Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Creating Our Universe
It's alarmingly easy to slip into head-down production mode, no matter what our day job is or our life looks like. I continually have to remind myself that, wait, this is the fun part. Living on 5 acres of emerging farm with my wonderful family and 12 sheep and 30-odd chickens and a variety of pets on an island in the middle of Puget Sound - that's the good stuff right there. Stop. Look Around. Breathe.
Keeping the To-Do list in a cage instead of snarling overhead just somehow sounds so much easier than it turns out to be. Obviously, you don't want to be lackadaisical about 35 animals or the seeds you've managed to coax out of the starter box, but sometimes the dishes have to sit in the sink and the dust bunnies must roam freely, or the joy of living never gets its moment in the sun.
I have had my head down quite a bit lately, pushed by the demands spring brings forth - baby animals and mamas, seeds that turn into tiny plants in a fierce insistence of the miraculous, fencing, water, dirt, the wasted landscape our harsh and never-ending winter has wrought - and wanting to attend to this last few months of elementary school for Dylan. The clock on his childhood is fast winding down, and the community of teachers and staff, the lush and beautiful demonstration food garden he helped to build, the playground and the giant paper mache Orcas in the brightly-lit lobby will soon reside in the closet of memory, replaced by the new special people and places he'll encounter across the parking lot in middle school.
And there are other demands on my time and energy and emotional bandwidth as well, just as all of us struggle to be the things we need to be for those close to us and the priorities we've set out for our lives. What form those demands take may be furry and elemental in my domain, complex and sophisticated in yours, but we all fight the demon of a 24 hour day.
That I might be losing this battle hit me going 50 miles an hour on a Seattle elevated highway 3 days ago. I lost all feeling in my left arm, my pulse shot up into the stratosphere and then my whole person wanted to jump out of my own skin. I had nowhere to go and my only child in the backseat. I was pretty sure I was stroking or heart-attacking and after about a minute of trying to talk myself into getting to the next exit, I just pulled over, climbed up the miniscule curb and called 911.
Don't want to over-react. Don't want to die and take my kid and who knows who else with me. Close call. Here in the U.S., especially with the high-deductible insurance we currently carry, the thought of sending the 911-medic-ambulance-emergency room train out of the station gives me more than a little pause. But, I dialed anyway and, strangely, as soon as I was talking to a real, live, medical person who had the power to magically send a highly advanced vehicle with bright flashing lights to come save me, my pulse started slowing down, my body retreated back into my skin, and I knew this was some kind of anxiety attack, not the end. I thanked the medic and promised to call back if I needed to.
So, as soon as I stopped shaking, we made our way back into traffic and onto the Seattle Green Festival where I marveled at how beautiful even the inside of a trade show looks when you're glad to be alive and holding your 10 year old's hand.
It is good to be alive. Very good. Money problems come and go. Dramas swirl around. Some projects turn out and some don't. Failure is part of being alive - a really important part in fact. And, most of all, it's easy to depend on the people closest to us to do all our heavy lifting. Our spouses, our friends, our parents, even our kids - we want them to love us and like us and support us always in everything all the time. We want them to make us laugh, and to laugh at our jokes but not our foibles. We ask that they adore our ideas and journey with us on our adventures. We want them to believe that we're great and to keep quiet if they don't.
But, that's a tall order. I am extraordinarily fortunate to count many rock-solid wonderful people in my life. My husband is awesome, my kid - of course. I have great parents, one of whom sparkles brightly just 40 feet away and another who supports me from a long distance and always has. And, I have a handful of loving, close, do-anything-for-me friends who hold my hand through tough days and celebrate my victories as their own.
Today, however, I visited a woman who helps put my body right on occasion and was reminded of the power of reaching out beyond those who know and love me. I saw quite clearly how important it is to bring the right people into my life for the right things - even if those things turn out to be unexpected - and not to rely on my close inner circle to feed all the corners of my soul.
I came to her to fix my body - that numb arm that has been acting up for some time - and she did that, sure, but fed my soul a rich broth of art and creativity and pure joy for this part of me - the part that sits down and documents this life and hopes that somewhere, someone finds these simple words some use. We laughed and conspired and mused. She shared ideas and passion and strategies.
When I left, my arm felt better and my soul felt nourished. Creating your own universe starts with knowing yourself and listening to your heart, but inviting unique and sharing people to jump on the carnival ride with you every now and then will make getting there a whole lot more fun.