The national company that I worked for in one of my many former lives offered all of its employees and their families tickets to the circus. Not a circus. THE circus. The one that boots the Bulls out of the United Center for more than a week. The Greatest Show on Earth. It was quite the big deal.
And, when my colleague Faye told her family that I wasn’t going, her son said, “Isn’t that just like Nancy…” Because even though we had met only twice, he knew that there was no way I’d go.
Yes, I can watch men put their head in the mouth of a tiger. I don’t like it, but I can watch it. And, as far as I’m concerned, most clowns are just creepy. But I can tolerate them for an afternoon.
I really like horses. They are beautiful and powerful. Although I’m not sure they appreciate being dressed up like Vegas show-girls.
Sitting on back-less metal bleachers when a man is shot out of a cannon or an elephant is giving his brother a jumbo-sized back rub just doesn’t seem particularly entertaining.
Nonetheless, to each her own.
Now, ask me to watch a lithe little pair of shiny acrobats do somersaults into cartwheels, and then leap like gazelles across a cable stretched nearly a mile across and clearly a thousand feet in the air with NO NET??? Well, count me out. No, no, never, never, uh, uh, UHH! They have obviously gone round the bend. The fact that they can perform flawlessly – and fall-lessly – does not mean that they will. And I do not want to be an eye witness. I am not impressed that they trust their sense of balance to the extreme. To the point that they will risk their lives. Proving their skill with increased risk does not diminish their ability. But it does diminish my willingness to sit and watch.
I have been the victim of adult tripping and falling. It’s ugly. And I’ve dropped food trays in the lunchroom. It’s embarrassing. But those events, much liked the occasional high-wire accident are really just evidence of physical human frailty. Painful evidence that, despite our defenses and masks, none of us are totally cool 100% of the time.
No, what causes me truly serious soul-searching is the elusive nature of life balance. Although I claim that I don’t live to work, but rather work to live, there is no consistent evidence of this in my actions and efforts. It seems that I spend more and more time focusing on schedules and plans and student achievement and keeping just slightly ahead of the game, only to lose sight of just about everything else. I make mistakes and fret and stew about little things that probably don’t really matter. I worry about how I measure up and I find less and less joy in the teaching position I worked so hard to gain. I look forward to the weekend – not for precious time with precious loved ones and long-anticipated happy events, but because maybe, just maybe, I can catch up and catch my breath. But that pesky, ever-present “job” cloud never seems to clear or fade. It just looms bigger and darker.
My friend and teaching colleague Lisa has some good insight. She has been teaching at the elementary level for more than 20 years. A rock star. But not that long ago, she discovered anew the magic and wonder of life outside of the classroom. She told me that her life began to change when she adopted two sweet French bulldogs – first Beau, then Chloe. She loves them, and talks about them, and shares them with her classroom and colleagues. Her face lights up each and every time she mentions them. And when they get to come to school with her? Well, they are simply the talk of the town. A-DOR-able…
Lisa also found a whole new world of friends and focus. For the past few years, she and a group of people with hearts the size of Manhattan consistently raise money and travel far and wide to rescue puppies and mama dogs that have been victimized by the puppy mill industry. (Don’t even get me started on the hideous conditions to which these sweet, innocent and trusting creatures of God are subjected… there are no words.) And, as Lisa’s life got busier and filled with a whole new sense of accomplishment, she discovered something completely unexpected – a greater passion and patience and love for her classroom. Without expecting it, Beau and Chloe and her rescue friends have given my friend the precious gift of balance… finding joy both in and out of the classroom.
I’m still working on mine. I have all of the necessary components – the support and encouragement of loving friends and family, meaningful mission, financial resources, all of it. But sometimes, I just forget to step back and look at my life with clear, rested eyes and heart. I let myself concentrate on the stress of the high-wire act instead of the excitement. Is there something that eludes you? causes you hours of soul-searching? or keeps you awake at night trying to make sense of it all?
Mine is balance. The one and only reason I won’t go to the circus. Ever.