On meeting chaos with joy

I started writing this post seven minutes ago, only to be interrupted by a phone call from a job prospect, wondering if we can talk via skype rather than conventional phone. So now I’m downloading skype for my new computer and trying to remember if I have a login and whatnot (it’s been a while since I used skype, since facetime works better around here and most of my peeps have macs or iPhones). And it will complicate life later, because now I have to consider how I look and how my background looks…sigh. This strikes me as a typical moment in a typical “me” day.

Okay, and as I am downloading skype and creating a new account (because it’s faster than trying to track down my old one), I get an email from a student who will be taking my summer class at the University of Southern Maine. I reply, carefully, and with the consideration her thoughtful questions demand. Twenty-three minutes after I started writing, I continue.

See? See? I want to shout to Life. THIS is what I’m up against. I can’t do a darned thing for myself without the whole WORLD rushing in. But here’s the thing (even after the hyperbole): I love all this multiplicity. Sure, it makes me crazy sometimes, but I love knowing that tomorrow I get to play with my boys again, and it’ll be warmer, so maybe we’ll head back to the playground near our house and I’ll watch Chi learn to climb higher and farther (which stops my heart but is wicked good for my reflexes). Maybe we’ll pick more flowers, or just look at the deepening maroon of the emerging hyacinths. (Ezra told me yesterday: “Sometimes I just like to say the word hyacinths. Hyacinths.” He’s so my boy.) Maybe there will be swinging; maybe there will be falling down; almost certainly there will be some shouting and also lots of hugs. And I won’t get a damn thing done except support two very small people in the process of becoming bigger people. And here’s the best part: the day after THAT I get to spend prepping my summer course, which is a senior thesis seminar on sustainability. How lucky am I? And how nuts, that these are only the two largest and most urgent of my many different tasks and responsibilities? This goes for all of us, I know.

It occurs to me that the absence of pattern, or maybe the prevalence of interruption, is a hard thing for all human creatures, small and big, and also that our efforts to construct regular patterns can keep us focused on the wrong things, or looking through the wrong lenses. It’s one of the prime lessons of parenting, right? That attention to the random, spontaneous declaration is rewarding; that saying yes instead of no can take us all further, together; that getting messy is okay when we have nowhere to go and we live in the company of a great blessing called the washing machine. The hardest days of all are the days we have to get stuff done, when, as my mother-in-law once famously put it, “We don’t have TIME for joy!”

We always have time for joy. It is the root of our humor and lord knows we need that ALL the time. It is the base of our compassion, without which we aren’t even human. It is, at best, the quiet breath that’s always waiting inside us, the one we are physiologically incapable of actually fully exhaling. The trick is remembering it, befriending it, and, quite frankly, expecting it to be around as much as it is. It’s a beautiful surprise, constantly available, and ultimately life-altering.

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One comment on “On meeting chaos with joy

  1. The last two paragraphs are simply beautiful. I, too, revel in this balance of work-parent-work-parent and while it is frustrating at time (e.g., when “work” and “parent” forget which day they are allotted to), I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love your reminder that we always have time for joy. Speaking of which, time to go get the kiddo!

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