Sitting down to write and sitting down to play the piano are similar. My hands resting on the keyboard, not sure where to begin. Major or minor, I go for the G chords, C and D, improvising as I warm up and get a feel for some tone, a rhythm to fall into it until it begins to lead me as I gradually get swept into the music, the words, and stop thinking about how it’s going to go.
One day not long ago, I was weeding two little areas behind the house where I was living. I spent about an hour pulling up weeds of all sizes. Many resembled clovers or grass, others grew tall and imposing, like garden bullies with pathetic roots. I worked up a sweat, my lower back aching as I stood up and thought, weeding is like writing without all the words.
Lately at work, I’ve been noticing when I have the impulse to jump in while someone else is talking during a meeting. What is the hurry? I ask myself quietly, not only waiting my turn to speak but also really paying attention to the other person’s words instead of getting so caught up in what I want to say next. I continue to work on not interrupting, a habit heavy with memories and even remorse, language pouring out of me, ideas, connections. And then sometimes, I find myself practicing not saying anything at all, aware of my quick mind, always the one whose hand shot up in class, ready to be called on.
I’ve never thought of myself as “Type A,” a label like any other. But I am a do-er, highly functioning and organized, a matrix in my brain of plans, schedules, timing, details, big picture, to-do lists. This is hardly unusual; most of the women in my life share this quality in some way or another of holding so much in their heads at any given moment and managing to keep twelve balls in the air at all times. It’s not a pride thing, more just a way of “keeping it together.” There are the breaking points, when the overwhelm of schedules, work stress, each day an orchestration of moving parts all become too much. Sometimes, I thrive on it, and sometimes I need to sit and wait, my hands on the keys, pausing to let the day speak first, or my own child who becomes exasperated when I interrupt her, tells me to LISTEN.
This week, my word is “pliability.” To temper my “doing” energy with staying emotionally pliable. One time, when I was discussing some parenting challenges with my therapist and expressing my fears about their emotional well-being in the midst of reconfiguring our family life, she asked me if Aviva seemed “brittle.” I asked her what she meant, and she spoke of how it is natural–for anyone, of any age–to have waves of anger or even shutting down. The thing to look at, she explained, was pliability. Are we able to experience those moments without hardening? Am I able to plan, do, formulate, manage, do financial and logistical gymnastics, without becoming brittle, which leads to cracking? Staying pliable protects us from falling apart. It is a critical part of being strong.
I remember reading once that in a storm, it is the oak that will break, not the bamboo. True survival requires flexibility, improvisation, softening, shifting, and bending. Not letting the weeds, with their measly roots, take over. Planning, yes, and also listening, sitting down, then walking out the door and into the day, ready to meet whatever songs or storms it might bring.
So, for today: Be the Bamboo.