Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Opposite of Sharp
I meant that it's harder to remember things, harder to hold large quantities of information in short term memory, harder to make the hundreds of decisions an hour the job demands. I spend my days worrying I'll forget something important, let my team down, hurt a child in some way because I'm just not at the top of my game.
In a life full of loss and disappointment, I learned early on to rely on my brain. It was the one thing I could trust to provide answers, even though it's taken me years to realize not all of the answers were helpful or even completely true. I was one sharp cookie. I felt special for being so smart, for being a step or two ahead of everyone else. It was the one thing I knew my mom valued in me. The one thing I was encouraged to develop.
Aging (I'll be sixty so very soon) has been a definite factor. The early days of menopause were a nightmare of forgetting, and a new inability to find the right words for anything. Hot flashes were a walk in the park compared to the frustration of losing the one thing I had always been able to rely on. Over time I got used to the softening of my thinking, and clung to what remained. Worked at sharpening my remaining faculties so I wouldn't hit old age with a brain dull as river rock.
Then this last year happened. The losses. The grieving. The new demands of a job that was hard when I left and has gotten harder even for people still sharp and in shape for it. The war between my head and my heart. Head furiously trying to find sharpness again and thwarted at every turn. Heart wanting gentle quiet, slow movement, time to heal.
Pat, always honest even when I'm not sure I want her to be, replied, "I know you're not as sharp. But you are much more wise. Isn't that what you've always wanted?"
Well, yes. But I thought I'd get wisdom and still get to keep what I had before. I didn't realize the price for a life lived more gently, with more kindness and tenderness, was going to be my sharpness.
In the days since that conversation I've thought a lot about being sharp. The picture I get is of honed knives, paper edges, pointy objects. Things that cut, sever, separate. My own sharpness keeping me safe from the unknown and possible hurt. But also keeping me alone, lonely, isolated.
My heart has been waiting a very long time for this. Unlike my brain who has always demanded total control, heart is willing to share. All she wants is a chance to be heard and trusted. To have her language understood. Her timing valued. So this is wisdom: trust, acceptance, surrender. No sharp edges allowed, or more importantly, needed any longer.