My dear friend (she of the three points of contact)and I were standing outside. On her driveway…or maybe it was mine. It was right at the end of the school year…or maybe just as it was about to begin. The day was warm and filled with a bright blue sky, that much I know, but obviously my memory of the other details are foggy. What I do clearly recall are the words spoken, specifically hers. ‘How do we know when is enough? How do we know when to stop? How do we know when we have dedicated enough time and energy and resources to our kids’ schools and activities and lives? WhenAreYouGoingToWriteAboutTHAT?!?’ Followed by, not a glare, but a look that held a level of exasperation and end-of-my-rope-ness. For she had just finished explaining that each night that week was filled with coaching or planning or organizing or doing. And for one evening she’d even had to hire a babysitter so that she and her husband could split and cover all of the meetings they needed to lead or attend that surrounded said events and activities.
For months now, maybe six…or maybe nine, her question has echoed about in my mind. But I didn’t have the answer. I had an answer, or I had half an answer, or I had thoughts that skirted around an answer, but not the answer. Today I do. Or, at least, I have the answer that resonates for me, and I hope points to an answer that resonates for you. And, as answers often do, it appeared when I wasn’t looking for it, in a place I least expected.
I found the answer in a pair of kindergarten-sized ballet shoes.
Eleanor’s class begins with all of the little dancers sitting in a circle. Then, one by one, they stand, walk to the center in relevé with arms held wide in second position, curtsy, and in a strong, clear voice say ‘present’, then return to their place. What is the subtext? Each child stands up – she stands for herself, apart from the crowd. She walks to the center- she claims her space as being an important and integral part of the whole. She curtsies- acknowledging her respect for those surrounding her. And announces ‘present’. Where was the answer? Right there in that one word. Each little girl does not say ‘here’, instead she declares her presence.
That’s it. That’s my answer. What state are we in? Are we just here or are we fully present? What is the texture and rhythm of the day? Are we rushing along our check-list at break-neck speeds? Does one red light throw the flow into chaos? We are well-meaning parents who cram our calendars full of worthwhile yet time sucking commitments. And the balance between much and too-much is individual to us all. So the answer to the question is, actually, a question: what is your state of mind- here or present?
For if we are only here, our thoughts are already on the next task. If we are only here, we are not listening to the spoken words or unuttered feelings our children are expressing. If we are only here, then we are actually no place at all. Because if we are too busy thinking about the future, we are worried about a place we will never reach. For future becomes the now, and the to-do list never ends.
If these are the signs we see, how do we stop? Eckhart Tolle writes about the ‘high quality No’. A no that has no guilt, no excuse, no roundabout reason, no evasion. A simple no. A high quality no returns us to a higher quality of life. And a high quality no offers the opportunity for someone else to say yes. Someone who has been waiting for the invitation, someone who will rise up and find new talents within themselves, someone who will be present.
Stop Signs. They invite us to get off the merry-go-round, to take a hiatus from the whirling, dizzying pace of our lives. And from there we can choose another ride, maybe the Ferris wheel, where we can quietly sit by our child’s side, watch the world, talk about all that we see, and be fully present.
Thank you, dear friend, for asking. I hope it resonates for you. And to everyone, what are your questions? What topics bring forth a feeling of WhenAreYouGoingToWriteAboutTHAT? I promise to think, mull, consider and wait for inspiration, whenever and wherever it finds me. And then I’ll write. And when I do, I’ll keep you posted.