Category Archives: Life

Climbing down from my control tower

Control … such a buzz word. Who has it? Who wants it? Who’s in it?

Don’t be so controlling! we say. Because we want to have our say. We want to have our way.

What if, 
instead of loose-ing our control,
we climbed down out of our control towers?
down the steps from the platforms
where we otherwise attempt
to play God with our lives?

"But..." I say, "from here I can see it all!
All incoming traffic
All outgoing traffic
What approaches and what departs..."

From here I can see everything!
It's clear. I'm clear for take off.
"You're clear for take off," I advise myself.
"Runway 4-9, four-niner, clear for take off."

Oh my, why?
You're not cut out for this kind of work, Wendy.
It takes a cool head to be an air traffic controller.
Confident.
Detailed.
Conscientious.
Certain.

Make a mistake and people die!

Lotta heart disease in this profession.
Lotta cardiac arrests,
Lotta blocked arteries,
bypass surgeries,
early retirement.

Who in their right mind would willingly assume
control tower duty over their own lives?

Me,
I'd rather listen for instructions
from a voice I recognize and trust.

Wendy, you're clear for landing on runway 2B.

Roger that.

I wanna be that kind of book

I pick the book up from its assigned resting spot and attempt to flip through its pages. Each one sticks to the next. I can’t for the life of me get them separated. I fiddle with the edges. I try and slide the corner. I gather a handful of pages hoping the random shuffle will loosen the page I want. No luck. Thunk, thunk, thunk, go the chunks of text.

Clearly, no one has freed this book from its hot-off-the-presses status. But how… without licking my fingers? Such a Pre-Covid thought, that. In my bag I have a contraband water bottle, perhaps some moisture from that? Or maybe my gloves with fingertips designed to slide a screen would do the trick, but where are the?

Oh good grief. Yes, yes I did it. Surreptitiously, I dot my index finger with a dab of saliva and successfully work one page away from the other. Crinkle, crinkle, slide. There it goes. One page down. Only 373 more to go.

(I had the same experience at Harris Teeter yesterday, trying as I might to release the grip of the plastic bag opening without defaulting to stripping my mask from my nose and mouth and licking my fingers. Suffice to say, after setting my two gala apples on the cart left by the produce manager in order to recruit both hands for the task, I finally gave up and set both the apples and the unopened plastic bag in the bottom of my basket.) But I digress…

Today I pick up the same book from its assigned resting spot, but this one is in a different location. A more traveled location. A more popular spot. This book, I know right away, has had many visitors stop by for a visit. Its pages fall easily, one from the other. Its surfaces are crinkled and easy to grip. Its printed words seem to invite me in:

Look here and over here.
Turn to this page, now that. 
Oh, here's something you'll like! 
Wherever you want to go, I am with you. 
Just as I have been here 
for all those who have sat where you are sitting
and accepted my invitation to excursion through my pages.

I had what seemed an odd thought just then…

I would much rather be this book than the other, the one so seldom opened. I prefer risking a ragged interaction or two to sitting idle in a forgotten corner or at arms reach from an uninterested patron. I would rather be a book that’s read, that’s sung from, that’s paged through. I would rather be dog-eared, crinkled, scribbled upon or even mended after a bout of overly enthusiastic use, than pristine and shimmering, on display in some out-of-the-way spot gathering dust but inspiring no interest, no interaction, no comment.

Yes, me and that Velveteen Rabbit, we’ve done some communing over the years.

A toy, played with, is beloved. Real, even.

A book, read and re-read, beloved, too. Alive, even.

I wanna be that kind of book.

Who took the lane lines?

I thought I was just too early for Master swim when all I saw were four bright orange rescue rings floating on the surface of the pool. It turned out the absence of lane markers was on purpose. Today’s workout would be free-form. “Choose a direction and swim outside the rings. Pull a few, kick a few, swim a few, whatever you feel like.”

Today we were doing the pool imitation of an “open water swim.”

Actual open water events are pretty much free-for-alls, with every swimmer fending for him or herself. There’s climbing and clawing and a sprint to the front in order to avoid the same. And if the dark, choppy water doesn’t provide ample challenge, there’s the matter of keeping your bearings… and contending with cramps, hypothermia, injury or exhaustion. Of course, for those swimmers who cannot continue, rescue boats are close at hand.

None of this happened at the neighborhood swimming pool today.

At least not to me. Because, after jumping in, swimming a few strokes, looking up every two or three to be sure I wasn’t gonna clobber another swimmer, then taking extra irregular breaths to gauge my bearings per the buoys, then preferentially stroking with right arm to navigate the turning radius, I completed one lap and climbed out.

“This just isn’t my thing,” I apologized to the guy who set up the course. “I come here more for the Zen.”

But what I really meant was, “This is totally nuts!” There’s no way I voluntarily subject myself to an hour of dizzily circling the pool while hyperventilating in fear of ramming somebody. All that just because nobody set up the lane lines…

One of the guys called to me as I was leaving, “What’s the matter? Don’t like the waves?”

Nope. It wasn’t the waves. Effort I am okay with. It was the tight turns and uncertainty I objected to. It felt… debilitating.

Wow. As soon as I named the feeling, it all made sense. This open-water swim felt like the year and a half we’ve been living. Our orange buoys — pandemic, climate change, injustice and cultural division — have set us a-spin. They’ve changed all our rules. Boundaries we thought were fixed have now moved. Truth may not be true. Our friend may not be our friend. The system we thought was fair, isn’t. Temperatures trending upward may not be temporary.

What we thought was unchangeable isn’t; the world can change in a minute.

Life right now feels like an open water swim, and even if you’re a good swimmer, it’s disconcerting and dizzying. Our opportunities for collective Zen have gone missing.

I need to inject more of my life with stuff like organized Master Swim. I need lane lines, a planned workout, the right equipment, a clean, well-kept space and some hearty companions. Because in that space, even and especially after supplying maximum effort, I find peace — the peace that settles my mind and clears my head, the peace that trains my heart and uplifts my soul.

How I am longing for structure, discipline, order and clear expectations where I can be free to supply my effort, my skills and my talents to contribute to my world as it is and make it better. To find a bit of good news and amplify it. To uncover a good idea and inspire a group to pursue it. To lift up the work of others who are on track toward something great. And to lend a hand where I can.

Because this head-spinning time needs a-righting. And getting out of the pool isn’t an option.

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