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.