Monday, June 22, 2009

'Ancora Imparo'



About this time 4 years ago, the big sledgehammer in the sky made a mess of my notions of what my year should be like. Members of three generations in my family were not at all well. Two would slowly mend, and one would die.

It was also a period when the workload of my paying job quadrupled. In the evenings, after making sure my loved ones were safe for the night (or worrying when I wasn't sure), I'd resume my work "day," sometimes finishing around 3 am. I carried on this way for 10 months.

I admire people who can keep up such a pace. But I was not one of them. Eventually I hit the wall. And that was a good thing. I learned that no amount of will or effort on my part would completely restore their health, heal their wounds, or save their lives. 

As much as I loved them, as pure as my intentions, as hard as I tried, I could not make them better. It was the first time I careened head-on into the limits of my personal power. I've always been a willful little thing, and until the year of the sledgehammer, that character trait had reliably helped me muscle through tough times or inspired just the right solution.

It even prompted what I'd considered till then one of the greatest compliments of my life. I had worked side-by-side with a Vietnam vet on a campaign to improve our community for teens. Our efforts ultimately failed, but he said the following: "If I ever have to be in a foxhole again, I hope it's with someone like you!"

But during the year of the sledgehammer, I would finally stand toe to toe and  nose to nose with a harsh truth that had escaped me for decades: Some things are simply out of our hands. 

And those things belong to what I've come to think of as The Great Unknowable. God to some. A higher power to others.

I also learned that when you pour everything you've got into everything you do, you leave nothing in reserve for life's surprises, especially when they show up like wrecking balls.

These days I go out of my way to keep a little something in reserve. I no longer feel guilty about acts of self-care, like getting massage or going on retreat or simply staring at my feet for 30 minutes. It's not a luxury; it's survival.

I wish I could say I've got the lesson down flat. But every so often, that willful little creature shows up again and tests the boundaries.

And that's when I have to remind myself of a beautiful quote attributed to Michelangelo: 



"I am still learning" 



Image 1 by DianthusMoon
Image 2 by Wild Goose Studio - Designs


12 comments:

ellen abbott said...

Great post. In yoga, my instructor told us that when you chant the 'om', take a deep breath and let it out slowly but leave a little for yourself. In other words, don't 'om' all the way to the end of your breath.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Kathleen! You write so well. This is one of your best. It keeps me comming back to your blog again and again. Your message of self care and keeping a reserve is well said and good advice. One should not feel guilty, as we all will have, sooner or later, a "year of the sledgehammer." My only quibble is your remark about your willfullness. Anyone that has known you immediately knows this is an understatement. You have always been more than a "wilfull little thing." Your will power can be better described more like a resolute force, or a strong never ending storm in a good positive way. I especially appreciate the honesty and truth in your writing. You write from the heart as well as your soul.

Derrick said...

Accepting that we cannot do or 'fix' everything is an important lesson. As is not being too hard with oneself. We all have limits to our capabilities and our strength.

Pyzahn said...

Ancora imparo. I like that.

I suppose in many ways it is good that we keep on learning life's lessons. It keeps us on our toes. Imagine how complacent we would all be if we thought we knew everything.

How wise it is of you to sit back and reflect. To remember the lessons. To make the effort to take care of yourself.

Om.

Anonymous said...

Simply beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing this, Kathleen!

--Lisa Schnirring

Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner said...

Beautiful. I heart you.

Rudee said...

Learning to say yes to one's self is the hardest lesson of all. We all need time to pursue those things that restore us.

I haven't had a massage ages. It's time. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

I'm Linda B. and I've become addicted to your blog, as well as some of your followers. Reading about sledgehammers, willfullness, gratefullness, challenges, and Father's Day tributes bring me back to something I first saw on an older North High football posting about Team Hoyt (Dick and Rick Hoyt have a website) and the u-tube video on the father on son set to the song "I Can Only Imagine." Love the inspiring and funny writings and cool photos in the blogsphere. P.S. Glad you're feeling better.

♥ bfs - Mimi ♥ said...

Wonderful post. Simply wonderful.

Kathleen said...

Ellen: I love that idea of saving a little "om" for yourself. That's it! Exactly. Thanks for sharing that little pearl!

Anonymous:Thank you thank you thank you. What incredibly kinds words, for which I am oh so grateful. Your quibble tickled me! I think Mr. B would agree with the never-ending storm image. In his mind, I'm a category 5 hurricane! But I do try to clean up my messes. You are a dear.

Derrick: How long did it take you to become so wise--and concise?

Pyzahn: ~:^) I don't think either of us is at any risk of complacency, eh? Way too much fun to be had learning, bruises and all!

Lisa: Thank you from my heart or hearts.

JGW: I heart you back X 1,000,000.

Rudee: I hope you do get your massage. Good lord, you deserve 3 massages a day with what you endure!

Linda: Welcome to Bloggers Anonymous! Amazing story about Team Hoyt. Thanks for letting us know about it! And so happy to know you're enjoying your visits to the blogsphere. I 'phere' it's making me nocturnal! (Am feeling much much better after rest rest rest this weekend!) So . . . when will you be starting YOUR blog?

bfa - Mimi: You are very kind! Thank you for kind comment! (How do you make those hearts?)

Lilly said...

What a wonderful post and a good reminder for us all - we need to have something in reserve just in case.

Kathleen said...

Lilly: Welcome! Hope you'll visit again!

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