It is clear to me that this month has involved a lot more wading into life than usual. It shows up in the games we play with the kids, the conversations we have together, the increased singing, the greater appreciation of what’s around me, the enhanced interest in our slow-food processes of homegrown goodness. (Today, for example, we started off with pumpkin-oat waffles; enjoyed a fabulous leftover white-bean-and-buttercup-squash soup for lunch; found a rack of lamb in the downstairs freezer that we roasted with garlic and rosemary, accompanied by sliced broiled delicata squash and kale sauteed with garlic. It’s a hardship.)
These are the areas of life that soothe me, that fill me up and calm me down. And I’m glad I’ve learned to love those, to try to live within them, because for much of my life I would have coded such satisfaction as “boring,” not understanding the depth of joy and contentment and the peace that they bring.
But every so often I am reminded that there’s more to me than this. There are big important issues that I want to work on, skills and gifts that ask me to do more. I tend, lately, to suppress those, to nod and smile while focusing elsewhere. It’s the spiritual equivalent of facebooking while your kids are talking. And it’s one of the things that needs to change.
See, I’ve assumed all along that the Big Important Stuff cannot peaceably coexist with the daily habits of joy. But it also seems true that perhaps they cannot peaceably coexist without one another. So now I ask, again, what it looks like to bring them together.
Some aspects of that are already in place: public humanities work that seeks to explore how we can talk civilly with different others across disagreements; other public humanities work that offers novels as a way to understand our relationships to land, culture, and food; board work that tries to open new avenues to social impact instead of just programmatic outcomes. But there’s more. I wonder: would more and different kinds of writing be a way in? A new blog on the horizon, this one focused on the professional concerns I seek to address? Who knows.
For now, I am glad to have this discipline here and this set of lenses through which to examine the life I lead. But I also see that I can rise to the risk I set for myself. Perhaps it’s time to pose a new challenge: go to the heart of what matters in professional life as in personal. It was my way for fifteen years; there’s no reason it can’t be again. The fact of being a parent makes me a better person, a clearer thinker, a more compassionate human. And it also helps me see more clearly what matters and what doesn’t. Instead of feeling pushed out of my professional world (as most of us do, who “step off the track”), perhaps I can just speak my truths wherever I am, whatever they may be. Scary — but after all, what’s the alternative? I worry about arriving at the end of this stage of life and feeling that I bottled up too much, that I didn’t participate in conversations I needed. Fear of rejection, mostly, is what keeps me mute, and fear is what I’m most ready to release.
Sigh. We’ll see how this shakes out.