It’s the landing pad for all of life’s work. It all piles up where the magic happens and where it all comes together. Everything migrates here automatically.
This is Kelly referring to the dining room table. Only Kelly could turn something I detest into magic. We are in a house where the four of us are staying during BIT. And it was literally only hours since we’d arrived and the dining room table was plastered with stuff. This has become a month-long itchy tag. I usually think of my own dining room table as a source of chaos, a never-ending pile of multiple to do lists, a work space, and a collection of objects that don’t yet have a home. The regular sorting of all of this, makes me want to skip the dining part of dinner.
It reminds me of my calendar. Things pile up and get shoved in wherever there is a space. There’s never enough time. Things don’t get put away. If only I had more space… and on and on… None of this would change the fact that stuff happens. It’s happening right now.
I feel like I have to learn to love, not the chaos, but the process of sorting through the mess. It is healing. Slowing down and taking the time to go through it is really about remembering what’s important. Because, of course, I am the mess. All those bits of paper and every item on my to do list is me. It’s who I am and what I am doing and who I care about. Live in the present. Think in the process.
I’m not completely certain that I can separate the two – the mess and the process. Because I get consumed by it.
It makes me anxious. I am not a messy personality. Totally organized through and through…from birth. Allowing the mess to occur at all is a risk. I might miss something. What if I cannot find an opportunity to make space on the table? There is also the satisfaction of waiting until the table is clear before the work can actually begin. A clean slate. A fresh start. When that little red dot disappears and my inbox is at zero, I will begin to mastermind the next great project. Uhuh. Does the checking, the waiting, and living in the present mean that I don’t look hard enough or far enough into the future?
Then the universe aligns.
Our dear friend Vivian sends us a note, as she does, to reflect on our Nodding and Routes blog entries. She wrote:
The confirmation conversation you both had that morning was so interesting to me. I’m feeling more that confirmation is like setting the table. It’s a place where everyone has a seat, all have what they need and all are seated together. It’s where we start…appreciating what we bring, that our hearts matter, that we all want the best for our learners, and each other. I believe it’s worth the investment. Smiles, appreciation and some confirmation. Fancy napkins, matching place-mats and lovely candlelight. Then the real work can begin…
Vivian’s table is a metaphor. I am literally setting my own table and preparing to be changed. That is all the future I need.
5 am by the glow of the Christmas tree lights…
K: I have never known a world where the dining room table is not centre of the universe. I read your words last night before going to bed and it was very late or I would have called my mother. Her dining room table is next level command centre. I am not sure the goal was every to tame it or get it empty… it simply was. I am wondering why our wellness, our making sense of our day job and and the chaos is actually on the list? Why do you need the healing, the clean slate from the mess?
A: I’m figuring out what matters. It’s always all of it. There’s tomorrow – that’s pretty damn important. After that, all of it. I think that I should clear it, but I don’t. All of it is a lot. Clearing it is simply the pressure I put on myself. It’s pretty much impossible. If I spend time in the mess, making sense of it, I can return to a purpose. I have to push away the pressure.
K: These words, It’s who I am and what I am doing and who I care about, I think about who you are and you know I love your bits of paper, the ones that have all of the lists, that are giant black clipped together and then in the past – before the iPad, would be clipped to your sketchbook… I overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what you NEEDED to get done. No one would ever know unless you told them. Your email is a beast. But in all of it, you need to mastermind the next great project… the thinking, the learning, the messy. I wonder if the learning magic, the projects are born from the bits of paper? The people you care about?
A: Exactly that. My work would have less meaning, I think. How would I create slideshows and learning and websites and lessons and documentation from nothing? If the slate is clear, then where would I start? I see this happening. The planning of projects reaches far and wide but the learning and the people are right here in front of us.
K: Two things zoomed into my head and I had to write them down – even though we are typing – I have a sticky LOL. I thought about the people and the learning and the threads…there are many times when there are so many threads, sense to be made is impossible – your words, There is also the satisfaction of waiting until the table is clear before the work can actually begin… the time grab of clearing the table, the sorting, literally and figuratively, is critical – meditative – Andrea, the sheer number of threads and number of people in front of you… the table slows you down. It has to. AND the planning. I have been in a room with you planning many times – the JOY of the whiteboard and markers and our stuff piled around us on the table – I sigh just thinking about it. That being said… I also know that those plans – the projects, what becomes visible to us in the room is you letting me catch up… you give me time to find you in the place you are already waiting for me… you let me into the place of the messy and organized plan at the same time. I have no understanding of your ability to do that. Urgency and patience at the same time. I love that you ask yourself if you can separate the two, the mess and the process… why would you?
A: I appreciate process and I hate HATE the mess. The mess is the pressure and the urgency and…..maybe…a checkbox. A couple of weeks ago, a friend looked me in the eye, in the moment, in the frenzy, and told me “Andrea, you are in your head.” Like stop it. Working for a future thing is not actually productive. How does one control outcomes? This is how Vivian’s words changed me.
K: Her words, to me, are the outcomes, the conditions. Not something to control, but to slow down and feel and be in. I miss this about being in places with you. The set table of a clean whiteboard… starting with what we think matters and then spiraling back and over and through. That is a mess but somehow it finds its way – because of the bits of paper you carry but also because of all the humans you see in a week, their stories and who they are in front of you. When what matters are perceived outcomes, the check-boxes and tallies, then we may as well not stop at cleaning the table and move onto the linen closet… there is nothing to be found at the bottom of the pile but simply a clean bare table. Why did your friend tell you, you were in your head?
A: She was telling me to use my heart. To feel the stories in front of me. When we are in a room and learning, you can feel the “outcome” and respond to it with who you are.
K: My learning of that exact feeling took time. The need to organize the learning and the doing by day and by dollar is real. I only know, that in doing so, there is nothing that feels like learning. How can we plan learning for educators if we are unable to take the time to “feel the stories”? How do we know what the learners are going to feel and understand if we don’t ourselves? I remember staring at a whiteboard with you for days and still not being sure – it’s how we eventually knew but the eventually was the magic.
A: We don’t know what is going to happen, but we do spend a lot of time trying to imagine how it will feel. This is what I’ve learned from you, my friend. You rehearse the feeling. The feeling that I would most like to avoid is the one where someone is attempting to control my learning. My learning is mine.