Monday, March 3, 2014

Ashes and Anger, Play and the Pure of Heart

How can I find calm in the midst of trying to do everything at once? On any given day to clean out dishwasher while eating breakfast, then go work out, go to appointments for myself and Isabella, manage tantrums, make lunch, grade papers, bake cookies, make dinner, give bath, read bedtime books, prepare writing workshops and class discussion, prepare bags for the next morning....and on and on, in a cycle, with little to no appreciation but a paycheck (which is nice, and pays the bills, but doesn’t fill my soul so much as deplete it when rote).

Maybe there’s something to be said for the humility needed to complete such days that turn into weeks. This level of humility tempters. Nonetheless, somewhere in the midst of making all these decisions and accomplishing all these goals there needs to be time to will the one thing. Time for a little refill.

So this year it’s fasting from anger: taking a step back when my three-year-old drops and mashes Playdoh in weird places or writes on the walls or doesn’t listen the second, third...fourth time I call for her or ask her to do something. For that matter, when I do the same with my students: inner fury at repeating my instructions endlessly, answering trite questions, or dealing with whining. Or fuming at myself, my failings. Impatience is a weird thing.

There’s anger at things not being where you expect them to be, at people cutting you off on the road and in conversation, at life upending and making a mess on the floor.

The ultimate challenge for me this time around, this season of my life, when I have become old and see it in my hands, feel it in my joints, hear about it from my doctors, is to remain cool in the face of the mess. When being old makes me crotchety or quick to complain, allowing jadedness to set in and old jealousies to fester, it’s time to get a soul-lift, not a face-lift or lipo. For this I know contemplation is the answer: to set time apart and away from psychological and physical excess.

But maybe I am not too old to see child-like joy, to appreciate squeals of laughter, to see the good in the bad and the good equally, if not quickly. Maybe not be too quick to dismiss the loud and messy in my life, and pray for the ability to see past the chaos toward calm. I know I can’t nix the anger completely from my life, but I can step away, simplify instead of seeking to do everything at once, letting go the unnecessary. Seeking instead play in its purest form: bon temps, my Mardi Gras friends, indeed. May it be a good time.

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