Sunday, February 16, 2014

#19: When it Doesn't All Depend on Me, Random Nature Sightings, and My Grip on Reality

I was sitting in bed two weeks ago with whatever feverish yuck had been floating around my house this year, and I was musing at the ways in which life has been so interrupted and yet everything's okay. January and February were supposed to be my busiest months of the year. And they are, to some extent. But half the things I thought I would have to do, I haven't had to do. This is because of insane levels of snowfall, a cancelled class, and volunteers stepping out of the woodwork at church to relieve some of the burden. We were a church plant just 8 years ago, which means that there haven't always been a multitude of volunteers to help with things like teaching classes, organizing spreadsheets, developing curriculum. Now there are more and it warms my heart like nothing else.  And here's another thing that makes me smile. I was at the building last night teaching a class while my friend Christi taught a parenting class. When I walked past the classroom, I could hear group discussion buzzing and crescendoing with the excitement of parents who felt like they were on to something.  Afterward, a woman I'd just met breezed out of the classroom with a grin on her face. "Looks like you're having fun," I said (or something like it) and she said, "I AM! That was great!"

A tree full of robins in a snow storm
outside Ghurties, the frozen yogurt shop.
That is a miracle right there. That parents of children of all ages would drag themselves and their offspring out on a cold February night (despite the demands of homework, dinner, jobs, sports and music practice) and actually enjoy what they are learning about being good parents. Yeah. That makes my heart sing. What's more is that I have almost nothing to do with it other than emailing Christi twice a year to set a class date, advertising in the program, and answering email inquiries.


There was a night this month when I was laying in bed listening to Tiny cough cough cough cough. I myself had a headache and could barely function at nearly 10 p.m., but I decided we needed cough medicine or she'd never make it through the night. So I packed myself up for Walgreens. Sleep deprived and knowing I was on the verge of sickness, I started whispering prayers. Please let her sleep. Please stop the coughing. And then my mind turned to my church to-do list. If Tiny was sick tomorrow, I wouldn't have time to get everything done. Then: Babysitter for class! Need babysitter! I was reminded again of the need for a sitter for an event I was conducting in five days. I called one sitter and fired off emails earlier in the afternoon to five potential sitters but hadn't heard back yet. So, I continued to wander and ramble in my prayers about needing this or that, sitter included, as the car crunched through the snow-crusted streets.

When I stumbled into Walgreens, the clerks looked at me like I was crashing a party I wasn't invited to (and found me in an aisle a moment later to inform me they were closing), but in between walking in and getting kicked out of the drug store, I walked right past Grace.

Grace was first on the list of sitters I'd contacted.  "Did you try to call a little while ago?!" she asked. I did! I had! I told her. And Grace said she would babysit. Odd timing, a prayer answered right in the middle of the chaos of yet-unanswered prayers. Uncanny, nonsensical, but relieving all the same. The palpable weight of my to-do list, of sick children, of emails unanswered lifted a little because of that one moment of grace, further proof that it doesn't all depend on me.

And it can't all depend on any of us doing it all perfectly, right? I mean, something's got to give. Case in point: there hasn't been a moment in four weeks when everyone in the family has been completely well. The children have missed a combined 3.5 weeks of school. Mark and I are each missing at least some work time daily. I'm telling myself it's just a marathon. Just a very long race and we have to pace ourselves. Go to bed early. Let some things slide. Dinner, for instance. (Can't they just eat bread?!?) And then I'm leaving Mark (poor man) for a whole week for AWP in Seattle because of that book thing. Oh, so let me segue:  Dear Boy is going on the road. Actually, it's going Media Mail to a friend's house in Portland and then it's driving with her to Seattle to sit in a ginormous convention center among hundreds (or thousands?) of other books. But Seattle is where so many of the RWW alums and faculty will be, so I'll be in good company and so will the book.  And speaking of good company, I am making my way through the other Ovenbird authors' books and they are phenomenal, and the more impressed I am the more honored I feel to have been named among them. We have Judith (Ovenbird's founder) with a lyric novella-length mediation (The Circus Train) on memory and language in the context of a cancer diagnosis, an almost pre-posthumous memoir, if such a thing could exist.  And then Sandra Swinburne's The Last Good Obsession is meditation on fiction as it relates, in a memoir-like way, to her own life, to her own psyche, to her own history. It is smart, so smart, and so engaging.  I highly recommend. Tarn Wilson's The Slow Farm is forthcoming and I'm so, so excited for it's arrival!

For a leader development program at church, I've been reading the book LEMON Leadership. "LEMON" is an acronym for a bunch of leadership styles, and of course, the author seems confident that these are the only leadership types worth studying. While that remains to be seen, I've been strangely comforted by the description as myself as a strong "M" (for "Manager") with a good helping of "L" ("Luminary"--an ideas person, a philosopher really). What took the cake, though, was this sweet little graphic I stumbled upon that illustrates the different types' varying grips on reality. Don't mind if I quote from it: "Managers have what I call the Reality Index set to True North, to center. They have the most grounded sense of what is real....The Manager is the sane one at the party." Growing up the way I did, I've often called my sanity into question. And also, I work with other ideas people, and people strong in entrepreneurship and networking--you know, those who aren't always obsessing over the implications of each and every micro-decision. Sometimes I worry I'm a little too Debbie Downer-ish and, obviously, us Managers need to share our perspectives without stifling the enthusiasm of other leaders-types. BUT, this little Reality Index just made my day, maybe my decade. So, thank you Brett Johnson. True North, Baby.