me months to reach this place, where I am beginning to do things that I have been planning/wanting to do for a long time, and to have some clarity about where I want to put my energy, what is important to me, what choices I have.   The years are short, as Gretchen Rubin reminds us, and I don’t want another of these precious periods to pass only to come around again to the same point.  And though my Buddhist teachers would perhaps say that “progress” is an illusion, I think they might also be sympathetic to my desire to be in my own here and now.  And on my own path.

So I am reminding myself not to jump ship.  My ship.  If I need to throw out life preservers, or lend navigational skill, or put in a call to the Coast Guard, I am more than willing.  But I have my own vessel to pilot, and going down with my large and listing seafaring neighbor is not an option.  

The phrase “whatever floats your boat” carries a flavor of hedonism, but in this case, I am what floats my boat.  And it is my job to keep it afloat.  As I witness the struggles of the perhaps doomed craft whose crew I never really left, I need to stay aware of my own weather, and keep my oar in the water.

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