Friday, 22 March 2019

Circus Life

I have long been fascinated with people who can juggle. Even the three-ball standard party trick can capture my attention. I've tried a few times to learn the rhythms of the toss-and-catch, but not with any sustained will to practice. I've attempted other things in a similar way (solving a Rubix's Cube, cracking an egg with one hand, knitting) dabbling just enough with each to recognize that art and skill lie behind most party tricks and that I don't really want to take the time to learn. Instead, I marvel at the people who practice enough to make it look effortless. I marvel at their discipline, as much as the final effect.

While I can't physically juggle, but I'm a master metaphorical juggler.

That is, I'm a master in the metaphor of juggling.

I'm not the first one to work on this idea, of course (phrases like "she's got a lot of balls in the air," or "dropped the ball on that one" are familiar enough), but I think what is missing in our cultural understanding of these idioms is a discussion about the aforementioned balls themselves.

Typically a juggler tosses objects of similar weight and size. Not so in life. Every responsibility that is placed in your hands has a different level of importance and requires from you a varied amount of energy and attention. Here's my bag of tricks from last year, as an example:

Making art / writing stories: baseball
Hosting friends: tennis ball
Feeding myself and Ben: softball
Household duties: volleyball
Church duties: hackysack
Other volunteering: another hackysack
Physical activity: ping-pong ball

Most of the time I didn't bother much if my ping-pong ball had rolled into a corner somewhere. It wasn't a big deal to me, and other things needed my attention.

Then I had a baby.

Having a baby is like having a ten-pound bowling ball hang off your spine for a few months before it is excruciatingly removed and then thrown with significant force back at your face. In that moment, all you can do is desperately cling to the slimy, incomprehensibly delicate bowling ball in your hands. It's so bloody heavy that of course you drop all the other balls. Someone else can pick up the hackysacks and take over the softball, etc. Nobody needs to think about ping-pong when their arms are full of a brand new baby bowling ball.

But in time, those limp, noodly new-mom arms get a little stronger. You start to toss your bowling ball up just a little bit -- toss and catch -- higher and higher. Ever so slowly, you start adding balls back into your routine. Then one day, you're a juggler again! It feels so good. Maybe your capacity is lower, maybe your dexterity improved, who knows. You're doing an incredibly impressive act. Let your security guys deal with the hecklers and the peanut gallery fools; keep your focus on your balls. You got this.

I'm currently raising one seven-month-old bowling ball, but I have a sister with two, and here's what I've learned: every kid is a new bowling ball. When you have / care for another baby, life is throwing you another bowling ball. It takes time to re-work your act. You will drop all the balls again, but this time you can't put down the other bowling balls for very long, if at all. Just hold them until you adjust to the new weight. It's okay to just hold them.

Some people are juggling so many bowling balls. It is so far beyond me how those women have anything else in the air, ever. LOOK HOW STRONG YOU ARE, YOU DESERVE EVERY ROUND OF APPLAUSE EVER.

If you are a person with a juggling routine that has room for a little growth, borrow a bowling ball from one of your people. If you don't have people with bowling balls, GO FIND people with bowling balls. Make us your people. Our arms are so very tired, and we need a break so very much. You love will give us the time and energy to tend to some of the other things we are (or want to be) juggling.

And if you have bowling balls in your care, remember that nobody can juggle 24/7, no matter how light their balls are. It is important for you to find people, too. One day I'm hoping to have a little collection of these hefty ten-pounders, and I could probably take on a couple more from time to time in the meantime. Work up my muscles so that when the time comes for a permanent second catch, these arms of mine a little prepared.

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