Hello from Day 39 of Delaney Walkabout! The reality of non-teacher life has not yet set in, but the reality of a working summer has. My general sulkiness has started to fade a little–I did after all take a sailboat (cardboard) to Sonoma yesterday. While on board we drank milkshakes and watched Humpty Dumpty until realizing that sharks also like milkshakes. Long story short, four first graders dragged me to safety across the ocean floor (linoleum) after our boat sank. There could be way worse jobs than camp counselor.
There are a lot more maybes than yeses or no’s in the last five weeks. For example, did I want to take the boat back home after it was fixed in Sonoma? “Maybe?” I answered, fearing the first trip had pulled my shoulder out of joint. My yes, and especially what I call my “big yes” has always been fairly easy to hear, even when I didn’t want to hear it. My no is getting easier to hear as I grow in trusting myself and let go more and more of my need for outside approval. But the maybe? It both tantalizes and annoys the crap out of me. Will I be missing out on something if I say no? Am I being talked into yes as I have been in the past? What the hell do I do with maybe? From my own estuary of passion and logic I thought I’d share what I have been trying:
1. Does it have any stubbornness to it? If so, my experience tells me that it might be a yes that is hiding in plain sight. I signed up for a variety of job alerts from different services so that I can still keep my job eyes open this summer. Each time I find one I could do I have gone through my own version of Macbeth: “To apply or not to apply, that is the question.” However, each time a new job comes in that is feasible, it effectively washes the last job and its argument out to sea. In contrast, I am still thinking about a movie I saw more than a year ago now. The movie itself was terrible, but somewhere towards the end they go to Niagra Falls. I couldn’t tell you what was happening in the scene, but the big yes was vibrating my spine with: you need to go there as soon as possible. To have called that a maybe would be giving in to my fear of air travel and the infinitesimal chance that I will be air sick enough to puke in front of a stranger (it did happen once). It’s taken me longer than it should’ve to comply on this one, but I am starting to plan a trip after camp is over.
2. Make a move. If it is a no disguised as a maybe, action will clarify it if you are listening to yourself. One of my more recent maybes in job search land seemed like it had a little more stubbornness to it than usual, but I still couldn’t decide whether or not to apply. I finally just sent an inquiry to the organization, asking if an eligible candidate had to be in the office for all of the 20 hours a week. The answer: yup. Problem solved. There is no physical way I can give 20 in-person hours a week before camp lets out, and I am definitely not putting off Niagra Falls one more time. Get the ball rolling somewhere and then TRUST. You will do more for the world as you trust and follow than you ever will by giving advice and clinging to one picture of yourself.
3. Learn to bless the maybe. What if it’s not a secret yes or no that you are refusing to hear? In Marge Piercy’s gorgeous poem, “The art of blessing the day,” she ends with this stanza:
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.
What is there to bless about maybe? I’ve spent so much time longing for the safe landing of endings and beginnings, and perhaps I will continue to do so, but maybe is about journeys. Maybe is about being new again, at the frontier of what comforts and terrifies you, present to each moment, mundane or jaw dropping, curious. Maybe requires and rewards you as you ask for help, even when the asking is awkward or downright incoherent. Maybe is a great catalyst in creating community, asking those around you to wait with you, not knowing the results, unable to calm their fears since you are currently busy with your own.
Maybe brings perspective to your bullshit. When I did most things in my life on autopilot there was tons of energy for pointless obsessing about nothing. But now that I am here, more engaged in living, so many of the Tasmanian devils are curled up sleeping. I scratch their fuzzy bellies occasionally but they are hesitant to wake up. And so where I thought maybe would create more noise, more chaos, it has actually given me the opposite. The gratitude for the space and the quiet is immense. If gratitude were a meal, right now it is stuck in my teeth, all over my face, and down the front of my shirt.
Maybe is for building a life, not an institution. The exhale I have each time I think or write that thought is like the removal of the bra at the end of a long day (sorry guys, you’ll have to trust me on this one). Institutions need products to prove their worth, be they tangible or not. They could not do that if they took the meandering path of maybe. I however am trying to build a life. Who knows when and if an institution will become part of that life again, BUT THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. I had it wrong for a really long time.
I am trying to bless the maybe, whether it be in job possibilities or multiple offers for weekend plans when I’ve only been used to grading papers. Remember, the sharks in these waters are not as scary as we thought they were…they like milkshakes.