catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 22 :: 2006.12.01 — 2006.12.15


Shifting the fulcrum

When even thoughts get relegated to the "spaces between," what am I doing attempting to write something helpful about busyness?  I suppose my offerings come from being mired in the problem, rather than having found a way to transcend it.

This issue topic emerged from multiple conversations my husband and I have had with many well-meaning folks, whom we dearly love.  Having moved twice since we were married nearly five years ago, we often find ourselves visiting communities to which we used to belong and everyone wants to know how we're doing.  In the future, I will take Amy Boerman-Cornell's words to heart, but my tendency has been to answer, simply, "Busy."  This is a short way of saying, "I'm exhausted.  I move through my days in crisis mode, doing emergency triage on all my tasks and feeling guilty every second I'm not tackling that eternal to-do list.  Something's not right."  But this is too intense perhaps for a hey-how-ya-doin' chat, so I summarize and he or she, looking on the bright side, responds, "Well, busy is good!"  Then why do I daydream about running away?

As many discussions, articles, sermons and admonitions I've encountered about achieving the elusive "balance", nothing has ever seemed to instigate meaningful change.  As much as I complain about being exhausted and feel like I'm a victim of my agenda, the fact is that I prioritize my days according to my loves.  If I'm at work instead of learning a new craft, I love the security of my paycheck more than I love working with my hands, no matter how badly I say I want to learn how to screen print.  If I'm driving to work everyday instead of biking or riding the bus, I love my extra half hour and my independence more than I love the environmental and physical benefits of alternative transportation.  Of course, there are other factors that affect these decisions, but my point is that I don't think it is helpful for me to perceive myself as a victim.  If I feel like there's a dissonance between what I say is important to me and my behavior, perhaps I'm not really being honest about what's important to me.

In seeking to achieve balance, am I simply settling for temporary alleviation, rather than pursuing a more lasting solution?  I picture a multitude of seesaws all balancing haphazardly on an off-center fulcrum.  In order to keep the ends of those seesaws from smacking the ground, I have to run around the circumference frantically adding and subtracting from my various commitments.  The harder, but more productive method would be to dismantle the whole construct and re-center the fulcrum.  This of course would take a lot of inconvenient time and caution tape and, the first time for sure, create an incredible mess.  And I may not be able to fit every seesaw back on in a desirable way.  But it seems like re-centering, as opposed to balancing, would have a dramatic impact on the way I interact with potential commitments, on my language, on the way I perceive the state of my being.  What composes the fulcrum?  And with this knowledge, what do I place on it in such a way that the fulcrum itself guides the balance?  Once I've discovered a more centered life, what practices will help maintain and strengthen it?

A student just stopped by and asked how everything was going for me.  "Good," I said, remembering Amy's words.  But good doesn't gratify with the same knowing affirmation as "busy", so I adorn the silence: "Busy, but a good kind of busy."  This discipline will be more difficult than I imagined, but I hope it's just the beginning of shifting that weighty fulcrum and learning how to connect in more meaningful ways.

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