Sunday, February 13, 2011

When Weather Analogies Fail

"Chaos is the score upon which reality is written."
~ Henry Miller

The past week has been on of those times when job stress and life stress combine like a marauding pack of angry badgers bent on mass destruction.

At my new job, a seemingly inexhaustible series of technological problems confounded my productivity, made me mightily cranky and left me feeling vaguely incompetent. Far more distressing, multiple people who are near and dear to me simultaneously experienced health crises and psychological meltdowns. Out went plans to attend a tribute to Tennessee Williams on Monday, a tribute to Elizabeth Bishop on Tuesday and an Oliver Sacks appearance on Thursday. Out went everything except getting myself and my loved ones through the week alive and well — without losing my job.

If you're a coper, and I come from a long line of them, when everything around you spins out of control, you quietly grit your teeth and lean into it. You figure out where daylight is and start taking slow, careful steps toward it. And that's how the week went.

Time passed and the chaos gradually settled down. I thought about the previous days and found myself grasping for a weather analogy. The first that came to mind was a whirlwind. But a moment later I thought no, that's wrong — there is no coping at the center of a tornado. Then I thought perhaps the quiet space I carved out for myself was like the eye of a hurricane. But that was wrong, too. The eye is just the false calm that precedes the rest of the storm. I ran through the possibilities from drought to flood to Nor'easter. Weather analogies failed me.

Friday happened to be my mother's birthday. She's been gone 25 years. As I wished her a happy birthday, I realized where I'd learned my quiet coping skills. It was all mom's doing. She was so unflappable you might have thought flapping didn't exist. In fact, I did think that growing up.

Thanks, mom.


  1. Wonderful post. Very thought-provoking.

  2. Yes... I get that.
    I used to be unflappable, until this last year. I've discovered I'm quite flappable... that's good I think. We all need to be a bit flappable, makes us human I suppose.
    This was really nice, thanks for posting it.

  3. Lovely post and a great tribute to the grounding nature that solid mothering leaves as it's legacy.

  4. The weather is often able to quiet the chaos with it's gentle rain, or soft breeze ... but equally, all the snow, then ice is creating tensions beyond the norm here in the Northeast. My mother was our families' still point as well. She taught us by just being there.

  5. I am so happy about your new job and empathize on the steep curve of mastering the technology just be able to do the real work. And I am so sorry to hear about the crises all around you. Sounds only too familiar. I hope the chaos has begun to subside and you've weathered the storm not too much worse for wear. Sending hugs and appreciation for your constancy and warm intelligence.

  6. I'm so sorry to hear you were going through all this—being such a coper, you never let on! I'm very glad to hear that the immediate crises have passed. And I relate so well to your description of your mother—she sounds exactly like mine. I hope this week is far better than the one left behind!

  7. Becky, there is definitely something to be said for flapping, especially if you don't have any alternative!

    Holly, thank you. Solid is a good word for my mom. She was reserved to the point of being mysterious, but she never failed to make us feel safe.

    Kari, beautifully said — the "still point" and
    "she taught us just by being there" resonate with me. There was a time when I envied friends whose mothers were a little wild, a little unpredictable. But now I think we are lucky to have had a mother who kept our world calm and safe.

    Henrietta, thank you — and hugs and appreciation to you, too. I've missed your poetry. I think I'll go catch up now.

  8. Susan, I have to say that dinner with you and Tammy and Lauren and Deb was without question the high point of a my week. Things are better now, thanks. Sometimes life is just a big game of whack-a-mole and for the moment, the moles are popping up in slo-mo.

  9. I love this: "...when everything around you spins out of control, you quietly grit your teeth and lean into it. You figure out where daylight is and start taking slow, careful steps toward it."

    I'm late because I was dealing with a couple of my own whirlwinds, though mine were mostly internal. I hope this week is better.

  10. I hate this period wen the stress from all the spheres of life fall on me at once! No time to relax and think!