Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Well, duh

If you know me very well, you know that I spend a lot of time thinking about managing self--I write about it, teach about it, work on it in my own personal life. Managing self in the midst of anxiety is pretty much all there is, the north star of emotional maturity and the holy grail of relationships. In case you don't know, I think about it a lot.

If you know me at all, you know that I obsess about time, especially time management. I'm always on the quest for something--a new app, a unique calendar, an organizational system, anything that will help me beat time into submission, allowing me to be more productive, more efficient, somehow be able to do it all.

So when I read a friend's email last week, an email in which he casually mentioned that he was learning to "manage self in time," I almost gasped. Well of course! How had I missed that?

The next day, I had a spiritual direction appointment with Joyce, who knows all about my obsession with time and often gently nudges me to think about time differently. So as I described my epiphany ("You don't just manage self! And you can't really manage time! You have to manage your self in time!"), she smiled her knowing smile and asked me how this new revelation changed things for me. Well. "It changes everything, doesn't it? I mean, time can't be managed, right? It's a GIFT, not a commodity, right? So, it has to be received, not battled as an enemy . . . and if time is a gift, then I'm not a victim! So, I just have to keep learning to manage my self . . . in TIME! This changes everything!" And bless her heart if she didn't just sit and smile like I was a well-loved toddler just figuring out how the light switch works.

So sometimes I learn things that I should have already known, things that are so simple and yet so profound . . . and then, by the next day, I've half forgotten it and get to learn it all over again another day.

One of those days

There's a small place tucked away inside of me that pretty much stays sad about the ways people hurt each other, all the predictable and unnecessary ways they hurt the ones they love. I just kind of know that place is there (I used to didn't know) and I tend to it from time to time with comfort and kindness. Today was one of those days . . . a little melancholy, a mix of sadness and hope for the couples I love, a tiny prayer for the heartbreaking fragility of their marriages.

When I was a teenager, my boyfriend and I found a tiny gray kitten and brought it home to my house. We put towels in a box and laid the kitten in it and the kitten was so tiny in the box so we found a smaller box and laid the kitten in it instead. For a whole afternoon and evening, we took turns holding the kitten. I don't think it was a newborn because it was furry and its eyes were open but it was small enough to lay curled in the palm of my hand, with its chest heaving and its eyes half-closed. We tried to feed it but it didn't even have the strength to lick the milk that beaded on its upper lip. My boyfriend was a good guy and I think he knew what was coming because he took the kitten home with him that night and then came back the next morning to tell me it had died.

Working with couples in crisis makes me feel the same way that I felt that day with the kitten--holding something so fragile, so tiny, so full of hope and yet in so much pain. As we work together, I can feel myself rooting for them, celebrating the wins, reassuring them through the losses . . . and the vast majority of them weather the storm and dig really deep and manage to somehow make it work. But some don't . . . and even the ones who do bear the scars.

When a marriage dies, I'm reminded of my time as a healthcare chaplain, visiting the dying and sitting with their families by the bedside waiting for the inevitable. When a marriage recovers, though, the joy is deep and quiet and often comes with as many tears. I'm genuinely amazed by the resilience and the courage that so many couples have and I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to work with them--whether the marriage survives or not. I talked with C briefly today and mentioned that I was feeling melancholy about this and he said, "I'm so sorry, sweetheart; you didn't ask for this." And then we both laughed as we realized that I absolutely did ask for this and that I wouldn't trade it for anything. But some days I need to tend the place where the sadness is and today was one of those days.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Learning Curve

Here's something I learned last month: It blesses the world to do something you really love, to do it badly if that's the only way you can do it, to do it in public, and to do it with joy. It's a subversive act against the perfectionistic, shame-based culture we live in. It takes a lot of courage but people who do it open up all kinds of possibilities for the rest of us.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Congratulations, Boo!

In honor of Boo's graduation yesterday, I want to share an excerpt from a letter that her favorite teacher wrote for her when she needed a recommendation for a scholarship application:

Boo is a gift. She is what all teachers dream for--a child who is incredibly kind and who loves to learn . . . As much as any student i teach, Boo loves to learn. She listens and asks great questions. She is the most voracious reader I teach. She is never without a book and I don't mean a boring textbook. She has probably read half the books in the school library. Her qualities of kindness and compassion surpass her schoolwork. She is without guile or vengeance or prejudice. She is quietly kind to everyone. Her manners are flawless and she has the most beautiful smile. I feel certain she will work for humanity throughout her life and I am honored to be asked to write for her."

Yesterday was a big day for all of us as Boo walked across the stage and received her high school diploma. Many of the readers of this blog know what an accomplishment that was for all of us as you have loved and supported her (and us) for years--we are so grateful for all of you as well. Most of all, we are so proud of you, Boo and we love you so much.