I live in a whirlwind of work, play, family, phones, and email. I’m not saying mine is more of a challenge than yours, I’m just conscious of it. I work at a boarding school where I teach thirty students, advise six more, coach two sports, and live with 25 teenage boys in my house. I also have a wife and a daughter (soon I will have two), a sister in one state and a mother in one other, a bunch of friends from high school and college all over the country, and I’m working on a graduate degree. Slowly.
On a good day, I’m able to keep my balance and ride the whirlwind. One task flows into the next, the people I need to see show up in the currents of the day, and I can pretend that I am in control. My wife and daughter leave on time for work and day care in the morning. I find the time to talk to a colleague about a student, set up practice with a coach, run practice for my sport, spend time with my wife, catch up on emails before our formal school dinner, put my daughter to bed, wake back up to plan for class the next day, and still manage to get six hours of sleep.
On a bad day, the whirlwind pulls all my best efforts apart. I have too little patience with my wife, my daughter, my students, my athletes, or my colleagues. I don’t pay quite enough attention to the wording of an email. I try to make my students or athletes care, and I take it personally when they don’t. One thing too many happens, and I find myself spinning in mid-air, completely unable to act. I sit down to plan in the evening, and the highest level of cognitive functioning I can muster is a game of solitaire.
I often tell my students that it is important for them to keep their balance: if homework is important, so are your friends. I can rationalize that I’m a night owl or that I’m not a morning person, but the truth is that I get too tired to function well and I lose my balance. Because, you see, I also believe in responsibility. Whether our Lord of the Dance is Hindu or Shaker, we all choose to dance our dance. I committed myself long ago to following through on the creation of the family and career that I love, and all the rest. I fantasize about winning the lottery or joining a Buddhist monastery, but I’d go completely off the rails without all of the business I have gathered around me. It’s my whirlwind, my dance, and despite my lack of control, choosing to be caught up in the dance is the only possible way to live.
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